How (not) to raise chickens

I don’t think many people get a chance to find out their true calling. I can’t believe how incredibly lucky and blessed I’ve been these past few months. Sure, I’ve had my share of pitfalls, but ultimately, I’ve been living the good life.

High Heart Equestrian Center is thriving. We have 16 horses, 8 goldfish, 7 chickens, 3 dogs, 2 cats, and 2 goats who all call HHEC home. Goldfish, you ask? Back at the start of summer, I was continually cleaning algae out of the warm water troughs. We have automatic water valves in the troughs, so it meant turning off the water, letting the horses drink the water level down, then dumping and scrubbing. So, on a whim, I went to PetCo, bought 10 $0.37 goldfish, and put two in each trough. We had one minor cannabalism incident, and an overturned trough, so we’re down to 8 fish, but I haven’t had to clean the troughs since. The automatic water valves mean fresh water is pumped into the troughs–aerating the water, and the goldfish have quadrupled in size. I doubt the water would stay aerated enough without the auto valves, but it’s definitely worth a shot if your troughs are algae-ridden. But, I digress. (As usual)

I took over HHEC with 3 chickens on the roster. They were absolutely gorgeous.



My rooster and his gal

My rooster and his gal

Unfortunately, my dogs were chicken chasers. I was eventually able to retrain them with shock collars, but not before they ran my rooster and one of my hens off into the woods. We thought we’d lost the third hen, but we found her on her nest one day and were able to transfer her and the eggs to the coop. We locked her away for safekeeping, and pretty soon, we had this happy sight!
Juliana & her chicks

Juliana & her chicks

Additionally, I was able to keep some semblance of interaction with my other two chickens by bringing feed to the woodline–they’d come out when I called, and I’d throw grain for them.

But, as luck would have it, I lost Juliana to a couple of foxes. Thankfully, they spared her chicks, and they were old enough to eat without momma. Then, one day, I came out and found Henrietta’s lifeless body by the hay barn. I suspected Dora had issued the final killing blow, but her body was skin and bones–she’d stopped coming to feed when I called. I had originally suspected the foxes had gotten her as well. They’d been nabbing my neighbor’s chickens, too. But, when Dora brought me an egg in her mouth, I realized Henrietta had been sitting on a nest.
By some small miracle, my local “Chicken Lady” was here for the debacle. She, her two daughters, and me all commenced tearing the hay barn apart searching for these eggs. Lo and behold, we found 11 eggs–and about 8 of them were actively chirping. CL went to work. She threw her kids in the car, wrapped the eggs against her body, and made a beeline for her broody hens. By now, the eggs had gone 24 hours without a heat source, and even though it was the middle of July, it still didn’t compare to the incubation of a momma hen. While we waited for CL’s broody hens to potentially hatch my eggs, I took Carson swimming with her girls at her house. When we returned, I casually grabbed a handful of peanuts and was shelling them over the trash while I told the story to a couple of boarders. At first, I thought I was hearing things, but then I realized I could hear a faint chirping. I began looking everywhere, but suddenly realized I’d put the egg Dora had brought me in the trash can. Sure enough, I dug down and found a newly hatched, wet chick still sitting in his shell. For the second time that day, the drive from my place to CL’s was made in record time.

Out of all those eggs, we ended up with 2 living, breathing chicks. Oscar, the garbage can chick, was not quite mentally developed, but with a little coaxing, we were able to get him to hunt and peck for grain. And, I still had Juliana’s chicks….


One comment

  1. Aoife @Pampered-Ponies · January 5, 2015

    Genius idea with the goldfish & what highs & own you’ve had with the chickens! They sure have added to the storyline!

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