Sunday, 8 April 2018

"Goodbye Bock Bocks" a Farewell to our Pet Chickens

If you have been following the blog for a while you will know we used to have chickens. We gt our first ones when Callie was tiny and hatched 2 from eggs. In total we had 14 chickens which sounds crazy in the space of a year but I wanted to document our backyard farmers journey so here is our story.

We started out with 3 hens. A white scruffy looking Silky we named Steve. She wasn't pretty and pristine like the other birds in her enclosure but we always end up backing the underdog and so she came home with us. Alongside Steve were two Plymouth Rock's called Red (because I had a chicken called Red as a child named after Hellboy) and Zelena because she had a little green ankle tag so we named her after the Wicked Witch of the West!

We got on really well with the three of them but after a while Steve began to get broody. We decided to buy some fertilised eggs to put under her and see if we could get some chicks. Several eggs and weeks later an egg hatched. We were on holiday at the time so my Dad chicksat, he has always bred birds so was the best person for the job. Along came little Rainbow!

We were in Center Parcs when Rainbow arrived and Ted named the chick for us. Rainbow was a Polish chicken and was so so beautiful. Not long after one of the other eggs began to hatch and unsteadily at first little John hatched out, Ted named this one too. John was a bit weaker but after 2 days was perfectly well.

Not content with having two babies to take care of alongside the 3 hens Joe decided to buy a couple of tiny chicks to join the family. We found a local breeded who specialised in Serama's, they are the smallest breed of chicken you can get and are adorable. We picked out two fluffy yellow chicks and introduced them to John who was still very small. We named these two Nelson and Murdock after the characters from Daredevil, sadly Murdock didn't live up to his namesake's strong persona and died a few days later. This was when I began to realise having pets would be an emotional rollercoaster!

Nelson, John and Rainbow continued to grow and get stronger. The two Polish adolescents were constantly sizing eachother up and John in particular gave the big girls a run for their money!

It wasn't long after that Joe was speaking to a work colleague who had two larger hens that he was looking to rehome. Joe being a sucker for a feathered tail and perky crest agreed to take them on and that was it we had gone from 3 hens to 8 in a few months! Our new friends Frank (named after The Punisher) and Major (a character from iZombie) were big girls. Compared to our bantams they were quite big and kept picking on the babies. Our worry about them hurting one of the little ones meant we sadly had to rehome them. 

My sister had a friend who happily took Frank and Major on and as far as we know they are very happily living their life in the next village to us. For us though we had a rocky few months. Red started to get a funny cough, she didn't seem right so we separated her from the flock for a while and not long after Rainbow was experiencing the same symptoms. Separating Rainbow from the others too we thought they were just a bit unwell and some TLC would help but sadly Rainbow didn't make it and a couple of days later Red died too.

I cried for those birds. They lived happy lives but there was just nothing we could do when they got ill. We couldn't justify vet fees for all of them and had no idea what was actually wrong. Thankfully the other hens were fine and continued to thrive as a family of 4. 

Our girls were always very noisy. Steve more so than the rest would make such a fuss about laying an egg and it was no surprise to us when John started to make noises too. She is just learning from the others, she will be laying soon...but one day the tiniest little squawk became a crow and John wasn't a girl! She was a he! A little polish cockerel who was beginning to get a bit big for his boots. His feisty nature had him sizing up the older girls and one day he decided to jump our 6 foot fence and made a run for it. 

We searched the whole village worrying he had been run over but hours later found him in the garden behind ours, an alley separating the two fences, hiding from their pitbull! We couldn't keep him anymore he needed space and was getting too loud to be in a built up area. Off he went to the local farm shop where he would live for a few weeks before someone took him on. We checked on him a week or two later and he had gone, hopefully to somewhere nice. 

That was us down to 3. Steve, Zelena and little Nelson. 

Yeah...this is Joe's flock we are talking about here! 3 didn't last long and a few months later he talked me into getting another 4 Serama's. From the same breeder as Nelson and Murdock came Dart and Dusty (Stranger Things fans will get those ones) Chip (who had a bad leg) and Mamba (Black Mamba...the most aggressive chicken we have had). Two black and two brown. They were very cute, they settled in well with the others and started laying within 2 weeks of being with us. We now had 7 hens but because they were small the space was fine, they got on well and life was really good. 

Life was good. We wanted to keep them forever, our feathered family, but our house move threw a spanner in the works. Our deeds state "domestic pets only" and upon further clarification that doesn't include chickens. Our babies had to go. 

We made a decision to sell them at a low price to anyone who could provide them with a happy life and a local farm agreed to take all 7 of them together. The farm is amazing, they have cattle, sheep, a riding school and the birds have free reign of the farm with a cosy roost to come back to at night. I sobbed as we drove away leaving our girls behind, I cried 3 more times that week as I saw their empty run or thought I heard pecking at the back door. I miss them now but our new garden wouldn't have been big enough even if we were able to take them with us. 

I will miss them, we all will but it was the right choice to make. They are happy in their new home and they gave us an amazing insight into breeding animals that we never would have had. We have plans when the children have grown up to move to a house with some land and to start our own smallholding. Joe can be the real Old McDonald! 

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