When our daughter was in the seventh grade, her science class hatched out some chicken eggs as part of a science project. As the school year was drawing to a close, our daughter asked if she could bring home one of the chicks – a cute little peep. Since we lived outside the city and had a few acres of land, we decided to “adopt” the baby chick. For some weeks the little peep lived his life in a box under a light to keep our baby chicken warm.
Aware that our growing peep would need a more secure and spacious home than the cardboard box he or she was living in, my husband started building a chicken coop. We still have that original coop, having moved it to our newer home. Over the years the original coop has deteriorated as you can see – it was once painted a bright spring green. It was quite a nice coop “in the day” when the wood and the paint were fresh. Now the old coop is used for storing wood to keep it dry for when it is needed.
Day by day the little peep grew. Of course, we had hoped the chick was a hen – my husband had dreams of fresh eggs for breakfast. But as luck would have it, the chick was a male. Sexing baby chickens as we later discovered, is a special art and not one which we have ever learned. As the chick continued to grow and then started to crow, we knew that our cute little chick was a rooster. My husband named the little rooster “Doofus”.
Having adopted a rooster, it was necessary to find some hens. Roosters have no known use except to make noise, fertilize the hens’ eggs and sadly, to serve as food. We were able to purchase two young hens of laying age and named them Henny Penny and Miss Chicken. Now we had a happy chicken coop! Day by day our hens gave us fresh eggs – one apiece. Minute by minute Doofus let us know how special he really was with every loud song he sang.
We purchased books about chicken husbandry as we were curious about how often roosters crowed, the best food to buy for raising chickens and when to be concerned about the chickens’ health. Roosters crowed, according to one book, when the barometric pressure changed; another book said roosters crow in the early morning when the sunlight appears over the horizon. Given how often our rooster crowed, we surmised that the “instruction books” were either all wrong, or we had a rather remarkable rooster. We know now that Roosters crow when they have a mind to – even in the dark. Doofus was usually quiet at night, but a passing car on the dirt road alongside our property late at night could encourage Doofus to raise his voice in song. Once Doofus started singing, it was hard to stop him, such was his desire to “proclaim glory to God.”
It became apparent that two hens for this incredibly busy and exceptional rooster were not enough. Due to the way roosters “impregnate” hens, the hens started looking raggedy with lots of their feathers missing from all the rooster’s activities. So before long we bought a few more hens to keep Doofus occupied and happy.
We purchased a few different breeds of chickens because their feathers or the colors of their eggs were pretty, but we quickly learned that Rhode Island Reds, also called Production Reds, were best for making eggs. Although Leghorns also lay quite a few eggs, their low weight allows them to “fly the coop” whenever they have a desire to do so – which it turns out, they often have the desire to do.
The original coop quickly became too small for our growing flock. My husband built an even larger coop which connected by a wire covered tunnel to the vegetable garden behind a redwood fence that surrounded a storage yard. Within the storage yard we had a small metal shed for garden implements, a laundry line where I hung loads of laundry several times a week, trash barrels, a covered shed for our tractor and other power equipment and the new, larger chicken house. Life was interesting and good for all of us – chickens and humans.