Suburban Pioneers

The Adventures and Misadventures of Homesteading in 21st-Century America

Lauren: Chicken Lessons: What Not to Do August 22, 2013

Filed under: Chickens — lkcook20 @ 4:35 pm
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Our coop was up and ready. Now it was time to get chickens.

We decided to go for pullets, which are chickens that are less than a year old. Then we wouldn’t have to deal with chick stuff like brooders, heat lamps, special feed, etc. And, we didn’t want ones that were too old because chickens lay the most eggs in their first or second year. Pullets are the best of both worlds.

It was difficult to find someone who had four different kinds of pullets. I finally found a guy who had three, all around 4 months old. He seemed sketchy in the emails, but I chalked it up to him being an eccentric farmer. When we got to his place, it was not at all what I had envisioned. The stench hit me as soon as I got out of the car. Flies were everywhere. And the chickens were kept in pretty small cages, reminiscent of factory farms. But I felt like we were kind of stuck. We’d driven two hours to get there and I didn’t want to go home without chickens. So we bought three and brought them home. In order to get them into the coop, I had to pick them up out of the dog crate we had used to transport them. Then they slept a lot, way more than I was expecting. But, I didn’t really know any better and thought they were just transitioning to their new home.

We were happy to finally have our chickens. We named them Martha, Mabel, and Dozer. (Can you tell which one our 4 year old named?)

Mabel (in the forefront) and Dozer

Mabel (in the forefront) and Dozer

We bought them on a Wednesday and found Dozer dead on Saturday morning. That same day, Mabel looked unwell so we gave her water through an eye dropper and offered her yogurt on a spoon. Our efforts weren’t enough, though. She passed away that afternoon.

Moral of the story: If the conditions the chickens are raised in are not good, just say no, unless you want to save them and are prepared to lose money and dig a grave, if need be.

We buried Dozer and Mabel in our backyard. Some people recommended composting them, but that seemed a little complicated to me. I haven’t even mastered regular composting yet.

“There’s no one else I’d rather bury chickens with,” I told Dave later. I feel like this experience has allowed us to reach a new level in our marriage. I’m just not sure what that level is. . .

Then there was Martha who was still alive and kicking, albeit lonely.


Martha, a Barred Rock. She will lay about 4 brown eggs/week. She is supposed to be smart, plucky, and docile.

I’d heard chickens can go a little nutty when they are alone so we needed more chickens–and fast. Some guy on craigslist was selling 32 chickens and he was only an hour away. But by the time we got there, after the kids finished napping, someone else had bought all of them and paid for it over the phone. When we expressed our surprise that the other guy had been able to prepay, the man selling the chickens  told us we needed to get with the times. He was 74 years old.

That night, we emailed a family whose farm we had toured earlier this year and they recommended Eden farm. Now we know; recommendations are the way to go. It was a much more reputable farm. The chickens had ample space and there were no flies or horrible odors. And so far, Frances and Grabble seem to be doing well.


Frances, an Ameraucana. She is supposed to lay eggs with a green or blue tint to the shells. Her personality is supposed to be docile and fun.


Grabble, a red star. She is supposed to lay 5 brown eggs/week and be docile with a rugged personality.

We got our first egg. It appeared like magic.

Our first egg


Despite our setbacks, I’m hooked.


3 Responses to “Lauren: Chicken Lessons: What Not to Do”

  1. tbnranch Says:

    Pretty birds! I know what you mean, there are some real crummy chicken farms! I bought from a gross farm once… even though 6 of my 12 sexed pullets ended up being roosters, they were the best birds I ever had! Just never know I guess. That Sex- Link Star is pretty, never had one, but I’ve often considered them. The Ameraucana is always one of my best layers, but I don’t much care for their aloof personality. I’ll be interested to hear if she becomes your pal.

    • lkcook20 Says:

      Thanks! I guess you do never know! Martha, the one that survived from the first farm, seems very hardy and is our smartest bird. The Red Star is our best layer as she lays almost every day, but she’s a bit territorial. I agree with you that the Ameraucana is a bit aloof, but I have a soft spot for her since she is at the bottom of the pecking order, despite being bigger than Martha.

      • tbnranch Says:

        Mine were at the bottom of the pecking order too, seems they were happy with that… they never try to jump rank. I like them for that, not trouble makers!

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