Growing up a little girl in rural NC certainly has its perks. My wife has had pet chickens all her life. No I mean literally all her life. I have seen pictures of her at age 3 or 4 carrying her pet chicken Diddle. This is especially funny because he was a huge, full grown fog horn-leghorn type rooster that she could barely lift, let alone carry around. Then there was Jesse (this may give away my wife’s age for any of you who remember Rick Springfield’s hit song “Jessie’s Girl”) – a favorite hen when she was in 3rd or 4th grade that slept in a wire basket under the carport and met her each day as she got off the school bus. I have not seen pictures, but have been told that chicken rode many miles on the handlebars of her bicycle! There have been others too… The Purdue/genetically enhanced chicks we drug home from the fairgrounds on the last day of the state fair not long after we got married. These ate dog food when we fed our dogs and looked like humongous prehistoric dinosaurs. And if you have been to visit the farm recently there was Double H who claimed our entire 12 Stall horse barn to himself and roosted on top of the first stall wall. He was famous in these local parts and even went to Camp Kaleidoscope in the summer of 2010 and was a big hit with all the kids who got to carry around a big ball of feathers that was really a chicken.
My wife got the biggest laugh at me the summer of 1997 – not knowing any better one of our first chickens in one of our first little flocks after getting married was not acting “right”. He was laid over on one side in the dirt, wing laid out, and was flipping dirt all over himself. This looked like a chicken seizure to me so I yelled for my wife to go get a gun or shovel! We had a chicken having a severe seizure and I did not want it to suffer… I was going to humanely put him out of his misery. We laugh hysterically now about that day. My wife explained the chicken was just dusting. A common chicken behavior that conditions skin, helps with mites, and cools them off. What a learning curve to navigate.
Today we have a well thought out chicken house that is a mini replica of our barn with a small penned area. Our chickens stay out during the and are shut up for the night. The pen has ample room and affords great protection from predators. There is a flight net over the top to keep the hawks at bay and at night the house protects them from other predators like fox, raccoon, coyote, and owl. Life is tough if you are a chicken and there are lots of natural predators to avoid!
We now have Welsummers and Wyndottes in addition to our small flock of about 60 plus laying hens. Our varieties include the Bragg Mountain Buff, Buff Orpingtons, Dominique, Araucanas, and Minorcas. We also got a great deal on a variety mix of chicks from a hatchery so we may have left off a few names. These hens provide us with wonderfully tasty eggs that have hard shells and dark, rich yolks. You have not had a real cake until one has been made with a farm fresh egg. Egg colors range from white to cream to brown, dark brown and even chocolate and green. We have read that the green eggs are more healthy, but for us it just provides variety in the carton.
We used to have our own broiler chickens- a slow growing breed: The Label Rouge Freedom Ranger Broiler bird. These are naturally better suited to the higher welfare and all true natural rearing systems (full pasturing, free range, organic, certified, backyard, etc…) our birds love foraging in our pastures and yard, free ranging outside, always looking for natural sunlight and shade on hot summer days and fresh air, as well as ground scratching and dust bathing.
These birds make a wonderful dressed bird and are tasty and delicious. Never in a cage, fed a variety of foods, and allowed to scratch in the grass and dirt. A chicken, getting to act like a real chicken, what a novel idea. We are convinced that allowing the chickens to do what comes naturally ensures an incredible meal for your table!
Now we work with Healthy Hen Farm in Oxford, NC. With so many other duties own our farm we just couldn’t keep up. John and his family are raising great birds by the hundreds, all free range and organic.
It makes a real difference when you serve up a real chicken!