We have never had a raccoon manage to get into a properly secured house. A house that has not been properly secure is an entirely different matter - Homesteading: Building Our First Hen House.
This is part four of our homesteading journey. If you would like to start at the beginning check out Homesteading: It Begins With Health.
Now that we had our three hens & a sturdy little house for them, we decided it was time to add more girls to the flock. We were not getting a lot of eggs from these three & we simply wanted more chickens. They really are like potato chips - you can't just have one, or in our case, three. The closest livestock auction was held every Saturday evening & was about an hour away.
In our experience livestock auctions are a stinky dirty affair. You will find all sorts of folks. Some are super friendly while others are nasty drunks. Some folks come alone, some bring their whole family, while others bring their friends. You can find horses, alpacas, goats, sheep, rabbits, poultry, parrots & reptiles (probably not legal), produce, farm equipment, all sorts of hatching eggs, a variety of eating eggs, hay, straw, live plants, cages, animal housing, household items, small tools, & even vehicles!
Aside from chickens, we brought home nearly everything listed above at one point or another unless we couldn't fit it into our little Ford Contour. We bid on all sorts of supplies, household goods, organic produce, rabbits, & more.
We didn't own a truck at the time & our desire for one only grew as did our adventures in homesteading. An hour long drive can feel like double that when your seat is so far forward you are practically kissing the airbag cover while breathing in the noxious scent of animal feces. While this is going on whatever irresistible item of choice (that also happens to not fit properly inside the car) is bonking you on the head as you hug a box filled with critters (or a lap full of bunnies) because they wouldn't fit in the back seat.
Perhaps you decide to stop at one of your favorite grocery stores that's on the way home before they close for the night. They have a fantastic natural food section & great sale prices. You unfold yourself from the stinky car to adjust cages, crates, &/or boxes. You see a hen is on the floor behind the seat, pick her only so she can then let out a big wet poop that runs from the top you your naked thigh & warmly pools into your favorite sandals. Yep, it happens. What do you do? Make the hen comfy & then go food shopping of course! Chickens poop. You can take a shower when you get home.
On one of our trips we bid on & won a box of baby Rhode Island Red hens. We knew they were Rhode Island Red hens because the little sticker said so. The cage they were for sale in was even included! How perfect was that? Well, it's perfect if your the folks selling these hens because you know you just made out like a bandit. Why? Because that cage of baby hens was really a cage of baby roosters.
FYI: A baby hen is called a pullet. A baby rooster is called a cockerel. A hen is a female. A rooster is a male. Chick refers to both sexes as babies. Chicken refers to both sexes as adults.
Now that I got that out of the way, lets get a close up of that sticker shall we?
You know the saying, "There's a sucker born every minute." Well that would be us. We went home ooing & ahhing over the cute little chicks. We happily spent that night setting them up with a heat lamp, chick feeders, & chick waters. Then we went to bed dreaming of all the future eggs these girls would give us. They lived in the house, peeping, pooping & sleeping until they were big enough to go outside. As they grew we discovered these were not hens, but roosters. We had no idea what to do with a bunch of roosters. In the end we decided to sell them at the next livestock auction. We brought boxes home from work & poked holes all over them so the birds would have adequate air. We felt awful sending them off to some unknown fate, but there was no way we could keep a bunch of roosters!
Because we didn't know how to visually tell the difference between pullets & cockerels, we accidentally came home with a lot of roosters pretty often. One trip we once again managed to win the bid on a big box filled with Americana pullets (pullets are female). As with the Rhode Island Reds, the box said they were pullets. These birds were much bigger than the Rhode Island Reds when we bought them, what is known as started. They were at least 2 - 3 months old. They didn't need heat & could go outdoors right away. After some time we came to the conclusion that most of these "pullets" were actually roosters. Yet again we brought boxes home from work, poked lots of holes in them & brought them to the next livestock auction. Out of that big box full of Americana "pullets" we kept one bird because we believed it was the only hen in the bunch.
She was a beautiful bird. She grew quickly with the prettiest feathers we ever saw. We named her Buckbeak from Harry Potter. We were feeling rather good about our small mismatched collection of hens. We had all sorts of sizes & colors. We still weren't getting a lot of eggs, but we were finally getting enough to share. One day Buckbeak crowed. We agreed that she couldn't crow because she's a hen. Our denial of the obvious was rather strong. It took seeing Buckbeak mount the girls many times as well as a lot more crowing for us to realize we needed to make another trip to the livestock auction to sell our beautiful crowing hen.
When we look back at old pictures we can only chuckle. It is so obvious that this is a rooster, not a hen! But when you don't know, you just don't know. With experience comes learning. There truly is no better way to learn than by doing.
Thankfully things didn't always go wrong. We brought home many honest to goodness hens who brought us delicious eggs & entertainment. We even managed to come home one evening with a box containing a mama hen & her chicks! For the safety of the hen & her brood, we kept them in a big bin in the basement with a heat lamp until the chicks were bigger & we felt it was safe for them to go outside. The two chicks out of the three that survived ended up only resembling their mother in size. They were both black, one was feather footed & one was not. They both had crests (little poofs of feathers on their heads) but one only had only a wisp of a poof. Rather than name them, we ended up calling them our Little Black Girls because they were a tiny inseparable pair. We would often ask, "Have you seen the Little Black Girls? or "Do you know where the Little Black Girls are?" Hence their joint name. We adored every inch of them. They toddled around the property on their short legs, wing to wing, chatting & cooing softly to each other while scratching at the ground for tasty morsels.
If you have never been to a livestock auction you are missing out. Be prepared to get dirty. Maybe even get pooped on. It's all part of the fun. And whatever you do, don't drink a lot of liquids prior to the trip. If you are lucky enough to get a bathroom at your auction, you probably wont feel so lucky once you step inside!
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