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 unresistable 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.
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 we got that out of the way, lets get a close up of that sticker shall we?
Because we didn't know how to visually tell the difference between pullets & cockerels, we accidentally came home with a lot of roosters. One trip we once again managed to win the bid on a big box filled with Americana pullets. 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. 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.
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!