Featured Chicken Keeper of the Month: Meet Patricia and Her Flock

I am pleased to share Chickens & More’s first Chicken Keeper Feature! Below is Patricia’s own words about her beautiful flock! And let me tell you, her chickens are amazing! I hope you all enjoy her stories and advice as much as I did!

Patricia’s Flock

“I started as a poultry keeper as a desire to be more self-sufficient. A friend of mine who was getting older and could no longer take care of her flock gave me 6. I was such a newbie and had lots to learn.

I have such a mixed flock, so I can have all the colors of eggs! I have Leghorn, Brahma, Austrolorp, Marans, Sapphire Gem, Brown Leghorn, Olive Egger, Easter Egger, and Americana. Leghorns are excellent layers but flighty. Sapphire gems are skittish, and males are very protective. Brahmans are just the sweetest, most docile birds and purr frequently.

My biggest challenge is I do it all alone while still working full time. I have 48 birds in 2 different coops and runs, so keeping everything clean is a challenge at times, but I always say cheaper than a gym and excellent therapy. They give you so much back.

My setup is 1 8×8 garden shed attached to a 200 ft run and 1 10×16 shed attached to a 300 ft run. The runs are parallel but can keep the flocks separate as my older roo has his girls, and my other two roos (his sons) have theirs. They can see each other but not fight. My larger coop has a divider for a grow-out section when chicks can be outdoors but not big enough to be with the rest of the flock yet.

Most of the time, my chickens are in their runs as I live by the woods with lots of predators. When each flock free ranges, it is under supervision.

There is so much. I don’t have one best part. They run to me every time they see me. They jump on my back when I’m cleaning. They trust me. They are my very spoiled feathered pets. I love watching them play. I love the way my roos protect the girls. I think humans could learn a lot from chickens.

As well as a balanced feed, I have a very large organic garden. My babies get some form of fresh fruit or vegetables daily. I even freeze greens, so they have some in winter. They also enjoy frozen treats in summer and oatmeal with cinnamon and raisins in winter. Electrolytes when it is very hot and red pepper in winter.

I have a Brahma that I rescued who is mostly crippled. She was picked on badly, so I raised her indoors at first with my dog. She really acts like a puppy now and lives belly scratches! I have a little Brown Leghorn that always wants to ride on my back while I’m working. My favorite is my oldest roo. Even though he is somewhat aggressive, he will not go to bed until everyone else does, even the other flock. He stands watch.

Advice on starting out. This is a big one as I had to learn so much, and it cost me a lot. Always plan for much more than what you have. Don’t waste money on prefab coops–no matter how cute. They break apart quickly and are not predator-proof. Hardware cloth is your best defense. Bury two feet underground all the way up and over the roof of your run.

Study all things poultry medicine! There is a nationwide vet shortage. Not many veterinarians see poultry. Keep learning. A big lesson, although hard, sometimes, even when you do everything right, chickens die. Don’t beat yourself up. Do your very best, love them, enjoy them!

I sell organic, farm-fresh eggs. I cannot keep up with my customers once they taste the difference. It’s amazing!

One night I got home after a 12-hour shift and found about eight hens and my oldest roo missing. I have an automatic door which had already closed. I panicked, not knowing how anything could have gotten in or out of the run. I put on my headlamp and searched the runs to find my roo had shoved in eight hens in an old grow-out coop made for four chickens. He was full-on growling. I switched the light off, grabbed him up first, and put him in the coop. Then I got the girls. I had decided that was it. If he was going to be that mean to them, well, it was time for him to go. When I got up the next morning, I noticed huge scratches down the overhead tarp and bobcat tracks. My old roo, even in the dark, blocked that little coop with his body to save the girls! After bawling my eyes out for my thoughts, I gave him plenty of treats, and he is still with me today!

My chickens do help with pest control, get all organic garden snacks, and magically turn them into eggs! I also compost manure for next year’s garden, and the cycle continues. It really is a beautiful cycle when used properly; the chickens, the land, and the garden benefit.

I belong to and contribute to many Facebook groups to help others. I am always trying to learn more myself. I do not go to groups in person because I try to practice good biosecurity.

I am always trying to build and expand. But I try to also maintain healthy ratios to coop space run space hens to roo ratio, etc. With my last set of chicks, I will now have white, light brown, brown, chocolate brown, mint green, olive, pink, and blue eggs. So I’m very happy about that! I will probably just add more of what I have as space allows.

A couple of heartwarming stories: I had 16 juvenile birds. It was their first rain. They were 12 wks and were too silly to run into the coop, so baby Roo lays down in the pouring rain in the doorway of the run so the girls won’t go out in the rain. I had to run out and scoop them up! One incident I will always remember was when a young Pullet was trying to hide from a young Cockrell and seemed distressed. She did not want anything to do with him! She ran to me, squawking, and would not settle down till I picked her up. She wiggled into my Hoodie pocket and went to sleep. I really didn’t want to put her back to bed that night! They do get to know you, depend on you and love you. No matter how much work, I wouldn’t trade it for the world!” ~Patricia Sandefur

Chris Lesley Bio Picture
Chris Lesley has been Raising Chickens for over 20 years and is a fourth generation chicken keeper. She can remember being a young child when her grandad first taught her how to hold and care for chickens. She also holds a certificate in Animal Behavior and Welfare and is interested in backyard chicken health and care.

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