Richard’s Chickens: February Chicken Keeper Feature

Happy February, Everyone! This month, we are featuring Richard and his flock. Below, Richard shares, in his own words, his love of chickens and his passion for advocating for humane animal treatment. Thank you so much for sharing, Richard!

I have always loved chickens. I love all the fascinating breeds, and I enjoy learning how they were all developed. I have had chickens as pets for most of my life. I had them, even when I lived in Brooklyn, New York, when I was growing up, and nobody had chickens in the city. Now, having a pet chicken seems fashionable; when I did it, I was just considered odd or even worse than that.

When we moved to the country, I lived near Monticello, NY, I had my chance to live out my dream and have a real flock of chickens, and that is just what my wife, Jackie, and I did. We started by ordering an adult flock of New Hampshires, my favorite breed, from a poultry dealer. We ordered a dozen hens and a rooster. He brought us a dozen Comet hens (hybrids) and no rooster because nobody keeps them. They were in terrible condition, but we healed them and kept them for their lifetime.

Then, I bought chicks from the Murray McMurray hatchery. We ordered 25 chicks of assorted breeds and raised them in the house until they were old enough to be put outside in the chicken coop. I was so excited. They turned out nice, but I found that buying from a commercial hatchery, the chickens grew up much smaller than they should have been.

Over the years, we bought chickens from many places and began to show them in poultry shows. I got my New Hampshires, some really nice ones, and showed them. I won reserve American champion on my New Hampshire cockerel, Ulysses. Then we won champion Mediterranean on my black Minorca rooster, Charlemagne. I love black Minorca chickens, too. I also love other breeds that I have been able to have over the years, buff Wyandottes, dark Brahmas, Silver grey Dorkings, and light brown leghorns, to name a few.

I always name my chickens, and each one is an individual. They go to the veterinarian when they are ill. I brought one to Cornell University for a cataract operation. They told me that was a first for them on a chicken. I said that chickens have a right to see, too.

Gladys was a New Hampshire hen who decided she wanted to be a real pet. I could call her, and she would come running to me from wherever she was to get a treat or just to be held and petted. Unfortunately, Gladys met a fate common to many chickens allowed to run free, playing in the woods, etc. She was taken by a fox, and that was heartbreaking. I came home to find a big pile of red/brown feathers, and my Gladys was gone.

Now, my chickens are not as free as I would like. I have 2 groups. One lives in the big chicken coop with two fenced yards and electric wires. Those are my buff Plymouth rocks and my brown Leghorns. I got the brown Leghorns because I love the way the roosters look. When I was a child, every rooster in a storybook looked like a brown leghorn. I have two, Rufus and Rajah, with 10 hens. I also have buff rocks because I think buff chickens are beautiful, and I like the combination of the golden buff color and the yellow legs.

My other group is much smaller. I keep Roseamund, a huge dark Brahma hen, and her adopted daughter, Sadie, a white Leghorn with one of the buff rock roosters, Paul. They have their own smaller coop and run all over my backyard, which is pretty big. Nothing comes into that yard because the chickens share the yard with my dogs, Edison, a Sealyham terrier, and Bella, a mixed pit bull. They do not bother the chickens, but they are deadly to anything else that comes into the yard. I am waiting to get one or two New Hampshire hens from a friend to keep with my small backyard flock.

That is the story of my chickens. I love them and enjoy watching them every day. I work for animal rights and try to help the conditions of chickens and other animals on factory farms. Every living thing has a right to be treated sensitively and kindly. Unfortunately, it is not always so.

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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