My memories of raising chickens are happy ones. My parents would bring us three siblings to the feed store, where they would sell chicks each spring in a long row of boxes, one for each breed. They stuck a picture of each full grown chicken on the box so we could see what they would look like as adults. My sister and brother and I would each hunt for the perfect chick. We would go box to box, peeking down at the chicks sleeping in the red light of the heat lamps. I looked for calm chicks, ones that wouldn’t startle when I stuck my hand in the box, and would sleep in my hand if I left it in long enough. Or, I would grow fond of the adventurous ones that would curiously come up to my hand, hoping they would keep these friendly personalities as they grew up. It was always a game to try and telepathically know if they were hens or roosters. Our free-range roosters were always extremely tough, both to eat and to raise, as they were extremely aggressive. So we tried to avoid roosters. Picking out chicks was always a game of guessing if the chick would grow up to be a friendly hen or an aggressive rooster.
My first chick was a “Buff Orpington,” a fluffy golden breed. I named her Cuddle. This hen was super nice, a sweet first chicken companion. My sister got an “Araucana,” named Penny, also a friendly chicken, which laid sage green eggs. My little brother picked a “Barred Rock,” named House, from his limited 3-year-old vocabulary. House ended up being a rooster, so our dad cooked House into a chicken soup, and little brother chose another chick. This chicken was a “Light Brahma,” a cookies-and-cream-colored hen with feathers all the way down to her feet, fittingly named Cookie. These first hens were the sweetest chickens. My theory is that because we were kids, we spent a lot of time with them, so they got used to us and were pretty easy to catch to pick up and handle.
I remember the later generations of chickens were more skittish and harder to catch and hold. My sister had a scrawny “White Leghorn” named Opie, who was a hen as mean as a rooster. Opie was on the bottom of the pecking order and was vicious. Other chickens like Speckles, a “Wyandotte,” weren’t mean but just ambivalent, hard to catch but tolerant of being held. Iris was the exception, a “Blue Cochin” who was gigantic, sweet, and fluffy. She was easy to catch, and would jump up to catch green grapes and swallow them whole. Perhaps our earlier chickens were friendlier because we spent more time with them as chicks and pullets, making them friendlier, or maybe it was because we were little kids so we weren’t as intimidating. But I will always fondly remember those first chickens as sweet and wonderful.
- Anna Y., Medical Student, USA