Maybe It’s a Sickness


Can you have too many chickens? I’m obsessed with the fear that all my chickens are going to disappear now that I’m free-ranging them. I go outside and count them during the day. Repeatedly. I count them on the roost at night.

They go into the chicken house and fly up to their roost like such obedient little chickens. Wow. They just go in there. I love that! Then I go out there and shine a flashlight in their eyes as I count down the roost one by one. They love me.

The ducks are another thing. Sometimes they don’t go in the chicken house on their own and I have to go out and shoo them in there. I won’t even tell you about the time this week that I was shooing them in the chicken house and didn’t see a branch that had fallen during our recent flooding storms and I tripped over it, fell all over my face, and came up bleeding. Let’s just forget about that.

The chickens mostly stay in the yard area near the chicken house, but sometimes they run into the goat yard or up the hill or into the woods. I think they’re thinking about heading for the road. I’m working on being okay with wherever they want to go, kinda like when Ross drives to Charleston (the city, an hour away), which FREAKS ME OUT, JUST SO YOU KNOW.

Were we talking about chickens?

So despite the fact that the downside of free-ranging chickens is that now every day is like Easter and I’m hunting eggs because they don’t lay them where they are supposed to (well-trained on where to roost but not so well-trained with the laying), I’ve managed to collect 15 eggs in the past few days and just in case something happens to the 40 chickens I already have (the big chickens, the big chicks, the little chicks), I’m cranking up the incubator.
Usually I clean off eggs I collect, but because these are for incubating, I don’t want to mess with the protective shells at all. I’ve mostly collected Aracauna eggs because I love the blue and green eggs and none of the chicks we bought are Easter eggers.

I collected 9 blue and green eggs, 2 banty eggs, 2 big white (possibly duck) eggs, and 2 brown eggs.
Man, those banty eggs are little.
I dragged out the incubator, fiddled with the temperature for a few hours, finally got everything right and settled.
And, oh yeah, I hadn’t cleaned out the incubator from last year (Suzanne!) so I had to clean it out and I dumped the leftover year-old dried eggshell bits out in the yard. The chickens rushed over to gobble them up. I stood there watching them eat the eggshells from the very eggs they hatched from.

Okay, that’s just weird, isn’t it? Cannabalistic! Don’t tell anyone. Especially about the part where a year later, I was finally cleaning the incubator. I’ve been busy!

Yeah, so I’m no Martha Stewart. But in 21 days, I’ll have more babies!


  1. Ms E says:

    Do you have any plans to add Silkies to your flock?!

  2. jan 'n' tn says:

    Do ducks hatch at the same temp and days as chicks?
    A second generation cool is that!!

  3. CindyP says:

    It’s not a sickness, it’s an addiction……totally 2 different things! But I think it is just amazing how fast everything goes!! Pretty soon you will have Chickens in the Road, the Trees, the Porch, the Meadow, the Next County….. :happyflower:

    and I didn’t even notice the eggshells in the incubator from last year…..I’m no Martha, either, she has a housekeeper!

  4. amber says:

    wanted to let you know when you are setting eggs, look at the shape of the egg. If it is long it is a rooster, if it is short and round, a hen. We have used this method for years (my mother in law has anyways) lol. and it is usually about 98% correct each time. Thought I would let you know!

  5. Sheryl - Runningtrails says:

    I don’t let the chickens out until about 10 am, so most eggs are laid in the nests before they go out. I open the pen door but not freeranging. They haven’t freeranged in awhile, not since the hawk got one and kept coming back with friends. I don’t know if they will ever free range again. Their very large fenced pen has a roof on it made of snow fencing. Its BRIGHT ORANGE!! but, hey, it keeps the hawks out.

    lol! My favourite saying: “Dull women have immaculate homes.” So true! We’re all too busy to clean and, uh, really, does anyone see it who would care. If they do, they can clean. That’s my philosophy, anyway. It works for me until my in-laws are coming, then all that hot air just seems to go out the window. Thankfully they don’t come to visit very often. (Don’t get the wrong idea, I love to see them.) and maybe they should come more often so I’m forced to clean… It’s a vicious circle of thought. I think I’ll go outside and dig instead. I’m ignoring the dirt all over the floor from wearing my farm boots through the house yesterday. (Why do I have white floors?? If I have a choice next time, they will be brown.)

  6. Fencepost says:

    Yeah, that is kinda wierd.
    I know how you feel about the Charleston driving thing. Try Charlotte, NC. I have one cautious one, :help: one dare devil 😮 and one not driving yet. I’m not so sure I’ll ever let him drive. I don’t know if my nerves can handle it. :no:

  7. Jane says:

    I hope you know that the chickens will be mixed, because of the roosters you have..Of course I am sure you will happy with the mix. Love your site..I read it EVERY morning..I am in southern West Virginia

  8. Kacey says:

    Oh, more chickie babies!! Can’t wait!

  9. Imogene Burdette says:

    Have you considered the fact that Rat Dog might be lurking somewhere, ready to pounce on your chickens? Some dogs are just natural chicken killers…we learned the hard way!!

    Iogene Burdette

  10. Claudia W. says:

    I can’t wait to see more babies! BTW…what is the new critter you are getting? Any hints???

  11. becki says:

    Is number 9 the surprise addition you promised us?

    I love surprises, but hate waiting for them when one is promised.

  12. Kelli says:

    We just hatched our first chicks from our own flock yesterday. My youngest daughter took eggs to school for a class that she is in and they started to hatch yesterday afternoon. We have been free ranging our chickens on our three acre “farm” since we got them and have not lost one yet. We have all your standard preditors, but I lock them in the coop at about nine each night. And my ducks don’t want to go in the coop at night either. I have to kind of “herd” them too. I think they would prefer to sleep outdoors, but the coop it is for them. My husband and I moved to the country six months ago. I lived in the city all of my life prior to this move. This is the first time raising farm animals for both of us, so your blog makes me feel like I am doing allright. It sounds like a day in our life to the tee.

  13. Itsme in Wi says:

    I don’t let my chickens out to free range until later in the day when the egg laying is done.
    LOL! dull women have immaculant homes……….love it!!

  14. Matthew says:

    You shouldn’t feed your chickens eggs shells, this will sometimes cause them to pick their own eggs (since they think they are a food source). Give them oyster shells if you think they need calcium, which is what they are after when they eat egg shells. Probably the limestone soil/rocks in Roane County will give them enough calcium, especailly now that they are free-range.

    Just sharing a little advice that I’ve learned over decades of keeping chickens.

  15. Amy Buchanan says:

    I am so jealous!!

    I love fresh eggs, baby chicks, the whole thing…. even the smell of a hen house? I must be crazy!!! LOL

    Good luck with the incubator and the soon-to-be baby chicks!

  16. Rosella says:

    I think it’s wonderful that you are hatching your own chicks – what fun! I also love the Silkies – they look like they are wearing pjamas – hope you can find these some day to add to your flock!

    It’s Rhubarb season in Ontario and I was wondering if you have any great recipes for this seasonal favourite? I am looking for a really good muffin recipe (mine never turns out quite right).

  17. Mel says:

    I have that same incubator, I tried to hatch out some chicks, it didn’t work.I had a half dozen sticky rotten eggs… :hissyfit: Do you have a humidifier in there, or a rotator, or do you just heat it up and hope for the best?

    Cannot wait to see the babies!

  18. wildcat says:

    Every day is like Easter! I love it! I have a mental picture of Suzanne going around the farm with a pastel colored basket, searching for eggs. 😆

  19. Nancy in Atlanta says:

    Congrats on finding the kitten bottle – I hope it works! Let us know what #9 thinks of it. I’m glad you’ve had no trouble (other than ducks wanting to stay out past curfew) with the free range step. I wonder what the chickens talk about when they finally get home at night? :chicken: :chicken:

  20. Lisa Tighe says:

    How fun! I have TWO incubators plugged in right now…..hatching is so fun! I know how you feel about counting them too………We do it EVERY night! This is my first time to comment, but I’ve been reading your blog for a while! Love it!

  21. Kris says:

    Suzanne, you are not the only one who counts the chickens at night. Last week was tramatic here when I let the chickens out at some point two labs came to our house to “visit” and terrorized the chickens, killing one and injuring another. The rest fled and hid for their lives and finally came back to roost at dusk!!
    Sadly the injured one died the next day – suffice it to say we now know where the term “hen pecked” comes from. {{sniff}}
    We now have 4 Bantams, 2 Sicilian Buttercups, and 10 Ina Reds coming up the ranks to lay eggs – oh and 42 Cornish Rocks for the freezer!

  22. Bev says:

    Growing up we always had chicken and ducks. They were free range, and like many others said the door to the hen house opened up after 9 or 10 AM. The eggs were laid by then (well most of them). The ducks hardly ever went into the chicken house. They always liked it outside better. My father built them a little lean-to type thing and they loved it.
    I don’t know how in the world the chickens did it, but our neighbor (100 yards or so away) had chickens to and they always all came home to the correct hen house every night (very weird).

    LOL…dull women have immaculate homes….well ladies and gents….I must be sooooooo exciting…LOL

  23. Christine says:

    Good luck! You can never have too many chicken babies. Will you butcher the roosters? We did that last year. Can’t say I’m in a big hurry to do it again.

  24. Miz Robyn says:

    Two years ago, my husband and I started with 12 little chickens in a chicken coop and yard attached to our back yard. Today, we have three chicken coops (one for broody mothers, one for chickens not quite ready to go out to the big chicken yard, and one huge coop; all of them built by my husband who’d never built anything before we bought this house on 4 1/2 acres). We have 150 chickens of varying ages, give or take, and 10 hens currently in various stages of hatching eggs.

    THERE ARE ONLY TWO OF US. We eat some of the chickens we raise (my husband does the processing, I’m too much of a wimp to do it), we eat plenty of eggs and sell what we don’t eat, but we’ve definitely hit the “too many chickens” stage.

  25. Jawan says:

    Sometimes I’m envious of your life. Thanks for sharing the funny and gross details!

  26. Estella says:

    Good luck with the eggs you incubate!

  27. Ang. says:

    You are not alone in your sickness. I bought 100 Buff Orpingtons yesterday. That brings me up to around 200 birds! I think we may be giving whole, processed chickens as Christmas gifts.

  28. anne says:

    Good Luck with the pretty eggs!!

  29. Lola-Dawn says:

    Chickens are good, and more chickens are … gooder? I miss having chickens! We free-ranged our chickens too, but kept them locked in until they had finished their laying for the day. After a while, we learned to recognize individual cackles. Seemed most years, a Buff Orpington was the last cackler/layer for the day, so as soon as she quit cackling, we let them out to range. I used to wonder if the other hens put any peer pressure on Buffy to hurry up and lay that egg already so they could get out! Loved our big Buff Orpingtons, but also loved our little Aracaunas. Dang! I miss having chickens!

  30. Amber says:

    Have the ducks found their pond yet? :duck:

  31. Lynda Dunham-Watkins says:

    You make me want chickens again! grrrr..memories of my grandmother’s hens on a setting nest when she would make us go in and gather the eggs without teaching us the fundamentals of that situation!!

  32. Jenny says:

    I think it is a sickness. I have almost thirty chicks in our laundry room right now from buying and hatching. We’ve got the same goal of free-ranging, but with only four adult hens now, I’m afraid to let them out in case something would happen to them. And I have a broody hen in the coop sitting on golf balls and am scheming how to get some guinea eggs to throw under her.

  33. KentuckyFarmGirl says:

    I still count mine with a flashlight every night when they go to roost and mine have been free ranging for almost 2 years. Yes, I have lost a few but mostly they have been ok. I also have an obsession with MORE! MORE! MORE! I only got 5 chicks from the last incubation. My egg turner quit working and the electricity went out for part of a day so I was happy that I got at least 5! Now I have 2 dozen guineas eggs and added 2 1/2 dozen chicken eggs on day 7 so they would hatch at the same time ( May 22). Do you start your duck eggs and then add your hen eggs? I’m thinking duck eggs take 28 days like guineas, right? Good luck!

  34. Elaine says:

    I think everyone should know that chickens are an addiction. We moved to the country because of them. I went from 6 in the city that were evicted by the city to 52 in the country. 1/2 in a hoop house 1/2 still in the brooder. I am truly addicted. Love the blog

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