Raising Chickens at Home

by Jack Corrigan

Raising chickens in a poultry farm or at home as free range chicken is a very popular and gainful occupation in our part of the country. My mother was keen on raising chickens at home and she always had a number of chickens free ranging in our back yard. She was not fancy raising the native varieties which as colorful as the jungle fowls but preferred to raise white leghorns, rhode islands, black minorca and plymouth rocks. We even had turkeys at one time!

The imported breeds were not from a pure line and my mother would cross breed them. She preferred to have Rhode island cocks and leghorn hens. She claimed that the hybrid fowls laid larger eggs for a longer period of time. She would acquire a brooding hen to sit on the clutch of her hybrid eggs.

It was always great fun for us kids to watch the eggs hatch. The fluffy newly hatched chickens had to be carefully raised with special home made feeds. Because they were free ranging, there was always the chance of some of them being taken by kites or falcons. We had portable lightweight tents made of bamboo to protect the chickens from the marauding pirates of the sky.

The moment we heard the warning clucking of the mother hen, we kids would run out with the tent and gather the entire brood under the tent. We were told that if the fluffy chickens were dyed in bright colors of green, pink or blue, the kites would be fooled and fail to recognize them as food! Well, this ploy did not work and we would be heart broken when one or two of our cute chickens were lifted away by the marauders.

Never used commercial feed. Home made feed included a lot of green stuff, mostly vegetable scraps from the kitchen, rice bran and rice. My mother was very concerned about the welfare of her poultry. We were careful about the water that was set out for the fowls. A vet was always consulted about food supplements. We would also try to use protective measures to prevent infectious poultry diseases. But when we did find a drooping hen we would do away with it so that the infection did not spread. Sometimes, every thing would happen so quickly that the whole lot would be affected within a couple of days. When this happened, all the fowls were sacrificed, and the chicken coop disinfected.

My mother kept a careful record of the eggs produced. They were all cleaned and dated. Most of the eggs were used for the family, but some were gifted to friends and neighbors. Some were saved for a brooding hen to sit over and get us a new batch of chickens. At one time we tried to set up a proper deep litter poultry shed, and raised white leghorns on a small scale. This time we used commercial feed, supplementing it with green stuff from the kitchen and vitamins as prescribed by vet. We had a good record for egg production.

But we gave up on poultry as a hobby because we just did not have the time to give it the care it needed. For me the best memories are of the time when we had free ranging chickens of different breeds roaming in our yard, and watching the chickens hatch from their eggs. Each kid would adopt some chickens and give them names! We would be horrified when they were sold and used to mope and moan at our loss for days on end. Keeping watch over the new, colorfully dyed chickens as they scrambled behind their 'mother' was a responsibility that we took very seriously. I guess we made more noise than the mother hen when we spotted a kite circling around way up in the sky!


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