My first visit to a poultry fanciers event. I had visions of showbirds lined up on pedestals, their feathers dyed pink and green and blue, and price tags dangling from their feet. Rhinestone encrusted roosts and chickens wearing little Elvis jumpsuits, complete with miniature toupees carpet-taped to their combs seemed like viable sideshows. I was wrong.
What I found was a tailgate party of miscreants. There were a few nice looking birds (and I mean the chickens, not the owners) but for the most part the event was a hodge podge of free range eggs fertilized and not, mix and match chickens and geese who given a choice, would just as soon spit at you as give you the time of day and a couple of caged breeding pairs with exorbitant prices attached. The only thing that intrigued me was a tupperware box full of chicks.
As a chicken newbie I had never seen so many little fluff balls at once. I didn’t really want to have to wait 5 months before my chickens became productive, but I couldn’t resist the little puffs of life, and at $3 each they seemed like a steal.
I knew that chicks of that age had a reasonably high mortality rate, and I also knew it was possible I’d end up with a rooster, even two, so although I had come hoping to leave with 2 layers, I chose 4 chicks – 3 Rhode Island Reds and a pretty little Wyandotte cross. The toothless seller opened a cardboard small-animal box, placed them gingerly inside, and closed the lid. I gave him $15 and when he tried to issue change I insisted, “No, don’t worry about it.” Then I saw a sickly looking runt, eyes half closed, cowering under the heat lamp in the box. It looked to be already half dead. “Give me that one instead of the change,” I said. Beady eyes assessed my request from under the camouflage hat like I was obviously not right in the head, but he scooped up the miniscule chicken and started to stuff it through the hole in the top of the box. When he caught horrified looks from both Troy and myself he stopped, opened the lid a crack, and dropped the chicklet inside instead.
It wasn’t long after the chicks got settled in my shed that Troy named the little one Timmy. We were convinced that Timmy was a hen. After all, any bird that small and helpless HAD to be. But said in a way as to reference the South Park character of the same name, it felt appropriate. Timmy seemed a little bit… special. Cute enough with the lightest buttery feathers, Timmy tripped over wood chips, hid under the other chicks and dunked her head completely in the shallow water dish every time she took a sip. For the first week we were surprised every time we looked in the crate and saw that Timmy was still alive and squirming. Each morning I snatched her from the crate and took her inside to gently wash the clumped up poo from her vent, a problem that none of the other birds experienced. Soon Timmy was able to poo normally and she started the spurt towards chickendom, racing to catch up with the others.
The first of the chicks to actually begin looking like adults were the Rhode Island Reds. These birds had a three week jump on Timmy and the Wyandotte. One morning I heard a Red clear it’s throat and issue forth a tortured-sounding attempt at a crow. Up till that point I’d been unsure of the sex of my birds. Within a few days all three reds were crowing. I put them on Kijiji.
Now if you know anything at all about luck, you’d say that statistically speaking I had a pretty good chance of my chicks coming out half and half. Three had already proven to be males, so I felt fairly confident that the Wyandotte and Timmy HAD to be females. It wasn’t long, however before the Wyandotte, who was now a majestic looking bird, tried his luck at the crow. And it turned out he was pretty good. Although I hadn’t planned on keeping roosters, we decided that Supafly could stay. He was gorgeous to look at and quickly developed a voice that wasn’t at all a bad thing to wake up to. For another couple of months all went on as normal, with Supafly taking his place as the head of the roost and managing the flock of hens that I’d since added, thanks again to Kijiji.
Then all hell broke loose. Timmy had been getting bigger and bigger and ever more aggressive. Filling the feeders one morning I heard that raspy excuse for a crow and looked up. The last of my five chicks had also proven to be a roo. I should have bought a lotto ticket, I guess, but instead I cursed the wily toothless guy for selling a newbie a box of roosters.
I hummed and hawed about keeping Timmy, but as a competitor to Supafly, Timmy’s sexual predation became more and more brutal. The poor hens started losing all their feathers to his less-than-gentle touch and I realized Timmy had to go.
One Sunday Troy boxed Timmy up and took him away to a place where a roosterless flock awaited. I ignored his leaving and went about my business, trying not to miss him on the roost when the chickens went to bed for the night. The coop was strangely quiet the next morning – Supafly’s crow was clear and alone once again.
I learned a lot from Timmy. I learned about pasty butt and perseverance, I learned that even the weak survive, and I learned that regardless of the odds, you can buy a box full of chicks from a sketchy man and end up rolling snake eyes. I also learned that sometimes, no matter how much you’re attached to something, you have no choice but to let go.
Thanks Timmy, I hope you’re having fun with your new ladies.