Coop My Chicken Story

My Chicken Story: A Family’s Love

This heartwarming story, a bit of a departure from her first post, was written by guest contributor, Amy Willetts.

Let me tell you our chicken story. It’s just part of our story, but it’s a BIG part.

In 2018, my daughter gave birth to her rainbow baby, a perfect little ham of a boy. After two miscarriages and countless unsuccessful in vitro fertilization treatments, her little man had finally arrived. By that afternoon, we were becoming suspicious, as several different nurses were coming in to listen to his chest, always smiling and making eye contact, but never saying anything. That evening, the midwife came in to tell us that they heard a murmur and wanted to run some tests. That’s when we learned more than anyone ever wants to about Aortic Stenosis.

Fast forward to now:

Bennett is four, and will be facing his third, and by far the most extensive, open-heart surgery before his fifth birthday arrives. The plan is total valve replacement. Sounds scary, doesn’t it?

What does any of this have to do with chickens? Well let me connect the dots.

Our family was spread out over the United States. When the word came down that Bennett would not be making it to his teens without his next surgery we all flooded home to Iowa, to circle the wagons. That’s what you do. As a family you engulf the ones in need so that their journey is a little less difficult.

The surgery itself would be taxing on an adult, and absolutely terrifying for a child to endure. There are other things that have us frightened. Food shortages. Food quality. There are things that Bennett must take in everyday. There are other things that could harm him if we introduce them to his already struggling little body.

So we began growing as much of our own vegetables as we can. We locally source our beef and pork. And we got chickens. We know what they are fed, we know the environment they live in, we control the quality of that provision.

We are generally a ‘planning’ family. When we do things, we do them BIG, but soon after the decision was made to get chickens in the spring avian flu hit the news. We have always purchased from the same hatchery in Northern Iowa, and intended to keep with that tradition this past spring. However, word started traveling that our state vet could halt the sale of chicks. So, in true grandmother form, I hopped in my car and drove 3½ hours to secure our flock of one-day-old chicks two months before we had planned to get them. This meant the coop wasn’t done; we were still having very cold weather, including several snowstorms.

Then we got the opportunity of a lifetime. Our son’s boss bought a building that had originally been designed for a laser tag course. Covid happened before the business could open and they ended up selling the building. We were offered the opportunity to go in and reclaim as much of the interior materials as we could before the contractors showed up. And that’s exactly what we did. For over a week straight until late into the evenings, our son, a family friend and some others carefully dismantled and brought home brand new 2”x4”s, floor decking, plywood and so much more.

Then we began the construction of the coop from plans that were only in my head, and then transferred to a horrible drawing on paper. Other than the wire, the cheap and ugly roll of linoleum flooring, the hardware for doors and windows, and the legs to raise it off the ground the coop was nearly free. Well, it did cost us blood, sweat, tears and cusswords. All total, maybe $100.

We designed it around the materials that we had. It took us three months to build, nights, weekends, and some bitterly cold weather. All the while our investment in a healthier future was warm and toasty, growing big in their brooder in the she-shed, while we were constructing Chalet de Dinosaurios.

The entire family was involved. And by the end, amazingly, we all still love one another.

We still have some scary things ahead. But not one of those things include being alone, or being unable to provide healthy, safe nutrition to a boy who needs all the extra strength he can get.

That’s our chicken story.

I am a Midwest farm girl whose been raising chickens for almost 10 years off and on. My husband and I traveled the US for three years, and decided it was time to come home, circle the wagons and teach the grandkids how to be more self-sufficient. Having chickens is the gateway to that life. Once you do it, you’ll never want to stop.

Thanks again to Amy Willetts for sharing her story and photos, used with permission.

If you’ve got a story you’d like to share drop me a line using the ‘contact’ button on my homepage.

1 comment on “My Chicken Story: A Family’s Love

  1. Elizabeth Beale

    Great story Claire! Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

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