This is me and Sweetie.
Sweetie arrived at our place with 11 other chickens that looked just like her in February 2012. Her flock originally belonged to my brother and sister-in-law, but they were looking to downsize so I eagerly took them on. I had never raised chickens before, but they had been on my mind for quite sometime and now I finally lived in a place where I could have them!
I loved caring for them and although they really did all look the same to me, Sweetie stood out because she was missing a toenail on one foot for some reason and had a really curious and friendly disposition that set her apart from the group. When spring came, I tried free-ranging the girls and one day while I was sitting cross-legged in the grass watching them look for bugs and other chicken delicacies, Sweetie came over and set herself down between my legs as if she was going to lay an egg!
That was it! My she found a special place in my heart.
They say chickens are a gateway to having other farm animals. I believe it. The more I watched my chickens and enjoyed their fresh eggs, the more I longed to add other animals and dreamed about growing my own veggies. I started reading up on homesteading and raising farm animals. I always dreamed about these things, but there never seemed to be the right opportunity to try. I finally felt like I was in the right place to go for it. My gut said "Yes!"
It's funny how once you've convinced yourself of something, the stars start to line up. I found myself randomly meeting people who were either already farming small-scale, had experienced it previously or were working towards building their own self-sustaining farms too. I was exposed to permaculture and then the gears really started going!
In autumn of the same year, my dad and I built a chicken tractor to free-range the hens the next summer. I raised a small batch of meat kings in that chicken tractor and before I knew it, I felt empowered to live a more self-sustaining and meaningful life than I ever did before.
Good thing I built the chicken tractor, because in March the next year we had to kick the chickens out of the coop and into the chicken tractor to welcome seven Shetland sheep and a miniature donkey. They were soon followed by six unexpected lambs (four of the 6 females were unknowingly pregnant), 18 wild-turkey crosses and more meat king chickens.
I went from nothing to all of that in just over a year. I don't recommended it. It was too much and a strain on my whole family to add all of that so quickly. I don't regret it though.
There is more the tell about what has happened between the day Sweetie arrived and now, but I'll save it for another post.
Back to Sweetie though. We sadly had to say goodbye to Sweetie in November of last year. She was four years old. That's pretty old for a generic laying hen, but she laid right up until last summer and she was sweet as ever right up to the end. I won't ever forget her and although I am thankful for her eggs, I am most grateful for her sweet nature and the memories of her adventures on our little farm.
Rowan, Rhys and I with Sweetie before her last few days in front of our farm sign with gardens, wild turkeys and the A-frame chicken tractor in the back.