We’ve had two Rhode Island reds that we raised from little chicks, born around August 1, 2008. We named them Pío and Pío and referred to them as The Sisters and occasionally Big Sister and Little Sister. Both JJE and Ktrion sang sister songs to the chickens "Hey Sister" from The Color Purple and "Sisters" from White Christmas. The Sisters have been producing large beautiful brown eggs since around February 2009.
We lost Little Sister three weeks ago to a predator and this loss has had a depressing effect on the whole compound. Big Sister escaped with only a few broken feathers, but she had lost her closest friend and nest mate. She's gone through a rough period of shell-less eggs. She's laid only one solid egg in the time since The Incident.
It'll be another month at least before the neighbzie's two young chicks will be ready to move into the Palace. They're still on baby chick feed.
Knowing that she would be lonely, we set out to find another laying hen, which ended up being a challenge. On the one hand, it's impossible to find what we want, which is the friendly chicken we hand-raised for a year and a half. On the other hand, if we were going to get another hen, we'd prefer to get one a little younger, who would thus have more laying time ahead of her. Also, in the whole cycle of the year, April is really the time that baby chicks are available, as opposed to hens at point-of-lay. Most of the folks who have nursed their baby chicks along to the six month point want to keep them for themselves. The time kept stretching and the weather turned bad, and the surviving Sister Xikn spent all her time alone in the spacious Chicken Palace.
We did finally find a second hen, although we had a lot of buyer's remorse before we even got her home. She's a black bantam araucana, but, according to the breeder, she's too big to show in araucana competitions.
He was something of a backyard breeder (and a talker...why do we always end up held hostage by the talkers?) and had a big coop with a bunch of chickens we didn't get to see including two roosters (Bass and Baritone) whom we could hear.
The hen destined to become ours was living in a dovecot with two other black bantam aracuanas, a rooster (Tenor) and and a rumpless hen. These chickens had never been handled in their entire lives. To fetch her for us, the breeder went into the dovecot with a net and the birds surely thought armageddon was at hand. Poor things ran for their lives, a-screeching the whole time. The breeder put the hapless hen into a cardboard box the size of a shoe box, and we began the long drive back to Oakland.
Update: We have taken to calling the new hen the Anarchist (also known as Flores-Magon) and the surviving sister and Sister Xikn, or still, Big Sister.