Back in April 2019, my birthday fell on a Thursday. I was a counselor at Majoda Stables spring break horse camp, and at lunch a group of us chatted about how cute baby chickens are and maybe getting some.
“We should get some,” I suggested nonchalantly.
“Are you serious?” My friend Anna raised an eyebrow.
I shrugged. “Yea, why not? It’ll be fun to raise some.”
My co-worker Vera, otherwise known as the barn manager, supported the idea. Moments later, I found myself calling my boss, Diane, asking if I could go buy some baby chickens for my eighteenth birthday. All the kids went silent so they could try to hear her answer through the phone. When I ended the call, every person was nearly about to fall off the edge of their seats. I kept them in suspense for a good while until a smile spread across my cheeks.
“It’s a go,” I said, and the crowd went crazy. Without a moment to spare, my friends Anna, Paige, Claire, and I climbed into my car and we headed to the local Agway which had week- old baby chicks.
We picked out six adorable babies and brought them to their new home in no time. Majoda Stables’ chicken population more than doubled from four to ten in one hour. I named our new six chicken babies Nugget, Postey, Frankie, Snow White, Mobamba, and Little Peep.
Today, four of my beloved babies live on only in my heart and memories.
Just as fast as the chicken population grew, it fell. It all started when we gained three more chickens in June. Diane’s daughter Beth had a flock of a dozen chickens herself, but when a fox broke into their coop she was left with three.
“The foxes are really all over the place this year.” Beth sighed as she released her chickens into their temporary home among ours.
Diane shook her head. “We’ve never really had any problems with foxes around here.”
After hearing that, a feeling of doom fell over me. Diane had jinxed us, and there wasn’t enough wood in the world to knock on to undo the bad luck.
When night came, Beth’s chickens didn’t know where to sleep or hide from any passing predators of the dark, unlike our ten chickens. At Majoda Stables, our chickens were 100% free range. We had never had a fox problem because our chickens learned early on where to stay safe at night, even though we never had a coop for them. But with a fox around, safe places for chickens became scarce.
Unfortunately, two of Beth’s chickens fell victim to a fox almost immediately, but then a few more nights passed and there were no missing chickens come morning. We thought the chickens were safe. We even decided to name Beth’s last remaining chicken Gissmo, and Gissmo started to fit in very nicely with the group.
The murders continued with Frankie and Snow White. They were identical white chickens, so we never knew which one was which. One morning soon after, only one of the white chickens remained. We debated which chicken it was, but couldn’t decide and eventually we agreed to just call her Frank Snow.
After that, the murderous fox seemed to have moved on, until one morning I couldn’t find Mobamba. Then we lost my favorite little rooster, Nugget, followed by Cinderella’s vanishing.
“Has anyone seen Cinderella,” Vera asked.
I thought for a second. “No, she’s probably on some adventure up the hill. She does that sometimes.” I tried to sound as reassuring as possible.
We were all in denial.
Cinderella never did return from her adventure and little Peep was next in line. We knew right away since we didn’t hear his obnoxious crowing anymore. About a week later, we lost Amy, Raven, and Gissmo, leaving us with only Penny, Frank Snow, and Postey.
At the beginning of August, Diane approached me. “You like to build stuff, right?”
“Yea, I enjoy it.”
“ How would you like to build a chicken coop?” She pursed her lips.
I nodded my head enthusiastically, accepting her task. I started my construction right away. There were no blueprints or plans drawn up. I just had a vision of the coop in my head and made it a reality. In order to save as much money as possible, I used reclaimed wood for more than half of the project: Wood from pallets left for the trash, wood lying around the barn with no purpose, pieces from an old nesting shed that wasn’t in use, and wood that the local tractor supply let me take from the trashed wood pile behind the store. All this was used to put this little chicken house together. I did have to purchase a few pieces of plywood for the roof, along with simple objects like screws and metal brackets from Lowes. My friend’s dad had some leftover shingles that I gladly took to use for the roof.
I designed the coop with two front windows with chicken wire small enough keep out any and all snakes. I cut the front wall of the coop in half horizontally so the top half opens up, allowing me to climb in to clean and collect any eggs. To finish, I painted it a traditional barn red and white.
October 18, 2019, the coop was declared officially complete and ready for chickens. That same night, we brought two Houdan chickens, one Ohiki hen and her two babies, and ten unhatched eggs to their new home. This was my first time ever building something of that scale, but with the help of my friends Luna and Claire, no chicken at Majoda Stables will ever have to worry about the predators of the night.
The lives of our previous chickens will forever be remembered and will keep pushing me further to keep my dear chickens safe so no catastrophe like the one in the summer of 2019 will ever occur again.
— By Jason Young, Class of 2020