Just Us Spring Chickens - A Sweet Ritchie Family Tradition March 01 2024

ritchie family tradition feeding our chicken flock

By Elizabeth Ritchie Sherrill

In March of 2022, I found myself the owner of two chickens: a picturesque Rhode Island Red whom we named Lucy and a beautiful Columbian Wyandotte, the perfect Ethel. Their original owners were moving overseas and gave us their two hens and their entire setup. At this point, I had zero knowledge about chicken ownership and only a small inclination to take them on in the first place. Turns out, chickens are amazing!

Fast forward to March of 2023, where I couldn’t order baby chicks fast enough, and here we are in March of 2024, with a beloved backyard flock the size of a baker’s dozen!

It’s fascinating, the impressions that backyard chickens can leave on a person. Whether they are kept for pets, eggs, or meat, it seems that anyone who comes across chickens finds them endearing and has more than a handful of great stories to tell. My dad, Heath, and Aunt Beth both recall their family farm which existed on Ritchie Hill prior to WWII. The farm once included milk cows, pigs, and chickens which served both the household and the family grocers in Downtown Concord. Along with the livestock, their Aunt Margaret had one pony and their Uncle Dan raised hunting dogs. By the time they were born, only the chicken coop and a small shed remained on the family farm. They both recall receiving baby chicks and ducklings each Easter morning which went on to live in the coop outside. A small reminder of the family farm that once was.

ritchie family tradition feeding our chicken flock ritchie family tradition feeding our chicken flock ritchie family tradition feeding our chicken flock

One of my favorite things about stumbling into chicken ownership has been the shared experiences. I seek out the old memories that the mere mention of chickens can bring up for someone. Recently my maternal grandfather told me the story of Sammy She on his grandparents’ farm in West Virginia. “Sammy She” was originally a rooster named Sammy who turned out not to be a rooster at all, but a hen, and she was the only chicken to be allowed inside. I’m not sure how that invitation came to be, but she would sit on a kitchen chair and spread her wings to warm them by the wood stove, and that simple memory of a chicken has stuck with him his entire life.

From the stories I have heard throughout my life (around the Thanksgiving table especially), I would have loved to glimpse back in time at my family then. Both sides. It makes the connection now all the more special to in some small way be doing something that my relatives were doing a century ago. I can’t wait to hear what my children say about the chickens of their childhood.

Hopefully, not all of them include being terrified of our rooster, Ricky Roocardo.