Monday, July 27, 2009

The chickens have come before the egg

We've been on the chicken adventure for a few weeks now.

Many of my chicken illiterate friends (a group I have left!) have asked during the barnyard tour, "Do you have any eggs yet?"

"No," is the answer because our birds are pullets (one must learn chicken lingo). Pullets are only 4 months old and won't start laying until they're 6 months old. So that is a disappointment.

However, I might be getting a few eggs a week from a chicken trade. Chicken keepers are like soccer moms -- we share information and children and rides. It's good to know each other.

"I would like the dark rooster back for breeding," said Lori, the chicken mama who sold me my 7 original birds, including three roosters, to be butchered when they're mature at 6 months.

I can't remember what breed my chickens are, and don't really care, I agreed to the trade. Hens are imminently more valuable than roosters, who are loud and pretty much useless except to occasionally breed, for amusement (they like to dominate!) and to butcher and eat. Yes I intend to learn to butcher chickens. I already know how to eat them.

Lori violated chicken etiquette. She dropped off the hen into the yard while we weren't home, a major faux pas. New birds, particularly older birds, should be sneaked into the hen house at night, when allegedly, none of the other birds will notice.

Big Red, as we have named her, has been ostracized. She spent the first night roosting in Bob's lumber house because she was afraid to go into the hen house. By the time I got out after dark to check on them and shut the door, I couldn't find her. Bob found her in the morning. The next night, she joined the flock inside, but still separate.

I feel a little sorry for her. Having been a dash of salt in a bowl of pepper during high school, I feel compassionate for lonely creatures, who are excluded for whatever reason.

Big Red has not laid a single egg in her debut week. I need to put some golf balls in the egg-laying nests to give her the hint. Hopefully she will settle in and produce. Chickens are very susceptible to stress.

Maybe I'll play her some nice elevator music to relax. I just want a few fresh eggs for the several hundred dollar investment, to date! In this case, the chickens come before the egg. Gimme a few eggs!

It's shocking how many chicken allusions are in the English language, even though we don't raise chickens any more. I'm curious -- give me a few in the comment section.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The chickens have arrived - finally!

My chicken odyssey finally reached a climax: I GOT 8 CHICKENS on Sunday! My friend Lora had ordered 15 chickens and been delivered 30. She gave me eight that she didn't want that are three months old. The four hens will lay eggs in three months.

After talking, reading and researching, and chickening out more than once about getting chickens, I finally decided against getting chicks because of the work involved and fear that some would die on my watch because of negligence.

Some have already died. The night before I picked up the chickens, a fisher cat attacked the cage they were staying in and killed about eight. It was a bloodbath. The chickens stuck their neck outside of the wire cage and the fisher cat chomped it off for sport, according to my friend Ruth, on whose farm the chicks were living.

So I didn't get as many chicks as I anticipated. I'm going to get some more. One of my eight died unexpectedly, inexplicably. I'm not sure of the breeds of my birds, and don't really care. I can tell the roosters. They are amusing, assertive and aggressive. I guess the Y chromosome influences behavior in the animal kingdom. "And the hens love it," someone said.

Our dog Gonzo has taken quite an interest in the birds. She wants to sniff and nip them. That's her watching me with interest on the first day we adopted them .I made it clear to her that they belong to me and she is banished from the chicken coop and yard.

So much has happened since I got fed up waiting and took a hiatus from blogging. We had to build the coop and get permission from the town and decide when and how to get what kind of chickens.

In January when I embarked on this chicken adventure, I didn't expect it to take until July to get them. The un-named guy in Groton said, "Chickens are easier than children and dogs." He was right. They are very low maintenance. The hardest part about the whole advent was building the coop.

I'll catch you up on the coop details later. Gotta go feed the birds now.