We have composted for a long time. It has always been a chore.
Suddenly, with eager hens with access to the compost, I look forward to taking out the compost.
They dive right into it, especially watermelon rinds, leftover peach pulp and even weeds. They see me coming with the bucket and come over in earnest.
I didn't realize that I would enjoy watching bird behavior or get attached to them. I'm in this for eggs. I'm not a great animal lover. However, these birds are winning me over.
We have collected four eggs now, so a whole new attitude has hatched. Literally.
However, there are other perks to compensate for the regular care. Just watching them is relaxing and amusing. Red Star -- the odd ball -- has a lonely life as the outsider. Red Star is older, bigger and more experienced.
She has become a little aggressive, but she also teaches the younger six birds a thing or two. They had no idea what to do with the compost until Red Star came along. And she knows how and where to lay eggs -- which is more than I can say for the rest of the flock. They harass her -- maybe out of jealousy.
According to the web, Red Star chickens produce the most number of eggs for the least feed, and in "this economy," that's important. She produces, that's all I care about.
Then there's Houdini. She likes high places and was fond of escaping until I put netting over the pen. Today she perched on the fence between the chicken yard and the compost. It gives her a sense of accomplishment, I think.
I went to my friend Denali's Chalet Poulet -- it's really the Taj Ma Chicken. It's HUGE, about twice as big as my coop. She spent a small fortune on it and built it sturdier and neater than ours. Ours is "just a chicken coop.
The best part of her setup is that the birds can be viewed from her deck, with a glass of iced tea, with your feet up, a restful and entertaining treat. Nature is like a dose of Valium. Daydreaming about butchering counteracts that.
Denali wants to raise birds for meat so she's game to learn to slaughter them. I'm willing. Being self-sufficient is appealing and part of the back-to-nature movement that I've been swept up in. There are instructional videos online on how to slaughter. Someone else is doing it for me at the slaughterhouse and CAFOs -- commercial animal feeding operations. They don't even have the courtesy to consider themselves a "farm." On a farm, people look at the animals, appreciate them and name them -- even though they will be sacrificed for food.
Hurray for sacrifice.