Sunday, October 17, 2010

Chickens on the Farm, A Drama in Three Parts, Part One

The Gals of 2009

This is our second year of having chickens here on the Farm.  We like them.  Not only do they provide us with yummy, healthy, non-contaminated (remember the big egg recall this summer) eggs, the Gals are also a source of entertainment and a chance for the Young'uns to learn a bit more responsibility and good work habits. All in all, chickens are a good deal.

Last year, we got day old chicks in late April/ early May.  The four little babies were cute (yes, I am saying this about an animal) and lived out their first week or so in a Rubbermaid tub on a table in our dining room.  Ellie took to carrying her chick around in her sweatshirt pocket which is not something I'd recommend.  Young chicks apparently don't like such treatment and we had to find a replacement chick for the one which Ellie loved a bit too much.  We had lots of visitors (young kids), all curious and wanting to hold our new Farm residents.  It was such fun to watch them!

Totally amazed!

When they got a bit bigger, the chickens moved into the basement where they stayed for about 3 weeks.  They seemed to like their little blue swimming pool home.  We hung a heat lamp over them to make sure they stayed warm enough.  During this time, pretty much every visitor to our home made the trip to our scary basement to see how much the Gals had grown.

While the chickens were going from newborns to adolescents (in just a few weeks), Farmer Ron was building them a swanky chicken tractor.  He spent a good deal of time looking around the Internet at different types of coops.  Ours ended up being a bit of a few different coops he liked all rolled into one. 

A bit older here.  See the more adult feathers on their wings?

FYI- Farmer Ron is not the handiest of men; he just doesn't roll that way.  A man can't be good at everything, after all!  However, he did a great job on the coop!  I was proud of him and the Gals seemed to approve when they moved in around mid-June.

Our poultry residents spent their first couple of weeks out in the real world in our back yard.  They'd poke around the yard during the day and head into their coop at night.  We had to put boards around the bottom of our fence because those things can squeeze through some pretty small spaces!  It was amazing to see how many fewer weeds our yard had while they were back there.  Also, the grass in the spots where their coop sat (chicken tractors are designed to be moved) grew like crazy.  The grass in those places was a deep, dark pretty green and completely weed free!  Just a little chicken bonus...

When they were a bit larger and young adultish, the Gals moved out to the field next to our house.  We put their coop next to the gate in our garden and made a yard of sorts for them out of chicken wire.  They liked poking around their yard and the garden.  I wondered if they would damage the garden plants and was happy to find they left most of it alone.  We lost a few tomatoes and some kale, but in exchange we got some good fertilizer and had fewer bugs and weeds.  Good trade!

It was around this time we realized 2 of the "Gals" should actually be called the "Guys."  This wasn't good.  First, it is legal to have hens in the city limits, NOT roosters.  Second, as any good biology student knows, boys don't lay eggs.  We wanted some eggs.  Thankfully, our Chicken Lady (as we called her) was very gracious and allowed us to make an exchange.

Chicken Lover

All this time, Ellie and Farmer Ron were falling more and more in love with the Gals.  They both spent time sitting on the ground next to the coop just watching them walk around pecking at the dirt.  It even got to the point, that when Farmer Ron walked into an area where the chickens were roaming, they all ran to him and followed him around.  He had his own little clucking harem!

Also during this time we were waiting...and waiting...and waiting.  For eggs.

Being the rookies that we were, we hadn't been too picky out the breed of chickens we got.  Nor did we realize different breeds take different amounts of time to start laying eggs.  Our chickens took their own sweet time and it was late August before we saw our first eggs.  It was a big day here on the Farm, we even took a photo!

Once they started laying, the Gals got busy and we had four eggs each day for about 3 1/2 months.  It was great!  The eggs were various shade of brown and eggs and had deep dark yellow/orange yolks on the inside.  We'd never seen scrambled eggs that color before!

The chickens were the stars of the Farm - the kids enjoyed showing them off, neighbors and passer-bys stopped to see if they were really seeing what they thought they were seeing in the middle of town, young visitors loved opening up the coop to check for eggs and Farmer Ron had his Gals.

We were all full of chicken love...but a cold wind was starting to blow...stay tuned.

Rubbermaid house with heat lamp. Don't tell my Mom we kept this in the dining room...please.

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