A few years ago, if you’d have told me that feeding, housing, murdering and cooking chickens would be a daily part of my life in the near future, I’m not sure I would have dared to try chickens in the first place. But here I am, my first day of FREEDOM (say it Braveheart-style) after quitting the corporate grind (no offense, work pals), spending the majority of the day moving chickens, building a third mobile coop so they can till the garden for me, and trying to solve egg-eater mysteries.
Consider the phrase, “I had egg on my face.” I never really had a context for that one–I knew it meant that you were caught red-handed, guilty, or embarrassed. This is just one of the phrases that hearkens back to when chickens were part of everyone’s daily life. A chicken with egg on the face is an egg-eater–it’s a capital offense because they generally can’t be broken of it. I caught a hen eating an egg and put her in jail but she has laid eggs without eating them every day since, so just today I realize someone else could have broken the egg and she was just eating it–what any chicken would do. So I put two eggs in the nest of my main flock and I’ll be darned if I didn’t go back and find ONE. And no one else laid today either, or they were all gobbled up.
I suspect this rather aggressive one that looks like a very fat hawk. She is super heavy and meaty, so I won’t feel too bad if I’m wrong. Go, carnivores!
Anyway, I need to figure that out soon.
In other chicken news, the eight hens that remain from the accidental clutch that hatched in my shed last fall are finally all caught after being practically wild all winter. I was going to sell these girls and then keep my old flock, but they actually are laying so much better than the others that I’m reconsidering. The first three years of a hen’s life are her best laying years (once she starts laying at around 20 weeks), but they can live for 15. Most make it into the stockpot well before that.
I’m just trying to get in the groove of how to rotate my flocks, since chickens don’t like strangers, so you need to separate flocks. That’s why I have so many coops–the old hens in the big box with the rooster (our food security animal), the accidental wild hens now in a chicken tractor in the garden, the hens on probation in my “jail” tractor (I can’t tell if they are not laying or eating eggs but haven’t yet condemned them to death. The big main coop has mama hen and her four chicks (see pictures below). She only hatched four because I hadn’t read enough about how to manage a broody hen (below) and this was my first time (and hers), so I can’t feel too bad. Lastly, my sweet four little Americaunas just got their new tractor built today. I do nothing but feed them and take care of them but they completely freak out anytime I’m nearby, not sure what that’s about.
So my plan is to put mama hen and her four chicks in the new tractor with the store-bought chicks (now about 35 days old), with a wire partition down the middle. My hope is she’ll get used to them and want to mother them when she sees how pathetic and unlearned they are after living in a box in a dark shed their whole lives. After a little while I’ll take out the partition and hope no one dies and then I have eight chicks with a mama to be my main layers for next year. I’ve read that mamas will adopt chicks (or kill them, depending on the mood) and am holding out hope, even though she’s a first-year mama. I’ve let her go out a bit with her new babies and show them how to dig for bugs–I could watch it all day.
She really does talk to them. She was growling at me and threatening me one day (as mother hens are supposed to do) until I put down the feed, then she switched to hen chatter and all the chicks obediently came out and did as they were told with the feed. It was remarkable. Wish I spoke Hen.
It is gorgeous outside and I could spend every day, all day, out there, but to be honest, I did a really half-baked job of resigning from Access, so I have piles of projects to finish before I can really pull back.
Last but not least, in my effort to take my life back, I’m going to start writing publicly more and moving some of my stuff to this blog so I have one record, including some of the old Mamamelodrama stuff, so forgive me if the post volume starts getting a little excessive. I’ve been advised to have all my writing in one place, so that’s what I’m doing. If you’d like to have me take you off so you can switch to RSS or just come visit when you want, just let me know.
I promise, I won’t always blather on about chickens. But if you do like learning about random chicken-related things, you should check out the “chickens” tag in the sidebar cloud, or read what I’ve learned about eggs. Fascinating stuff. I can’t imagine life without them anymore.