Monday, October 17, 2011

It's a bird. It's a plane. It's a…Rooster?

 It's always a rooster.

You latch onto one of your little chicks or five-week-old pullets. You decide she's your favorite. You love her. You give her a cute name. You call her things like cutie pie, fluff ball and fuzzy butt. You know you're little girl is a hen. I mean, look at how cute she is. Then all of a sudden she either sprouts a giant tail, doubles in size, or suddenly lets out a noise that is by no means a cluck. Yup, she's a he.

When Rooster Disaster (RD) happened to us for the first time, it happened to strike our first batch of chickens. We had gotten three "hens" and each picked one out to name. RD struck my husband's chicken. The ironic part of the whole thing is that his name was Mrs. Nesbitt. The name came from the movie Toy Story. In the second half of the movie, Buzz and Woody are stuck at Sid's house and Buzz has been recruited for Sid's little sister's tea party. He is dressed up in a hat and apron and has lost one arm in a fall. When Woody finds him in this state, Buzz says, "I'm Mrs. Nesbitt!" But, I digress...Maybe it's not so ironic, since Mrs. Nesbitt is actually Buzz, who is a boy. Maybe my husband doomed his chicken with the name.

I am now in the throws of this same problem once again. Well, I may be in the throws of this problem. We are down to one of the adopted little bantams that Erickson hatched out in June. Two went off to a friend last month. This weekend we dropped off two more with The Chicken Man. So we're down to Boba (as in Boba Fett from Star Wars). We were supposed to be dropping off a rooster and a hen with The Chicken Man, but he suspects we had two little roosters for him. Then, I started looking at the one we have left. Three of the chicks were identified as definite roosters pretty early in life. They had large combs and obvious rooster tails. The two little white and black chicks have always been definite girls. They had perfect little straight-in-the-air tails and small combs and wattles. Suddenly, however, I notice that our two girls each have two long tail feathers that look suspiciously rooster-esque. It's going to be RD all over again.

Being the fervent researcher that I am, I just finished combing through all of our pictures of the chickens on our computer as well as googling images of Japanese and Old English Game hens. These crazy boyish tail feathers have materialized in the last month. They did not exist in the pictures we have from September. The problematic part of this story is that I found no pictures online of hens with these long tail feathers. Ugh! I did find a few adolescent roosters who look similar to my cute little "girl."
A cute little girl?

I need a farm in the country where it's not an issue to have giant (or in the case of Bobba - tiny) roosters cock-a-doodling around the yard. Then, I wouldn't be so worried about this sexing mess. She/he has just hit 4-months-old, but I'll keep you posted on whether or not I get a first egg or a first crow.
Or a Roo? 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O.

Chickens are a gateway drug. You think to yourself, I'd like to have a few chickens in my backyard... I want to be closer to my food... It would be much healthier to have fresh eggs... I can teach my children about where our food comes from... It would be fun to watch chickens pecking around the yard. Then you get a handful of chickens to fulfill whichever of these thoughts you had. And that's your big mistake.  Next thing you know, you have built an addition onto your coop and have three chickens over your city's legal limit. I'm just saying.

Chickens are cute. They're fluffy. They're fun to watch. They eat bugs that would otherwise be crawling around your backyard and eating your flower or vegetable garden. They make you eggs. Some of them are so sweet they act like lap dogs. What's not to love? My husband could think of plenty of things not to love. When I first broached the subject of chicken-owning a little over a year ago, he was not as gung-ho about it as I was (that's an understatement).

I have always liked chickens. My grandfather had chickens when I was a kid. My uncle and aunt had chickens when I visited them in Wyoming (I still remember their beautiful little golden hen named Goldie. I took her picture while she was sitting on her nest.). However, my personal love of chickens was previously contained to inanimate chickens. I had chicken salt and pepper shakers, a chicken candle, a few chicken statues, and a chicken pitcher, but no actual chickens living in my yard. I live in the downtown area of my state's capital city. I enjoy the city life. I generally think of myself as a city girl with a little hometown flair. So live chickens never crossed my mind. That is, they never crossed my mind until I met The Chicken Man. I met him through work, where I found out he had chickens and where he brought a four-hour-old baby chick to visit us one day. I fell in love with that little fluff ball and wanted to take it home right then and there. Not long after that day, The Chicken Man donated more than a dozen chickens for us to raise money for a charity walk for which we were trying to raise around $5,000. A few of us went out to his house to see his 40 or more chickens. As I was driving home from The Chicken Man's house I decided this was a perfect way for me to raise the money I'd pledged for the walk and get a few chickens for myself. I just had to convince my husband.

At first, my dear hubby thought I'd drop the idea. This was just another hair brained idea I had that would never come to fruition. Then he tried putting obstacles in my way when I didn't forget about "the chicken idea." Can we have chickens? How many? We have to ask the landlord. I've said before that I'm a researcher. I didn't spend four years of college studying English and writing papers for nothing. I spent hours on the internet. I checked out books from the library. I talked to the landlord. Then one day he asked when we were getting the chickens. Actually, I may have said something about how we had about two weeks before the chickens were coming and the coop needed to be built. But who cares about those little details?

At first he was fine with the chickens. He liked them, but wasn't in love with them like I was. I'd go out first thing in the morning to open the coop and give them a treat. I went straight out to check for eggs and say hello when I got home from work. He would sit outside with me in the evening or on the weekends and watch them forage and sometimes he'd check for eggs. He wasn't so in love with them that when Erickson, our buff Brahma, went broody he thought getting eggs for her to hatch was an awesome idea. It's not that he hated the idea, it's just that he needed to warm up to it. He looked at me like I was a lunatic when I brought home seven fertile eggs for her. Then I got to hear about how we couldn't keep all of them. First, I convinced him that keeping one was okay (I really would've loved to keep three), then I had him up to keeping two, kind of. Now, we're keeping one and swapping the second one we were going to keep for a Silkie. Sigh.

Do you see the trend here? Well, besides my drug-like addiction to the chickens? Not long ago, I noticed my husband was almost always the one who collects the eggs. He gets them before I've gotten a chance. He's always telling people how great it is to have chickens and how relaxing it is to watch them pecking around the yard. During the work week, he lets them out when he comes home on his lunch break so they get some nice foraging time. He brings them treats everyday. And when our not-so-bright bantams decide to sleep outside on the perch when it's raining, he's the one who goes out and puts them inside the coop so they stay warm and dry (I say if they're that dumb, let them sit out in the rain. They'll learn or get wet.).

The scary part of chickens is they're so addictive that even the reluctant chicken owner gets sucked in. You can't help it. Now, my husband wants to move out to the country and start a chicken farm. I'm down with it. He says it's the only way I can get a goat.