Saturday, November 26, 2011

This Week in Chickens

Chickens are a pretty rewarding hobby. You care for these feathered little guys and they lay you a bounty of delicious eggs. They're not just farm animals; they're your pets. Having chickens is fun. But sometimes you have one of those weeks, like with anything else, that's hard to get through. They are the weeks that test you. This week has been one of those for me.

Last weekend we brought home my long coveted Silkie. She was the cutest little fluff ball chicken that I'd ever seen. My husband carried her in his lap on the drive home. We had a carrier, but she was so sweet and calm we didn't need it. My son decided on the name Princess Peach like in Mario Brothers. Princess fit perfectly. She was a delicate and sweet little thing. For two days she followed us around the yard while the chickens were all out grazing. Then, one afternoon she hunched down in the middle of the coop, closed her eyes, and never moved. I brought her inside and made her a little cozy home inside a pet carrier so I could keep an eye on her and try getting her back to normal. We were able to rouse her a little bit every now and then, but four days later after countless doses of pedialyte, internet research and constant watching, Princess had enough and my husband buried her in our backyard. I'm still sad and disappointed. I'm sad that she's gone and disappointed in myself for not being able to help her.

Yesterday, after I'd been out hunting down great Black Friday deals, I came home to learn that our last remaining chick, now the grown up Boba Fett, had literally flown the coop and was in our neighbor's back yard. Our chicken-sitter couldn't get him to come back and couldn't get into the neighbor's backyard. My husband drove the hour from my parent's house to ours to try rescuing Boba. Four hours later he headed back to my parent's house with bad news. Apparently, Boba had discovered his wings, which were yet to be clipped as we hadn't had any trouble with flying, and had flown down the street into a wooded area by the creek. There was no catching him. Another bird down.

Up to this point, we've had good luck raising chickens. Our first three chickens were healthy and have grown into wonderful and happy chickens. Well, one has grown into a wonderful rooster who now lives in the country with another flock. We were lucky that all five of our chicks that hatched in June thrived and are all (yes, all) grown roosters. It happens. I had expected and braced myself for the possibility that at least one of them wouldn't make it. The odds are against all those baby chicks making it to adulthood. I didn't expect five roosters, but what can you do. I never quite know what to expect when it comes to the chickens. And yet I'm still floored by the reduction of two chickens from our flock in one week. I loose one tiny chicken to some unknown disease and I have another living in "the wild" somewhere in the middle of the city. It's just not my week in chickens. I'm hoping Boba once again beats the odds and makes his way back to our yard. Is it likely? No. Can I hope that it works out? I sure can. Mostly, I'm hoping this coming week is much calmer in the world of chickens. I'm not made for all this emotional trauma. On the bright side, our chickens are coming out of their molts and eggs are starting to show up again in the egg boxes. I'm going to try to keep my eye on those rewards.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Occupy the Chicken Coop

The weather is getting chilly. The days are shorter. Now it's dark by dinner time. Chickens everywhere are molting. And all of these facts mean that eggs are becoming scarce commodities. Eggs have become so rare around our house that I don't check the egg boxes everyday anymore. I'm getting ready to make a picket sign and camp out in the backyard chanting, "Hell no I won't go." "Eggs, eggs, edible eggs. Lay me eggs. Don't make me beg!"

With our girls being procrastinators, we only have one chicken, Bossy, in full molt. She looks like a hot mess. Her bum is nearly bald. She looks like she has a receding hairline, and she has feathers falling off of her constantly. She may be completely bald by next week at the rate she's going now. Erickson, our Brahma, is shedding her leg feathers, so it looks like she's wearing spats (think Spats Colombo in Some Like It Hot), but she doesn't seem to feel like molting anywhere else. She still lays eggs intermittently - maybe twice a week, three at best. Pouncey is heading into full-blown mangy molt. Her feathers are beginning to drop like flies. I could build a bantam hen out of her feathers alone that I picked up out of the coop and run this weekend. She looks a bit pathetic, but nowhere near as sad as Bossy. Then we have Ocho. She may have only lost four feathers so far. I'm not kidding. I fear she has decided she's going to put off molting as long as she possibly can. She has willpower. What will happen is she'll be half naked when winter comes and she'll freeze her bum off. Then, I'll feel terrible that she's out in the cold. My mean husband says no house chickens though, so she'll be out there freezing. I'm sure she'll tell me all about it when I go out to open the coop in the morning and bring them treats. My problem right now is that she is also not producing eggs. I mean, the least she could do while she's putting off her molt is to keep me in eggs. And last but not least, the little bantam rooster is still not crowing, but he's not an egg producer either so right now he's just adding to my egglessness. Not cool, Boba.

I absolutely refuse to buy eggs in the store. I do not have four hens in my backyard so I can buy crappy, watery, factory-produced (I already went on my rant about that one, so I'll spare you the details) eggs for $3.29 a dozen. I mean, after eating fresh eggs for a year, I don't know that I'd be able to identify the yolk in one of those junky store-bought eggs. I've been spoiled. I have come to expect a certain level of quality in my eggs. I like to walk outside and come back in with enough eggs to make a three-egg omelet anytime I want. With the holidays fast approaching, I'm concerned that I'll have to break down and actually pay for eggs so I can bake and cook the things I love to eat this time of year. I want to make fresh egg nog for my hubby. You can't make good, quality homemade egg nog with weak store-bought eggs!

So I propose a mass protest against backyard chickens across America. These chickens can't run us! We run them! They're our chickens! Don't let them take advantage of us anymore. Put on your warm clothes. Make a few picket signs. And settle in for the long haul. It's time to start protesting. I'm already working on my chants, "Eggs. Eggs. Where's my eggs? Lay my eggs or I'll eat your chicken legs!" Who's with me?