Archive for Chickens

Cut and Paste Chicken

Well, it’s spring.  And I’m blogging about my chickens.  It seems to happen every year.  I should just cut and paste my post from last time.  But, I can’t help it!

(I do blog more about my kids than about my chickens, though.  I checked my Tag Cloud.)

Every spring, we have our first warm sunny day, and I open up the doors to the coop, and the girls come bursting out into the sunlight, and spend the next joyful hours “discovering” the world outside.  That they forgot was there.  Because it’s been a long winter.  And they are really pretty stupid.  But I love them for that too……….

This time, when I burst into their coop with my pitchfork (another sign of their lack of intelligence is that they’re not at all fazed by being awoken by a girl holding a pitchfork) I found a lovely surprise waiting for me.  6 eggs!  6 tiny almost ridiculous eggs from our 2 tiny almost ridiculous birds………but I was so excited!  They stop laying in the winter.  The days are too short, the coop is too cramped, their energy goes entirely into staying alive in the cold.  These eggs are a joyful sign!  A sign of light and warmth and survival.  36 more of these tiny eggs and I’ll have enough for an omelet………

So, I mucked out the coop, the girls scratched around the yard, I collected the eggs.  I had a few bittersweet moments of remembering the girl that didn’t make it through the winter.  It’s a miracle this bird even made it into the winter.  Tessa was the wrong kind of chicken.  Tessa was a broiler.  Broilers are bred to get so huge so fast, that they are ready to slaughter in 45 days.  We did not do our research.  We saw the world’s most adorable puffy yellow chick and had to have her.  She was so cute you wanted to eat her up………….my point exactly.

OMG she's so cute she's sitting on my hand I don't even care if she poops on me I want her to live in my house forever and ever and ever!!!!!!!!

Um, guys? What happened to Tessa? Why can't she walk? Why did we think it was a good idea to buy a chick from Tractor Supply? That they usually only sell in packs of 30?

Tessa was a good girl.  She made it way past the 45 days.  But she didn’t make it past winter.  I don’t think she had an unhappy life.  She ate and drank and scratched.  She did sit around a lot.  Her legs weren’t strong enough to haul her broiler-ness around for very long at one stretch.  But she got to sit in the sun.  And chase bugs from where she sat.  She gave it up in January.  (I don’t blame her.  January makes me want to give it up most years too…….)  We buried her in the garden.  Which is one (and possibly the only) perk of global warming: we were able to dig a hole in the non-frozen ground even in January.

So, we’re down to 3 girls.  In Neenah, you’re allowed to have 4 hens.  So, we’ll be getting a chick again this spring.   Again, she will be so cute we will let her sit on our hands and poop in our house.  Again, we will spend the first few months praying that she is really a “she” and not a rooster (which would have to go find a “nice home in the country”, like Sasquatch).  Again, we will just want to eat her up!  But, we won’t.  Because, this time, she will NOT be a broiler from Tractor Supply.


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Sasquatch is a boy.

We have a bunch of hens in our backyard.  One of my favorites is a gangly Rhode Island Red named Sasquatch.  Actually, she was named Chocolate, but she was so big and her feet were so huge that we started calling her Sasquatch. 



Seriously, this bird looked like a velociraptor.  Huge feet, long neck, gangly walk.  It was charming.  The funniest thing was that she was a total push-over.  The other birds would steal her food and chase her away from the water.  She’s only a few months old, so she’s still immature and shy.  We figured she’d find her voice soon enough.

Well, she found her voice alright.  This morning at the crack of dawn, she started cock-a-doodle-doo-ing.  Like a rooster.  Like the rooster she is.  Sasquatch is a boy.  We suspected something was up.  But the farmer we got her from said she was a girl.  Was he trustworthy?  I don’t know.  He had a lot of chickens.  My husband even sexed her.  “Sexed her” as in examined her gender not “sexed her” as in, well, you know…..  Anyway, my husband is a doctor at the VA and he said she’s a girl.  Who’s gonna arugue with a government doctor?  (Lesson: Don’t go to the VA for chicken-sexing services.)

So, I loved ‘Squatch when I thought she was the world’s ugliest hen.  Now that she’s just another immature rooster, I don’t know what to think.  First of all, he/she has to go.  No roosters allowed in the city.  (Thanks, Jake.)  By the time you read this, we will have “found her a nice farm to live on for the rest of her life”.  Either literally or figuratively.  Maybe we’ll take her back to the farmer who sold her to us.  Maybe we’ll slow-roast her at 375 with a little butter, garlic, and rosemary up under her skin and dilled new potatoes fresh from the garden.  Not that I’ve really thought about it.

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Spring Chickens

Meet my girls!

Meet my girls!

As happy as I am to see Spring arrive, I know 4 ladies who may be even more excited.  I took this picture of my chickens last week on their first excursion of the year.  After ensuring that my neighbors’ dogs were nowhere to be found, we let our hens out of their coop to peck around the yard for an hour or so.  They were so happy that I was entranced watching them.  I spent the entire hour sitting in a chair and smiling as I watched them scratch and follow each other around the yard.

I want to put in a plug for chickens as pets.  I LOVE my birds.  Best pets I’ve had.  Many towns (including Neenah!) allow you to keep chickens.  They take very little work, even in the winter.  You have to admire tiny animals who are able to weather our Wisconsin winters with no more protection than a small shed full of hay and their own poo.  Somehow, I relate to these birds.  First of all, they are the only other females in the family.  Between my hubby, my sons, my boy cats (well, “boy” cats), and a fish of questionable gender, I was ready for some female companionship.  You wouldn’t think chickens would fulfill my need for female companionship.  But, they do.  Chickens literally put all their energy into producing the next generation.  All they do is lay eggs and sit on them. That’s their mission in life.  They eat, but only to get enough energy to lay eggs.  They peck you if you try to take their eggs.  I respect that.  Chickens are also hilarious (one of the traits I look for in a girlfriend).  Have you ever watched a chicken hold her head high as she scratches around in dry leaves?  Hilarious.  Or watched them chase mosquitos in the air?  Hilarious.  It almost makes you look forward to Lakefly season.

My boys love their chickens too.  All the artwork they bring home from school manages to incorporate our chickens.  We have a lot of drawings, paintings, and collages featuring chickens.  I wonder what their teachers think?  Solon had an assignment where he had to decorate a T-shirt with drawings of his most prize possessions.  Right next to his renditions of his family and his house was a sketch of a taco and a drawing of a chicken.  That’s my boy.  The first thing Solon does when he gets home from school is check on the chickens to see if they need water.  Gage is something of a chicken-whisperer.  When the girls wander off into the neighbor’s yard, Gage can always corral them back to the coop.  If I go after them, they scatter in all 4 directions.  If Gage goes after them, they calmly come back to our yard.  Go figure.

So, go get yourself some chickens.  You won’t be sorry.  Or come visit mine.  We can have a cold beer and watch the girls scratch leaves.  There’s nothing like female companionship.

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