Friday, December 8, 2006

Chicken Update

#1 Rooster

#2 Rooster

At The Fence

Speckly's Head

So until today I have really enjoyed the chickens. Today it isn't so great. It's four degrees (I am not exaggerating), really windy and I nearly froze while doing my daily little chicken chores. I will spend the day worrying about them-they are cooped up inside their small chicken house and their water was frozen this morning. We may have to figure out a way to get an extension cord to the coop to at least put a warmer under their water.

Anyway, we started out with 27 little chicks back in early June. Over the summer, one of the white chickens developed an impacted crop and despite my efforts (days of holding the chicken upside down and pulling stuff out of its mouth), it ended up dying. In September, I gave five hens to our neighbors, whose flock had diminished slightly over the last few years.

We were left with 21 brown egg laying hens. Or so we thought. One morning while I was getting the kids out the door to the bus stop, we all thought we heard a suspicious crowing sound from the chickens. Over the next few days it developed into a distinctive rooster's crow. We were supposed to get layer hens but they missed a few obviously and we have not one but two roosters. They are beautiful though and so far have not given us any trouble. Everyone we know who has roosters says that they are trouble. Some friends of ours who got chickens around the same time as we did ended up with two roosters also and they caused such a problem that both of them have been "eliminated" from the flock. Anyway, one is in charge, but they both get a lot of action, if you know what I mean. Many lovely young ladies to choose from. I have heard that when they are about a year old they start to fight and if that happens, one of them may become a free ranger, And, well if something were to befall him, like a fast car or a coyote, so be it...We have had a few scuffles but they have been resolved quickly. A few weeks ago the #1 Rooster started to give me a hard time when I was in the chicken yard. He kept coming at me, jumping up at me and squawking. I kicked him (not that hard) in the chest and he backed off but still gave me attitude. So I called Penny, our killer dog (she's a sweetie, but has a tendency to hunt, kill and eat small animals, including birds), and she came in and sat inside the fenced yard with me and the chickens. This immediately chilled out the #1 Rooster and he hasn't given me a hard time since. Clearly I am #1. Well, along with Penny.

Some of the hens are more friendly with me than others. A few of them always come up to me and follow me around, two will let me hold them and one of them always unties my shoelaces. They all have their quirks and it is fascinating to sit and watch their activities. They seem to be stupid at first, but then you can see that there is a purpose in their actions and sometimes do very smart things. They are also amazingly perceptive.

We started getting eggs in September. At first there just a few each day and some of them were kind of wacky. They had soft rubbery shells that you could just tear open. Or they had wrinkly shells or were perfectly round instead of well, egg shaped. But those disappeared and we gradually collected more each day. Despite the short days and cold weather now, which affect egg production, we are getting around a dozen eggs a day. Clearly we can't eat that many, so basically we give a dozen eggs to anyone who stops by. Yesterday I gave a dozen to our dentist when I took one of the kids in for an appointment. Our neighbors are set as well. And the flavor of the eggs! It's amazing how tasteless and bland the store bought eggs are in comparison.

Raising chickens has been a really great experience. I have learned that I am capable of things that I never dreamed possible, like trying to save a dying chicken. heh. I love hearing the roosters crow, they are very polite and wait until dawn and it just seems perfect out here to have crowing roosters. We had a lot of company over the summer and the highlight of the visit for their kids was holding a chicken. It's surprising how many kids never have a chance to hold a chicken. Based on the success of this project, and because we have a real barn and 22 acres, we are actually considering getting a few goats and maybe even some sheep next year. So stay tuned!

Egg Scale


Anonymous said...

You're getting a dozen eggs a day? Seriously? That's a lot of eggs! I had no idea such a small number of hens could produce that many eggs. I thought you'd be getting, like, an egg a week. Man, I'm such a city boy.

I use eggs a lot when I'm in a cooking swing -- I tend to go through cooking phases, followed by ordering out phases. I use a lot of eggs because they go in so many things. When I'm feeling really ambitious, I even make my own mayonnaise.

The idea that fresh eggs could be even better...maybe I'll come up some day with an armload of recipes and use three or four days of your supply for you.

Tracy Helgeson said...

Actually, I didn't know how many to expect either (I am closer to being a city girl rather than a farm girl, or at least I was) until I started researching chickens a bit. They lay about one a day or every other day. And 19 hens is a rather large backyard flock. Usually more little chicks die at first, and none of ours did so we have more than we planned.

We do use up a lot of the eggs ourselves too. I do a lot of baking and we are fond of frittatas. Doug makes a mean omelet. But then some days we may not use any and then they really add up. You can find fresh eggs at a farmers market if you have one nearby.

But yes, please come up here and make us some mayonnaise. And I'll give you a few dozen to take home:-) Worth the 4-5 hour trip (one way!) I am sure. ha.

Anonymous said...

Maybe next time you have an opening I'll come up early and start cooking.

I haven't mastered omelettes but then I have no reason to; no one else in the house would eat them and I hardly care about cooking breakfast. I make good scrambled eggs when Dawn asks for them.

When I was in high school, during the summer, some days, I'd be the only one home in the morning. I'd get up and turn on Mozart's 40th and 41st Symphonies real loud, then make two eggs sunny side up and toast with butter. Those were great mornings.

As for a nearby farmers market, you do realize I live closer to downtown Manhattan than most people in Queens. There isn't a farm or a real farmers market for miles and miles. Although there is one guy who set up a small farm right on Route 17 between the pool supply store and the psychic. I keep meaning to stop and ask him what he thinks he's doing. I imagine his tomatoes are grown entirely of lead and arsenic.

Tracy Helgeson said...

Guess I HAVE been in the country too long. I do know how close you live to Manhattan but I assume by now that farmer's markets have shown up everywhere. There has been one everywhere WE have lived, even in Philadelphia. Not exactly a farmer's market there but stands selling fresh produce. That's kind of what I meant I guess.

Our local one is only open on Saturdays but there are plenty of other options for produce here, like stands and the farmer down the road.

Anonymous said...

Well, there are what they call farmers markets. I don't think any of them have any relation to actual farms, except mabe their owners worked farms back in Korea.

Anonymous said...

Wow what a wonderful life you must have, being able to live like that, country side, raising chickens... what a great experience I hope to be able to do this one day. Good for you!

meno said...

That egg scale is a very cool thing. It looks like an antique.
Your chickens are cool. My SIL has a few and sometimes we get fresh eggs. yum.

Anonymous said...

Don't get goats...they are nasty, smelly creatures!!!

Anonymous said...

How lovely, Tracy ... I loved reading this. I've always wanted chickens, and I adore goats!

I looked into having sheep when we were going to start a lifestyle block (we ended up at the beach instead!) ... but was really put off by some of the husbandry - drenching, crutching, dealing with maggots and the like! Horrible!

Of course being in New Zealand we see hundreds of lambs ... and they are just adorable. But then I also love cattle .... definitely no room for any of those!

But (and maybe MOM is correct about the goats!) the very 'bestest' animals of all to have are alpacas. They are lovely creatures and so beautiful with their long fluttering eyelashes and humming noise! I once knew someone who bred them and she told me a lot about them. They are pretty well the ideal domestic farm animal ... except you can't eat them! But their wool is quite valuable.....

How lucky you are with your chickens ... it was lovely to hear about them.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Sorry Tracy .... as you can see Blogger was having indigestion! I gave up after the first two tries then came back and wrote number 3 ... then look what happened!

Claire said...

Roosters. When we were kids we ended up with two (we bought fertilised eggs for clucky hens... so you never knew).

One of them turned very nasty and would attack my sister and I when we went into the backyard. So my dad cooked him.

I love chickens. I'd have some if I could.

Tracy Helgeson said...

Chris, Ha. That's all I can manage about you living in a place with no farmer's markets. Sorry.

Thanks, Angela, It is nice here and so far it's our favorite lifestyle (we've had several).

Hi Meno, it is a cool egg scale. The egg on it is so big it's off the scale. Most of the ones we get are in the medium range. I doubt we'll actually use it much and it will soon go on the shelf with the rest of the antique food containers and my prize can of fifty year old black bread. Mmmm.

Mom, I know, smelly and nasty. Some people do not like goats, but some people love their pet goats. Who to believe?

Lesly, I guess they all have their drawbacks, smell being the most common. We have friends who have sheep and they are just loving all of it. Alpacas would be cool, but they sure can be expensive. We'll see, I guess.

Claire, how awful! It's true, roosters don't fare very well I am afraid and usually get cooked. Ours are fine so far but we do have a plan B (free range) just in case.

Deb Lacativa said...

Recently some people who were renting a nearby house disappeared (INS?) leaving behind a large flock of wild chickens who now prowl and roost in the woods behind our property.
I have all of the drawbacks of having chickens and none of the eggs (so far).

Chris Rywalt said...

Deb, just to be picky, which is my hobby, the chickens aren't wild (there's no such thing as a wild chicken any more), they're feral. Feral means formerly domesticated but now living in the wild.

Pigeons in America are all feral. Pigeons used to be raised like chickens before chickens became more popular. All the pigeons living in America are descendants of the domesticated pigeons brought over from Europe.

So your chickens are following in some great footsteps. They could be the next pigeons! Today, your backyard -- tomorrow, New York City!

Chris Rywalt said...

Coincidentally, this is about pigeons.

Lauren said...

oh wow I can't believe those are the cute little chicks you posted months ago! (city chick) hahaha

Lisa Call said...

Yahoo - the chicken update! A dozen a week - that's great.

My grandparents used to have a chicken farm (along with cattle and crops and who knows what else). I just went to this grandma's funeral today and it brought back many memories - collecting the eggs and the cleaning and plucking of the chickens themselves for dinner.

Tracy Helgeson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tracy Helgeson said...

Deb, you could probably get them to nest by setting up a small structure, like a doghouse or something, with food nearby. Then you might be able to collect of few of their eggs. They are probably laying them all over the place now.

Thanks, Chris, you are ever so informative. You probably understand pi too:-)

Lauren, I know, I look at them sometimes and can't believe it either. I wish I knew which ones were which, I didn't keep track too well.

Lisa, yep real chickens now. Sounds like really nice memories. Except maybe the cleaning and plucking part.

Chris Rywalt said...

I wouldn't say I understand pi, but I do have it memorized to five decimal places. Which isn't all that impressive, in the world of memorizing pi.

Of course, the fact that there is a world of memorizing pi is frightening enough.

Tracy Helgeson said...

Chris, Ok, I feel better. I mean I still don't know what the heck five decimal places refers to but at least you don't have a full understanding of it.

Now I don't have to be completely intimidated by you:-)

Chris Rywalt said...

But you should fear...MY BUMPER STICKER!

Tracy Helgeson said...

No worries about that-I was NOT an honor student-didn't try hard enough. Story of my life...