When we moved from Galveston to Wharton, we bought a house on 2 acres and were prepared to settle in as “good ole country folk”. Shortly thereafter, Michael began to pester me about getting another dog. Our big Weimaraner had died and I was reluctant to get another dog of any sort. Then, he cheated. He brought home a cute little fat puppy and dumped her in my lap with the comment – I can take her back if you don’t like her. That’s just not fair. And, so we got Morgan le Fey. MHN wanted her to have a tough name – no sissy dogs for him. Soooo, if you believe such things – Morgainne le Fey was the half-sister of King Arthur and helped to bring about the end of Camelot. Tough name, tough dog. Then, a month or so later, he brought home another cute little puppy – Merlin, Morgan’s brother. And we had two smallish dogs. Fine.
Next, he started bugging me about getting chickens. NO, sez I, Absolutely not. I’m a city person and I’m sure chickens bite. Then a good friend of mine, who also had chickens, began to take his side and before I knew it, we had a big section of the back yard fenced in, a small shed/coop, and 12 pullets (teenaged chickens). The first dozen were Rhode Island Reds. Note – The First Dozen.
OK – first of all, teenaged chickens are not very smart and they don’t lay eggs. Mostly they sat around in the pen on top of one another or they ate. Corn, hen scratch, feed, scraps from the kitchen. Bugs. All the time. They didn’t do much else. The coop had 6 nest boxes full of hay and two long perch racks for nighttime sleeping. Teenagers were not interested. So, the city person (that’s me) did research on chickens – the how to and why fores. You have to wait until the pullets get to be adults about 16-18 weeks. You have to teach chickens where to lay their eggs. As it turns out, when they get old enough, you put a golf ball or fake eggs in the nest boxes. The chickens see what they believe to be eggs already there and presto-chango, they take up laying eggs in the nest boxes.
Then Michael started insisting we needed a rooster. Again, the city person protested – No no no. No roosters. So, my friend, who had an extra rooster, gave us one. Oh goodie. Do you know the #1 thing roosters do? They boink every hen, every day, several times a day. The second thing is, they crow. All the time – not just at daylight – ALL. THE. TIME. And lastly, they make pretty good guards for their girls. One day we had a chicken hawk perch on the fence eye-balling the girls and obviously thinking about chicken dinner. Zeke, the rooster, puffed himself up until he looked twice as big, glared at the hawk and gave a quiet “Burrrrup”. All twelve hens turned and ran into the coop. Wow – very impressive! Hawk looks at the big mean rooster and left. I’d have left too – he looked pretty baaaad.
When we got the chickens, their yard was full of grass and weeds. A year later it was just dirt. We kept it filled with hay and that was the place I threw my weeds from the flowerbeds (bonus!). About every 3 months, Michael would get the tiller and till the chicken yard. One of the funniest things I ever saw was him pushing the tiller along with a conga line of hens behind him digging in the freshly turned dirt.
I have to say, fresh eggs are very different from store eggs. They are richer looking and richer tasting. And, I, the city person, had no problem gathering the eggs as long as no one was sitting on the nest. I would not and never did (1) shoo a chicken off her nest or (2) stick my hand under said sitting chicken to get eggs. Nope, not me.
My experience with chickens taught me that they are relatively independent – they don’t require a lot of hands-on care. They are very social so if you decide you want chickens, you need at least three. It is amusing to watch them interact with one another. They eat anything including meat scraps (well, bugs are meat, right?). They have only so many eggs inside them. Every year they lay fewer and fewer eggs. This does not mean they die – no no – chickens can live 20 years. MHN tried telling me that when they stopped laying eggs WE could chop off heads and have chicken dinner ourselves. Ha ha ha ha!!!!!! No way in hell was that ever going to happen.
So, his answer to that was – Well, we’ll just get more chickens. And we did. Got another dozen pullets. These were a mixed batch some reds some whites, some black and white. And they laid different colored eggs – dark brown to green. Pretty cool. Who knew chickens laid green eggs (well other Dr. Seuss, of course). Unfortunately, the old chickies and the new chickies did not get along so we put up a second coop and got another rooster – Gorgeous George.
It was an interesting time.
Tune in tomorrow for: and DUCKS, oh my!