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Tales of a Hen House, Continued

May 21, 2011

How are the chickens, you ask? Well, they are 3 months and 22 days old today. They are close to full grown, and are splendidly feathered. They began their little chicken lives in our living room, where for the first three days I fought for each little one to survive, loosing quite a few. Do you remember the story of Little B., the bird who couldn’t keep her beak to herself? Who couldn’t stop pecking at all of her sisters’ eyes, as well as Wile’s eyes? We told her, you’re gonna make someone blind, kid! But did she listen? No. So we resorted to giving her to the dog. Not to eat, but to be with. Wile, it seems, found his supreme duty in life to be with Little B. And after living separated from her sisters for over a week, we slowly integrated Little B. back into bird society. We are happy to report that Little B. never returned to her old ways. She never pecked again, and to our great fortune, we have not yet had a pecking problem among our birds. We have, however, had a few laughs and a few surprises…

Little B at two weeks old

Little B was always a lighter yellow than all of her Aracauna sisters

Loading the two-week old chicks into the chicken house under heat lamps

Above, you can see the chicken coop that was here at the Rudy farm out in a field behind the house. We split it in two, with our meat chickens on one side (these do not receive names), and our egg layers on the other side (as we fondly call them, our girls). After the cold months of February and March, we began to open the door and encourage the little girls to explore the big wide world. Our large, white meat chickens who live across the way from the girls in the chicken house would go out every morning, and return every evening, scouring the ground for the best worm or grub, and enjoying the grass. Yet it took the girls a while to take that first leap out into the great wide open. But once they did, there was no returning.

Yesterday, for the first time, the girls ventured beyond their own back yard–and into ours! I was so surprised to pull in the driveway and see them all there, greeting me and welcoming me home! And as I walked into the house with groceries, they followed me back and forth to and from the car!

Yesterday, May 20th, was the first time that the girls ventured out beyond the comfort of their own back yard--and into mine. Here one of our Red Star girls is waiting for me as I pull in the driveway.

The girls and the flowers. Notice the two who are practicing their marching? They are quite talented in their posture, don't you think?

Hanging out around the fire pit near their house

A sample of the variety of the girls--from left to right--Columbian Wyandotte, Aracauna, and Egyptian Fayoumis

Little Fräknar (means "freckle" in Swedish), a Silver-Spangled Hamburg

The biggest surprise of all has been that the girls are, in fact, not all girls! This is to be expected when ordering young chicks. Although we ordered all females, determining the gender of such a small peep can be a challenge, and the determination is not always accurate. Yesterday morning, I heard coming from the chicken house the loudest, clear as a bell cock-a-doodle-doooo! A rooster was clearly crowing loudly, but not like the one rooster we have living with our meat chickens (who caught a cold once in the rain and now has a kind of horsey, half-hearted, throaty “cock-a-doddddlllllllllll,” never finishing strong on the “doooo,” if you know what I mean). But this was crystal clear, piercing, and persistant. Scared that I might find a rooster from our other barn had escaped and was raising cain in my hen house, Wile and I rushed to the coop. And as we walked in, everyone seemed quite under control, calm, just looking at us like “what the heck is wrong with you two?” There was no rooster in sight. A moment lapsed where I thought I was completely insane, and then, all of a sudden, right at my feet, one of our Columbian Wyandotte “girls” started crowing loudly, standing on her…er, his toes, calling into the air, “I’m here! I’m a MAN! I can cock-a-doodle-do!!!!!” Wile and I had a good laugh (at least I imagine Wile was laughing in his little dog brain), as this rooster of ours, crowed over and over and over again. And it all began to make sense. He was larger than all the other girls. He was always rushing around them all, checking on each one, and the color of his plumage was out of this world, even in comparison to the second Columbian Wyandotte we have. Why hadn’t I seen it before? Well, all he had to do was develop his pipes and I was sure to know!

His name is Spavaldo…Italian for…cocky.

The unexpected rooster, Spavaldo

Spavaldo and his mate

Spavaldo's Plumage

In addition to the surprise of Spavaldo and the speediness of Fräknar, we have Lucille (Formally, Lucille 2 Bowman). Lucille is a fluffy, frizzy little bantam chicken–the old lady of the bunch at over 2 years old. Lucille was the faithful chicken of Jason’s brother and his girlfriend Aaron and Tess. However, Aaron and Tess are moving to Portland this month, and little Lucille could not find a suitable seat in the car for the cross-country trip that included their quite large dog Sagan, as well as all of their belongings piled in and on top of the car. So Lucille came to live with us. Unlike our other chicks, Lucille has beautiful black skin, white puffy plumage, with a fro that falls over her eyes, and has feathered feet. She is half the size of her newly adopted flock, but faithfully gives us one tiny egg a day. The first few days that she arrived, Wile had a strange response. For some reason, he knew that she wasn’t a part of his flock and kept separating her out. It seems that he felt she belonged on the other side of the coop wall where all of the white chickens lived. We had to continually bring her to Wile and explain to him that no, in fact, she belonged to him and belonged on this side of the coop (the meat chickens do not “belong” to Wile in the same way, and he isn’t generally invited into their space the way he is always welcomed in the hen house of our egg layers). Lucille is quite a hoot!

Lucille Bowman

In addition to this motley crew, we have Band-aide, our survivor. When Band-aide was a tiny little one, not so hardy on her first day of life, she had little legs that would splay out and not stay together so she could stand. We waited a while to see if she would grow into her legs, but alas, she did not. We devised a working solution, with the hope of building some muscle in her legs and helping her legs to grow together not apart: band-aide them together! So that we did, for almost two weeks–kept a band-aide around her little legs. To our delight, it worked well enough for Band-aide to survive. And that she does, to this day.

Band-aide. Because she has spent so much time in our hands, and because it takes a lot of energy to walk, you can go right up to Band-aide and scoop her up!

Here the girls are enjoying a meal. It's hilarious to think that just a few months ago they could all squeeze around this feeder!

One of our Red Star girls following faithfully back to the chicken coop.

All in all, our chicks are becoming chickens (as we call them, chweens–chicken tweens), and are developing really interesting personalities. As their identities and names begin to emerge, we will share them with you! And soon, they will be sharing with us—eggs, eggs, every day! Currently, we get sporadic eggs from our meat chickens enough to eat quiche, custard, soft boiled eggs in salad, broiled eggs on pizza and eggs a million other ways. I cannot imagine when we start getting between 20 and 25 eggs a day! Currently, we have a few friends lined up to receive an egg delivery once a week. If you’re interested, let me know!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 21, 2011 3:48 pm

    Harrigan! So wonderful to catch up on these last few posts. This portraiture of your life is so raw and bare. I love watching your life on the farm unfold. Thank you for sharing! You are such an inspiration to me as I enter into a life where time will be more available to me and I can write more about our home life. Looking forward to enjoying that together from afar.

    Congratulations on your recent commencement ceremony. I hope you and Jason have a fruitful summer on the farm. Looking forward to reading more. Miss you.

  2. May 22, 2011 6:44 am

    It was such fun reading about your chween family.

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