Uncertainty

Spring showed itself today in the form of a warm, breezy afternoon. With the new season, comes the longing for chicks. I keep stealing glances at the Tractor Supply, and searching baby chick pictures on Google. Its an addiction. No, really- there is something called “chicken math” which is basically a giant excuse chicken owners use to get more chickens. For instance, if I had 20 chickens, but three of them were roosters and five were no longer laying eggs I would reason that instead of 20 chickens, I had 12, because roosters and old hens don’t count. So really, I need 8 more hens.

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I find that this way of thinking is extremely tempting as pictures of fuzzy chicks fill the screen. And I think. What kinds would I get? If I could of course… I go onto hatchery websites and fill up my online “cart” with different breeds, pretending that I am chick shopping. Then comes the scheming… If I just got three more, and expanded the coop slightly then I could…

You get the point. You also probably think I’m crazy.

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But something besides chicks eats at the back of my mind. Mr. Edith has been mating with all three hens for the past few weeks. As you know, he is a large beast. I observed (its not as creepy as it sounds) him mating with Mary, who is quite a big hen, and he completely pinned her to the ground. A gust of air seemed to whoosh out of her, followed by horrified squawking. Mabel, a very small girl, has a bare patch on her back, exposed to the air. So does Cora. And his spurs are developing right before my eyes.

Edith is becoming a real rooster. Not the cuddly buddy he was earlier this year, though he still lets me pick him up and pet him. And he is doing some damage to my hens. Or, his hens, rather. I know he would die for them, he is gentle with humans, and even does the mating dance for Cora. But I also know that he would be better off with more hens to mate with- more than three.

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With these thoughts in mind, I feel immediately guilty. How am I supposed to tell if this is just greedy me trying to make room for more chickens, if this is cruel me getting rid of an animal for doing its purpose, or if this is practical me looking out for the safety of my hens. My mind is certainly troubled. The very last thing I want is for him to end up being processed and butchered. He is such a fantastic animal! And he is so very good to me and his girls. Mr. Edith has even grown on my parents, and his crowing is music that soothes my soul. Any advice from my fellow chicken owners?

Once again, I am at a loss on what to do.

On the bright side- I’m now getting three eggs a day! Mary, the new egg layer, produces a gorgeous light brown-shelled egg

 

Much Squawking

I did it.

About an hour after I published my last post, I ventured outside. I spread the pine shavings in the new coop with my father, and got everything set up. Then I took a deep breath and walked into the run, where my chickens were cowering, away from the snow.

I bent down, tentatively calling “here chook chook chook chicken. EEEEEEEEEdiiiiiiiith.”. He emerged from the coop, fluffing out his feathers. I nervously edged towards him, and knelt in the snow, slowly wrapping my arms around him. He kind of jerked upwards, clucking, and I gently lifted him up. He stayed completely still, softly clucking, and I (completely astonished) carried him over to his new coop. He was such a sweetheart! Here I was, picturing squawking and biting and scratching. Lesson learned- Edith is the best!

I dropped him off in the shavings, and he stood their clucking. I shut the door and returned to the hens. I did the same thing, calling Cora forward. When I placed her in the shavings, they flew to the second level and clucked some more. Easy as pie.

Then came the hard part. For the next forty minutes I sat there, trying to get close enough to Mabel to grab her. I succeeded in snatching her, but she screamed and got a wing over my hand, flapping against the wall. Completely frightened off, I took a break and let it grow darker while I made some hot cocoa inside. Thirty minutes later, it was completely dark and still snowing. I finally regained my confidence and went back out again, sneaking up to the coop. Mary and Mabel faced the back of the coop, their tails pointing towards me. I quickly grabbed her, pressing her wings to her back. She screamed again, did the same thing as before, except I still was holding on.

Against all my philosophies and research, I grabbed her legs, and pulled her out of the coop while she hung upside down. She immediately calmed down, stopped struggling. Shaking, and talking softly, I brought her through the cold to her new, warmer coop. I lay her down on the floor, and she stayed there, stunned. The poor thing got up and crawled in the corner. I’m desperately hoping she is okay, that I didn’t harm her. I just figured it was better for her to be scared and in a safe, warm placed rather than content in a dangerous and freezing one. I hope I figured right.

Mary gave me no trouble, as I suspected, and all four are in the new coop. I just hope they’ll be okay.

Decisions, Decisions

The job interview went wonderfully! I walked down to the Market, strolled in, and she greeted me right away. She handed me a form where I wrote my name, references, my address, phone number, etc… Then she talked as if I had already gotten the job! She said that I could work a day or two during the week with the animals, and then serve ice cream and work with the cash register on the weekend. Plus, I have free access whenever I want to go and bond with the animals. So exciting! But after leaving, I had a pretty big decision to make. At least big from my tiny perspective. 

The fact is, I need more chickens. Not only does Mary need a break from all Edith’s attentions, but I need more than just three eggs a week. That part is clear at least. But where to get them from?

On BYC, (BackyardChickens.com) I’ve been conversing all summer with a woman two hours away with 6 or seven Faverolles chickens. I mentioned this in a previous post, but I’ll remind you guys. This type of chicken is so darn cute! I was going to pick them up some time this week. Plus, they are already laying, or very close to it! 

But yesterday at the job interview thing, my new manager offered me pick of any of her chickens. She has Easter Eggers, Buff Brahmas, Rhode Island Reds, and New Hampshires all at around the same age as mine. They’re running around at her house as we speak, and she’d have to catch them at night when they return to their coop. Plus, she is offering them at half the price of the woman two hours away, just as a kind gesture towards me. 

Sorry, but I’m just going to use this to organize my thoughts-

The pros with the woman with the Faverolles:

  1. They are adorable!
  2. They are basically already laying
  3. I’d have to get them THIS WEEK!

The pros with my manager’s deal

  1. They are cheaper
  2. I could get the kind of chicken I wanted in the first place (easter egger)
  3. They are local, I wouldn’t have to travel more than five minutes
  4. She made the offer out of kindness

I just don’t know what to do! To be honest, I’ll probably go with the local ones. I just feel bad bailing out with this nice lady I’ve been talking to all summer. 

Sigh. So that’s what I’m dealing with today. What do you think I should do?  

 

 

 

One little hen…

I write today with a very heavy heart. My writings are punctuated by a loud, melodious calling from the coop outside. A rooster’s crow. Little Sybil, now tentatively named Sid, has been crowing for a week or two now. All. Day. Long. So our little “covert” egg operation has been discovered by, well, pretty much everyone. But at least I have two other hens, right? RIGHT!?

Nope. Today, as we dropped into the car Edith howled to the sound of the motor. Well, he tried to crow (he sort of failed, but I don’t want to hurt his pride or anything like that).

Two out of five died. Two out of five are roosters. One hen. Why me? The world seems to be working against me for the moment. I’m just a teenager that wanted to have a few pet chickens and a garden. But now I am forced to make decisions that will eventually result in the death of two of my beloved, healthy, happy, and trusting pets. I have contacted sanctuaries, fellow chicken farmers, stared at pages and pages of CraigsList. The answer is always the same. No one wants a rooster. Everyone wants fresh chicken meat.

So I stare at my lovely little roosters, Edith resting on my lap as I stroke her feathers. His feathers. And I think of what it will all come down to. I prepare myself to be the heartless sacrificer that I am supposed to be, defending the ears of my annoyed neighbors and family. Edith stares right back, loving, happy, trusting.