Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Chicken report

Some of the more entertaining critters on the farmlet are the chickens, especially the older Hyline hens. They are absolutely everywhere, often underfoot, and in places you just don't expect to see them.

For example, last weekend someone left the door open when we were moving in, and I stepped into the hall only to find a chicken wandering around the laundry room. Of course I didn't have my camera on me!

One of the Hyline girls tried to invite herself into my in-laws camper.

She sort of looks like she's about to hop right in!

In addition to laying eggs - we get an average of 3 eggs per day from the 5 hens that are currently old enough to lay - the girls eat bugs, grass, and provide endless entertainment for the cats. When I was weeding the garden, I snagged a couple of assistants to eat the bugs I was uncovering.

Assistant gardener chicken!

We currently have nine chickens, although we started with 11. We have 5 20 month old Hyline hens which we picked up from a local place that sells organic eggs. Egg production starts to taper off around 18 months, so it apparently doesn't make financial sense to keep them after that time. We got them for $3 each, and they have produced well for us. I may pick up a few more from the farmer, since it's great to have hens that are already laying while we're waiting for the babies to grow.

The other chickens, who are about 4 months old and therefore too young to lay, include two Rhode Island Red pullets and two Americaunas. I'm pretty sure that one of the Americaunas is a cockrel - if that's the case, we'll wait for him to attain a good weight, and then he'll have his one bad day. Cockrels can be extremely aggressive (I've been attacked before) and the crowing isn't something we want to deal with. So, he'll grace our table after having had an excellent life roaming free on our land.

(NOTE: If you think this is a horrible thing to do, it's not a decision we've come by lightly. We've ended up with two other cockrels and have given them away. The problem is, nobody wants them. Check your local Craigslist to see how many you can get for free. There's an excellent, thoughtful post over at Throwback at Trapper Creek entitled "Grow a Pair" that pretty much sums up my views on what's going to happen to any cockerels we end up with. Coq au vin, anyone?)

I should note that we actually started out with six of the younger chickens, who we refer to, as a group, "the nuggets." (Yeah, I know, I have a sick sense of humor.) One of them died of unknown causes about a month ago. Another got taken by one of the two local red-shouldered hawks that I think has a nest nearby. Nature is at work around here, although not necessarily in ways that I might wish for! So we're down to 3 hens from that batch, which isn't nearly enough to supply us with eggs, which is why we may adopt more of the older Hyline hens for now.

But in the meantime, the chickens continue to provide eggs and hours of entertainment. I'm sitting here on the couch watching the horses and hens out the back window - it's very peaceful!
The girls dust bathing at the front of the house.

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