This is Jessica Fletcher (II), a very curious and interfering busybody of an Easter Egger hen. She really likes my phone.
To me, the very best and useful animals to keep are chickens. I love the bees, and someday might consider goats, but chickens have my heart. They are small and manageable, easy to care for, provide eggs and meat, and their poop is great composted for the garden. They're also good, quiet company - not to mention pretty. And they're like tiny dinosaurs! There are some down sides - everything eats them (foxes, skunks, dogs, cats, coyotes, weasels, mink, etc.) so you need to be super vigilant to keep them protected. If their coop isn't carefully managed and cleaned, it can smell. But when well tended, they're just lovely to have around.
My chicken story up until now, in short: I wanted chickens for several years, fought the good fight with town council when we lived in town to have the by-law prohibiting chickens amended, to no avail. We finally moved to our forever farm home last summer, and got 12 laying hens which were already a year old. As my first chickens, it was a great experience to have them to get used to what taking care of them entailed, learning about their behaviour, trouble shooting a few situations such as mites that they came to me with, etc. I trained them to come when I called, which was a lot of fun, and the boys learned a lot about animal care, too. A couple of months ago, some neighbours picked up the older hens, which were past their laying prime, and we got our first chicks - 18 Easter Eggers.
My dream flock has always been a mixed flock of some different breeds, specifically ones that lay a variety of coloured eggs. In order to attain that, around here, anyway, you need to start with chicks. Unsexed chicks. Meaning that at least half of them will likely be roosters. We got 18 at the end of May, and now that they're around 10 weeks old, we're starting to see which ones are indeed roosters. My dream flock is about 25 mixed hens and two pleasant roosters. So far, out of those first 18, 11 are roosters. And it seems like it's overnight that their comb pops out, their tail feathers appear, and they start crowing. We have a farm not far from here that's wiling to take them, which is convenient. I'm not prepared to fatten them up to eat (I don't want to keep them for that long, and they're not likely to produce much in the way of meat, anyway) and I'm also not keen to just do away with them.
This past weekend, we got 32 more chicks, some of which had *just* hatched. They're so tiny! I chose a mix of Olive Eggers, Marans, Silver-Laced Wyandottes (oh, how I hope they're all hens!) and Barred Rocks. They're tiny and adorable and sweet, and I can't wait until they're big enough to go down to the coop. As much as I love chicks and think that they're adorable, they're kind of annoying to care for. They're messy and clumsy and crowded (well, not so much right now, but they will be in another week or two) and our current setup means that they're in the basement.
At this point, I'm feeling a bit impatient to have all of the roosters (except two) gone, and to know how many hens we have. And eggs! I can't wait for them to start laying. The first ones should begin around the end of September, and the other batch the beginning of December. It requires a bit of patience, this chicken business. But it's all worth it, especially when I can start posting beautiful egg pictures. Unless a fox or other animal kills them all, which is unfortunately a realistic fear. Or every single bird turns out to be a rooster. (I don't think that will happen - there are a few that I'm pretty confident are hens!) Really, I know that once I collect those first eggs, I'll forget all about the work of having chicks and it will all fade to a hazy memory.
I don't have many specific things planned for the next few days, which I am glad for; we've had lots of company and visitors, which is so lovely, but I also like a bit of quiet and time to putter around the house. I've squeezed in a bit of puttering over the past few days, making vanilla ice cream from this fantastic book, caramel sauce to go with it, and to round things out, batch after batch of these healthy cookies for the kiddos. Enjoy your weekend!