Friday, March 4, 2011

It's Chicken Time!

Destination:  Fresh Eggs

Recently I asked Chris for a word to describe us raising our baby chicks in a Chick-fil-A box, I expected something similar to "ironic."  He replied, "predestination." Oh  my!

When we began producing more of our own food, I finally connected why baby chicks are such a popular decoration at Easter.  Until then, I thought they were a cute part of the season, like Santa.  Now I know they show up this time of year because it's time to raise them if you want fresh eggs before the summer is over!  Trust me, they're easy, and they produce protein that is much more colorful than traditional store-bought eggs.

It's baby chick time!  Chris and I got four chicks last weekend from Atwood's in Andover.  (They're also available at Tractor Supply Company.)  Keeping chicks, and chickens, is actually surprisingly easy -  if they weren't there's no way I'd have them with a baby due in 11 days.  There's a ton of info online about how to raise them, here's one quick guide, and a simple Google search will provide about everything you need to know.   Even so, let me share a few things we learned through our first experience last year: 

1.  When you pick them out, watch them for a few minutes to learn their personalities.  I thought a chicken was a chicken, until Chris went to the store alone last year to bring home our third chick.  He chose the one who ran across the tub and jumped on all the others.  Turns out this chick was just as tough and comical when it became a full grown chicken.

2.  They learn to respond when you call, much like cats, "Here kitty, kitty, kitty."  When I dug up a grub while gardening, I'd yell, "Here chicken, chicken, chicken," and they would barrel toward me, knowing they were about to get something tasty.

3.  Spend time with them when they're young if you want to be able to catch them when they are older.  Last year, when we knew we would be gone after sunset, we would put the ladies in their coop.  Unfortunately, we didn't spend enough time holding our chicks when they were young, so every time we wanted them in the coop before sunset, we had to chase them around the back yard to catch them.  This year we're *trying* to create tamer chickens, a task that would be much easier if we had children who enjoy cuddling the little girls.

4.  They get ugly fast.  To the left is a pic of the chicks a day after we got them, fuzzy and cute with only a few wing feathers.  The pic at the top is of them less than a week later.  They've already gotten a lot more feathers, and while they're still cute, soon they'll have feathers sticking randomly up off their heads and bodies.  So, enjoy them when you first get 'em.  But, cuteness isn't the point now, is it.

5.  They're just chickens.  Trust me, learn from my experience and don't get attached.

6 comments:

  1. Love what you're doing here! My husband and I often daydream about raising our own chickens, though we often get fresh chicken eggs from a family that lives across the street (and we live in the city!), which may account for our procrastination. ;) This blog has a great spirit and good information. Hope to read more in the future!
    Cheers, from your Oklahoma neighbors.
    ~ Angela

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  2. Thanks for the comment "Devouring the Seasons." I agree, I'd probably procrastinate with fresh eggs coming from across the street too. I'd definitely be missing "farm TV" though, which is what my husband and I call it when we sit in the backyard and watch chicken antics in the evening...it's much fun!

    Really appreciate the positive feedback, thanks so much for taking the time to comment.

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  3. We're going to be bold and attempt a full fledged purchase from Orschlen's this year, something like 25 chicks, hoping to keep 20 alive. I'm going to build the hen house/coop over Spring Break. We should compare notes, over at musementparking.blogspot.com sometime.

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  4. Wow, that IS bold! Good for you, it'll be interesting to see how your experiment goes. My Dad helped me build my coop, out of old barn boards and tin from my grandparent's farm. It cost us nothing and works great. You can check it out here: http://lovelocalfood.blogspot.com/2010/07/im-grieving-chicken.html.

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  5. Re not getting attached: you kind of have to learn to think of the flock as the organism, rather than the individual birds.

    This is helped in our case by the fact that (1) we can't tell most of our ducks apart, and (2) ducks are hardier than chickens. Took us almost three years to lose any of them.

    It'd be helped more if we were replenishing the flock each year, but all our birds are almost three years old. And since we're getting ready to repaint the house (first taking it down to the bare wood, which means scraping 90 years of paint off) we're going to get rid of the whole, er, organism for awhile. (Six Khaki Campbell hens, free to good home, future laying lifespan uncertain. We'll eat 'em if nobody wants 'em, but at their age they're just stew birds.)

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  6. Just seeing your comment, Karen, after a month of baby & healing-focus. It would be much easier if they all looked the same as your ducks do! Hope you were able to find them a home...let me know if you're still looking and I could send out an email to my list (probably >300 people) of local food lovers.

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