Since I apparently can’t stop spilling random details of my life to anyone who cares to listen, I have another confession to make.
I am not a farm person.
Farms are oh-so-adorable, quaint, picturesque even- green pastures filled with black and white cows, marshmallow sheep and honking geese. On farms, cute red barns house mounds of hay and gleeful horses, and of course, the obligatory squawking chicken or two. On farms, the matron of the adjoining little white cottage bakes pies daily and has an intimate knowledge of canning fresh produce. At least that’s how I envision farms, when confined to pictures and movies.
In reality, there’s the stink of fresh manure (that’s animal poop, people), the endless feeding of animals and gathering of eggs, and of course protecting your precious brood from predators. That’s way too much work for me. I am not a farm person and I refuse to apologize for it! So what if I couldn’t can produce to save my life? Supermarkets were invented for a reason! And I am not going to muck out a barn. Ever.
…So can someone please explain to me how THIS happened??
That’s Henrietta in the front, a couple Henriettas in the middle, and (a rather blurry) Henrietta in the back. Yes, they’re all named Henrietta.
Please reserve all judgement for the end of the story. Here’s how this went down:
One of my younger sisters keeps around 70+ chickens (I have no idea how she got that number as they never hold still long enough for me to count) and runs a brisk business selling free-range, cruelty-free eggs. On rare occasions Mark & I have been asked to house-sit while the family boozes it up in Boca. OK they usually just go camping somewhere out West, I’d rather be boozing in Boca personally. On one such occasion I became acquainted with the flock. They’re actually kinda hilarious, and they lay roughly a bajillion eggs a day (2 dozen, 3 dozen, I forget).
Some husbands ask for motorcycles or power tools- mine asked for chickens! After he pointed out all the ways in which we were already equipped for chickens, I had to recognize his logic. We already had a 15×20 ft enclosure in the backyard originally built for the dogs before we realized how much they love curling up on the couch. We also had a massive dog house that Mark had built last year that could be easily converted into a coop. *Insert token grumbling here* Okay fine, let the fun begin!
It took about $50 of random materials at Ace Hardware & Rural King to bring the coop up to code (ha, ha), and another $20 spent on sawdust and feed, but the chickens themselves were free. My sister had a batch of 6 Auracana hatchlings that she was getting ready to introduce to the rest of her flock and gave them to us because she’s awesome=) Auracana chickens lay the pretty blue-green eggs that I love so much. We got 6 females (I’m sure we annoy our neighbors enough without adding crowing roosters) that should be laying eggs in a couple of months. I named the 5 with golden heads Henrietta and the one loner with black head feathers was crowned “Butch”. Mark has been wanting to use that name ever since I first veto-ed it when I got Cruiser, and again with every pet since. It’s just a chicken, so why the heck not?
This is the coop all closed up. It’s like the Fort Knox of chicken coops- ain’t nuthin’ gettin’ in or out! My husband scared himself by reading on chicken forums (yes, they have those) about all the different ways chickens can get killed. Picture a food chain. Now put chickens at the very bottom of that food chain. Snakes, racoons, hawks- they all love them some chicken (Actually, I do too, but that’s different, right?). The doors have 5 latches and bungee cords and chains, oh my! We plan on painting it with weather-proof paint soon to keep the wood from degrading.
Both of those front double-doors open up making it super-easy for
us Mark to clean out the coop, but we usually just open one side during the day. You can see the roosting bars- that’s what chickens sleep on. At least they’re SUPPOSED to sleep on the bars, right now ours sleep in a huge pile in the corner all curled up on top of each other. What weirdos.
For extra ventilation Mark designed this cool little window! It has a shutter that swings up and down, but is also firmly covered in chicken wire so that we can leave the shutter propped open on hot summer nights. Look at those Henriettas peeking out of the corner saying HELLO! =)
The coop is elevated off the ground with a few bricks to keep it from getting soggy when it rains. We shut the food & water in with the chickens at night and put it out in the yard during the day. So far they haven’t been as much work as I had thought they would be! We just open it up in the morning and make sure they have food and water, and then go back out around 8PM or so to close up the Fort.
This is the nesting box that Mark designed in the loft of the coop. So far the chickens haven’t gone up there at all- they’re too young to lay eggs yet. Hopefully they’ll figure out where to go when it’s time! That way we can just open the side access panel and reach in to get the eggs, easy-peasy.
Auracanas are slightly smaller than traditional meat chickens. Half a dozen fit perfectly in the space we have, and if we ever decide to expand our flock it’s a simple matter of adding a few more wire panels. Mark is already trying to decide what kind of chicken we want next! We’re leaning towards Bantams- those are the teensy chickens with the funny feathered feet.
I took them some vegetable peelings from dinner last night and they FREAKED OUT! I should start a scrap bucket for them.
This is me petting a seemingly headless chicken. They put up the expected fuss when being cuddled but settle down pretty quickly. I have my sister to thank for their relative ambivalence to humans- as chicks they were endlessly socialized. My 6-year-old sister would actually sit in the pen with them and let them climb all over her!
So that is the story of how I became a begrudging farm person. I have to admit, for being just a bunch of dumb birds, the Henriettas + Butch are pretty fun to watch.
And so far only one has pooped on me.