So I just get home from a HELLUVA day at work, and I sit down innocently at my computer for a little blog perusal and relaxation, only to find that Jen has received chickens from on high. I thought to myself, now there's something you don't see every day, spontaneous chickens. This can't be a bad thing! So, having a reputation to uphold, I immediately set about taking credit for the happy event, which then got me thinking; wouldn't the world be a better place if I really could have some godlike power to send chickens to my friends?
Don't all run screaming from the room now, you won't all be finding chickens in your backyards, (or, if you do, it will have had nothing to do with me. Really.) There won't be magical boxes from Murray Mc Murray appearing in your mail making soft clucking noises. Not from me, at least.
But let me take this opportunity to tell you how cool chickens are. First, let me clarify, I'm talking about hens. Not roosters, which you can do quite well without, thankyouverymuch. Hens can be very sweet and will lay eggs just fine without ever coming into contact with a rooster. They don't make much noise, will interact with you if you interact with them enough to be familiar to them, and can be kept in a number of ways. If you live in the country and can let them loose, great, although you may have to hunt for eggs if you don't put them up at night and give them somewhere to lay, like a nest box. If you are an urban type, like myself, with a limited amount of land, you can build or buy a small coop and house, or you can go really compact with a chicken tractor. This is a cool little setup which protects your chickens from predators (there are lots of them about, even in the city) and can be moved around your yard to provide your girls with fresh grass. They range from the do it yourself on the cheap to the elaborate. Googleing chicken tractor will provide you with a good idea of the building plans available, or you can visit Omlet and ogle the prefab wonder that is the Eglu. I have an Eglu, and for me it has been well worth the investment. The dang thing is not only foxproof, it is packs-of-wild-dogs-proof as well, to which I can personally attest. There's nothing better than starting the morning with a fresh from the chickens' bum breakfast. Believe me, if you have never owned a hen, you have never known a truly fresh egg.
Here's a pic of my setup.
With Johannes and James of Omlet!! This summer we got a visit from the designers of the Eglu when they visited America. They surveyed first hand the damage the dog pack attacks did to my Eglu, and were amazed at how well it held up. Lest I sound too much like an advertisement for their product (which I really do think the world of) I'll get back to general chicken ownership information.
Chickens fly. So you (or someone you trust) has to clip a few wing feathers to keep them put. If you live in the country and you don't clip their wings, your chickens may roost up in the trees - they can fly that well. Wing clipping can be dangerous to the birds, so make sure you know what you're doing before you try it. Again with the googleing, or with advice from a vet who specialized in birds or even from the helpful folks at your local feed and seed, who probably sell chickens too (I bet you didn't even know you had one that close to you!) and can help outfit you with all the basics.
So, clean water, good food (chickens happily eat clean fruit and veggie scraps, too) clean straw, fresh grass, clean chicken, happy chicken owner. Fresh eggs nearly every day. Sometimes two a day. And chickens are funny. LOL funny, OMG funny, and sometimes WTF funny.
Chicken poop stinks, yes. They tear up the grass, yes. Grass grows back, the poop gives good stuff back to the soil. You get fresh eggs, and if you raise them sweet, you get sweet chicken pets. When they age and laying slacks off, you can retire them to the pet only status, or to the pot. Just depends on how up close and personal you want to get to that whole circle of life thing.
So, while I can't wish all my friends magical lucky chickens like Jen got, maybe I can make you want them. I think they're cool. They are certainly easy to keep, and they give you lots in return.
Next issue: Beekeeping!
(you only think I'm joking)