Monday, October 31, 2011

Chicken Update and a Quick Poultry Overview

It has been a little while since I did an update on our chickens. Which is doubly odd as they actually consume more of my thoughts than anything else really at Stoneyhaw right now... I guess part of me thinks no one else would really care about them...but this is my blog. Suck it haters.

Our current chicken count is 13:

One of the 4.

4 are slated to not be with us much longer (and whoa, that'll be a post!). They should have been harvested* about 2 1/2 - 3 months ago, but alas we run behind here. So now I have 4 monster roosters separated from everyone else (more about that in a minute) awaiting space in the freezer. The man and I just don't have the same days off from work, and building/winterizing our living space just takes priority over chicken butchering unfortunately.

Why are they separated? Mostly because they're getting older and getting kind of brutish. 7 roosters was too many. We knew we didn't want these guys around for that reason, and even if we were into breeding our chickens, they don't really have anything genetically to offer. They are incredibly healthy and large and have done a remarkable job of lessening the overall number of ticks and creepy crawlies this summer.  It's time for them to continue earning their keep by feeding my family.
Always a wondrous sight!

Another effect of them being separated is our egg count has gone from about 6 eggs a week, to 2 or 3 eggs a day. The main flock is noticeably happier, and it is definitely a good thing.

But I digress....

The main flock (9 in all) can be broken down into the Rhodies (really Production Reds, but it's fair to assume no one will ever know), the Hampies, an Australorp, and a Dominique.

The Rhodies:
Henrietta getting her daily snuggles.

Cindy and Big Bunny. Pretending to investigate the damage done to the box by little puppy, but really sneaking off somewhere, I think...

This group includes our favorite Big Bunny (our resident rooster, back from his injuries and strutting around like a champ), the Prodigal Hen Henrietta, Mystery, and Cindy.

The Hampies:
The Hampies and the Rhodies are IDENTICAL - the second from the right is our unnamed Hampie hen. L to R: Henrietta, Cindy, Mystery, Hampie hen, Hampie cockerel

Are as of yet mostly unnamed. We have one cockerel, one unnamed hen, and a hen we call Henny Penny. For two reasons. All flocks should have a Henny Penny, and she looks identical to Henrietta right now with her comb all flopping around ridiculously and 'Henrietta 2' seems insulting to the parties involved.

The Australorp:
Dexter - it's tough to see in this picture, but in the sunlight his feathers have a beautiful green sheen to them. Can't wait until his tail is done coming in!

Dexter came to us from a good friend at work. She is an inspiration in of herself, and I hope she will let me showcase her and her amazing horses and farm on here at some future date. She had an Australorp cockerel that was the result of an incorrect sexing (more on this here), was supposed to be a hen and isn't. To make matters worse, the poor guy was getting picked on (ha!) by her hens and was pretty much miserable. He started out pretty miserable here, too - he got out of the brooder on his first night, and spent a night and a day on his own in our woods. The third night we had him we found where he had roosted for the night, got him down and put him in with everybody else (you can do just about anything with a sleeping chicken. They're like small children and are really difficult to wake up completely). He spent a few days cowering in the back of the winter coop, and the aggressive roosters wouldn't let him get to the water or the food. We put him alone in the chicken palace for a few days with dog food to fatten him up again, and we paired him up with our remaining Dominique so he could bond with someone and not be alone. He has since been integrated into the flock with everyone else and is turning into a real rooster!

The Dominique:
Wanda, the Dominique who wandered.

You may remember I got 3. Alas all 3 got out and were feared loss (one loss was confirmed by me - I found her and spent a good 2 days crying off and on and convinced that all living things under my care were condemned to die...dramatic, but dammit if you pull an animal out of its natural habitat, you're responsible for its life AND its death. It's a big deal to me). A few nights later after all the chickens were closed up in their various coops (yup. We've got 4 containment devices of varying sizes at this point), and the little puppy let off his run, I heard a chicken squawking in distress. I thought maybe a predator was trying to break into one of the coops, or worse, and succeeded in doing so. The manfriend went out into the night and found one Dominique hen cornered by little puppy. We took her and paired her up with a then alone Dexter, and the two have bonded. The same friend that gave us Dexter gently suggested we call her Wanda because she wandered, and it stuck. Although even now after being integrated into the flock and them being in the main coop with everybody, she rarely ventures out with everyone during the day.

Case in point: I went down to check on them during the day when everyone but Dexter and Wanda were up eating kitchen scraps and having a good time in the sun. I found Dexter sunbathing in a wallow in the dirt right next to the winter coop, and didn't see Wanda anywhere. I got kind of scared that she had taken off, but thought it was strange as chickens really do learn where their home is after being there a few days. When I got closer to Dexter he moved, and there was Wanda, napping under his wing!

We love our chickens, as you may have gathered, and I could have a whole separate blog devoted to them and their antics. But there are enough chicken blogs out there, and I'll spare you. You just have to put up with a post like this every once in a while :)

*that's right, I said 'harvest'. Everyone who has chickens has their own thoughts on whether or not to eat their culls, and all that good stuff. Everyone also has their own opinions on their kids' involvement in the process. I read a blog (that I won't link to - I don't want to slander, I just severely disagree with her) about a flock of chickens and the writer didn't tell her kids how many chicks she ordered, nor did she let them be in the room when the box arrived as she didn't want them to see/know if any of them arrived in the mail dead. I saw this as a great opportunity to teach kids about death, and the important lesson that when we order animals through the mail, we are most likely condemning one to die. And that is an important lesson (neither I nor said blog writer lost one through the mail, btw - they all arrived in good health). We don't hide death out here - the Spawn is 7 and is fully aware that things die. Fully aware. I believe that it is a natural part of life and I don't believe in hiding it, sugar coating it, OR making it out to be worse than it already is. My personal belief is that our chickens that we don't keep (read: egg layers, and potential future fathers of more chicks) are food. I do not name them because I am only human and naming them humanizes them to a degree that I really have a tough time killing them. They are treated as best we can while they're here, and will be killed in the most humane way we can. And like our other foodstuffs that come from here, no part of them will be wasted; what we don't use will be fed to the dogs or composted and eventually fed to the garden. In that way I feel that their life is honored and respected.


Kerri said...

Excellent post!! Who cares if there a gazillion posts about chickens out there; I only read yours. <3

caitlinvb said...

Awwww thanks Kerri! My chickens are so totally a consuming part of my life, so there you go....