Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Down on the Farm: Imposters!

Our family lives on a little ranchette in the almost never-heard-of town of Birdseye.  We raise horses, cattle, pigeons, dogs, and occasionally, sheep.  We're pretty high on being self-sufficient.  In order to increase our own food production, we decided to raise chickens.  This, we felt, was such an ingenious plan.  We could supply ourselves with eggs and save so much money.

When chicks went on sale at Cal-Ranch, the kids and I hurried over to get the best selection. Although to the untrained eye the chicks all looked the same, I was convinced that by picking each one up, flipping it over several times, and comparing fluff length, I would pick the best egg-layers in the bunch. (Thankfully, before they were sent, they had been sexed and only females were being sold here.)

We decided that each of our children, (five at the time), would get to claim their own avian baby.  As a matter of precaution, I bought eight, in case somebody's chick decided living wasn't all it's cracked up to be. 

Because Birdseye freezes well into June, and it was only March, the chicks were too little to go outside.  Thus, our small laundry/mud room became the temporary hen house for our little brood. This wasn't so bad the first week when all of the chicks fit in a cake pan, but not long after that, they started growing.  Unfortunately, all eight survived.  Not only were they taking up more space, they would stand in their food and "scratch"  it all over the place.  Since they were now eating so well, you can imagine what other messes they were also making all over the place.  We were running out of newspaper, space, and patience.  But, what's a responsible chicken-owner to do but continue on.

Finally, with the addition of a 75 watt light bulb, a heated waterer, some nesting boxes, a self-feeder, and a bag of gravel, to aid in digestion, we moved our chicks down to the barn in a newly-built shed/chicken pen.  Now, we could just sit back and watch as our little hens grew and provided us with homemade eggs by the dozen.

Having not studied up on the production of chickens as we maybe ought to have, we were finding that you could probably buy dozens and dozens of eggs for the cost of keeping eight growing birds in stock with laying mash.  They went through it like water through a sieve.  Every time we turned around, they were out of food and we were headed back to Cal-Ranch to get the specially formulated feed that produces Grade A eggs.  Of course, our birds weren't laying yet, because they have to be at least eight months old; another thing we maybe should have studied up on. 

So, a long seven to eight months later, we were noticing how some of our so-called hens were growing larger combs on the top of their heads.  We joked about the absurdity and irony of some of our "pricey" egg-layers turning out to be roosters.  It really wasn't as funny as we thought it would be when one morning, we heard a crowing coming from our hen house.  Sure enough, one of our hens turned out not to be a hen.

We took our loss in stride and decided it was probably a good thing all eight birds lived, so that we now would have at least seven egg producers.  Not two days later, we were surprised to hear another crowing answering the first one.  Okay, two out of eight isn't THAT bad.

As the week went by, one by one, our eight little hens all began cock-a-doodling.  Our dreams of eggs Benedict, omelet extravaganzas, boiled, scrambled, and fried eggs, and any other egg concoctions we may have dreamed of, went flying out the hen house door. 

We fed those impostor chickens another three months, hoping that maybe, with all of the laying mash they had consumed, maybe, just maybe, they would squeeze just one little egg out for us.  Well, at the end of yet another expensive bag of feed, we decided we'd fattened them up enough: just perfectly, in fact, for chicken noodle soup, chicken enchiladas, fried chicken, roasted chicken, stuffed chicken....

5 comments:

  1. It may not have been the eggs-perience you were hoping for, but I'm glad it didn't put you in a fowl mood!!!

    ((((HUGS))))

    Jana

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  2. That is hilarious!!! Although I'm sure the roosters didn't feel that way. ;) I have many times told my husband, "we should just by chickens to raise and eat or have for eggs!"...now I don't know if I'll go through with that. I'm a new follower from Bee Friendly Friday.
    southernfriedgreenmom.blogspot.com/

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  3. Hi - I'm stopping by from Bee Friendly Blog hop and following you too. I love your blog and didn't have time to read the whole chicken post, but I will come back tonight and finish it. I want chickens and have been researching it recently. Have a great evening.

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  4. Hi! I am your new GFC follower from Bee Friendly Friday Follow. Hope to see you at http://luckyangelandgiveaways.blogspot.com/ Thank you and have a great weekend.

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  5. Oh my goodness!!! This is just about the funniest story ever!!! ;o) I was wondering how you knew they were all "hens" when you bought them. VERY few breeds are able to be sexed that young!! So sorry you ended up with so many roosters. :o(

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