Sunday, December 16, 2007

Timing is everything

It's that time of year. Time to remind our egg customers of the seasonal nature of free-range eggs. Most understand, but there's always a few who don't want to acknowledge that Slow Food and being a "locavore" (one who eats locally) has it's realities.

"...egg laying is triggered by day length, so most of our breeds naturally stop or slow down in winter. Availability might be limited in January & February..."
It's the lesson we find ourselves constantly teaching to folks...and it is comforting to know we are not alone...
And speaking of timing, the Ravelry tide has turned: there are now more people in line behind me than in front of me!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Chicken Dance

Besides being the infamous oom-pah wedding song from Werner Thomas, it's the apt description of my morning chores that takes up far too much of my where-did-it-all-go-to? time. Somehow my daughter's hobby, and my indulgences and bleeding heart have led to:

First, there's the regular laying flock of Surprise and his dozen plus girls. They lay the eggs, so the earn the money. No problem so far.

Only, one Red Cochin hen has decided coop life is too, well, cooped-up for her, and she has found a way out of the penned yard every day. Like a feathered Houdini, she defies logic and crafty incarceration attempts and finds her way out. So every morning I am greeted by this:

She waddles over, pleased as punch with herself, as if she is supposed to be outside the enclosure. All would be forgiven if she would then return with no fuss to the pen, So the dance starts with all the rest of the flock lined up at the fence (cheering her on, I just know it...) and me chasing her around till I've cornered her to get her back in the pen. Some days I'm just not up to it and I default to the Red Scoop of Joy, and toss a whole bunch of grain in there and watch her race to join the feeding frenzy. Now, they would be getting fed eventually anyway, but this way it feels just too much like the chickens are calling the shots, and the dumb human is being played like a banjo.

But then there's the "exceptions" who require separate housing and board. Like Pecky...

...who is now occupying the former maternity ward for broody hens, as she was a summer hatchling Ameracauna who is too big to be housed with her brood-mates, but is too small to be safely released in the regular flock because the harrassment is just too awful. (Hen-pecked doesn't even BEGIN to describe it...)

So after feeding her, I have to take care of her brood-mates Caesar and Jelly, offspring of the award-wining Buff, who are bantams and just too small to be in with real chickens ever.

Next, there's loud-mouth Gomer, who I just think is the cutest little rooster ever, and who needs a hen in the worst way, but thankfully Red Pyle Old English Game Bantams do not just grow on trees around here...

And on to the "outlyers", (that is the parents of Caesar and Jelly), Buff and Stenson, who live in a chicken condo of their own, mostly because they're bantams, so again, too small to be in with regular chickens, and also because too much sun and outdoors time would fade their plumage. It was also told to us that bantams are very broody, and the spearate digs were to encourage them to raise a bunch of show-quality chicks, however Buff emphatically states that motherhood is not in her contract, and Caesar and Jelly can thank their existence to the fact that broody hens don't care much about whose eggs they sit on, so long as there's eggs.
(Oh, blast! Where did THAT picture go?)

Joining them are the newest pair, Salmon Favorolles named Zeus and Maya:

They have five toes. That's one more than normal for most chickens. However, the novelty of this is wearing thin, as they eat just as much as regular chickens. So they are stop # 6 on the Chicken Breakfast Express.

And just because I need more exercise, I finish all the way across the property by feeding the turkeys.

So, this weekend, we are doing some serious systems work. Shrinking. Consolidation. Re-configuring. After all, I've signed up for Ravelry, and I'm gonna need every spare moment I can get. Enough Chicken Dancing for this gal.