Remember those fuzzy chicks we acquired, who somehow survived life in a cardboard box on our covered patio and moved into a wooden coop in our backyard? Who then disappeared from my blog, like characters in a pilot written out of the show when it goes to series (‘gone but not forgot-hen’?)?
Well, they’re thriving, and a point of not-so-subtle pride is that my sister-in-law (who has an actual barn and sophisticated chicken enclosure) always grumbles that our chickens are bigger than her chickens of the same age (although to be fair, ours have less competition for food as a part of a smaller flock).
So I’m proud of Kylo Hen, Hobbes, and Wonderwing, but I’m not sure they’re sufficiently grateful for their privileged lifestyle, kind of like Cher from Clueless before her Paul Rudd-epiphany.*1
Here’s what I’ve provided as a chicken daddy:
- Twice-daily feedings, morning and evening
- Fresh water, checked twice (sometimes thrice) daily
- Ice cubes in their water at the peak of Sacramento heat waves
- Twice-weekly rakings of shavings and leavings, keeping the soil clean and interestingly full of new bugs
- Regular treats of chopped broccoli, apple, and carrots (they fall on fruits and veggies like their velociraptor ancestors falling on hapless InGen Corp flunkies)
- Temporary relocations of their chicken run into new positions to give them a crack at different patches of grass and leaves
- Intermittent sprays of mist from the hose into their enclosure on the hottest days (I assume they like the cooling effect, although they just fluff their feathers and scuttle away)
Now, I don’t speak chicken fluently so their rapid clucking when I approach the coop might be their way of saying thank you. Nevertheless, you would think that our kids would have been nice enough to lay their first eggs when I would get the joy of discovery.
We were in the middle of a ten-day road trip to northern California and the Oregon coast in our travel trailer (more on that anon), when we received this photo by text from the kind neighbors chicken-sitting our little brood:
Truth be told, if we had done the research, we wouldn’t have been surprised. Before we left on our trip, our seven year old had noted how big each hen’s comb had grown. And apparently that’s a sign that a pullet is about ready to start laying eggs.
Just another unexpected fact about chickens, along with their superior vision and a unique language. They’re basically little velociraptors, just much smaller, fluffier, and less dangerous to Robert Muldoon.
Now they’ve started, the chickens have not slowed down. We’re getting 2-3 eggs a day now, white and brown. We’re going to make breakfast muffins with them, or hard-boil them, all part of a healthier diet. But we also have to appreciate how beautiful they are. And when you time your collection just right, the egg is pleasantly warm in the palm of your hands.
And then, of course, that warmth reminds you where the eggs came from, which makes you think two things:
- Always, always, always wash your hands and clean the eggs after collecting them (although you might not need to refrigerate them)
- Poor hens; I can’t imagine expelling such a proportionately-large object from my body every day (this is also why men have absolutely no input when it comes to topics of epidurals or a woman’s right to choose)
In the end, this path has been a fascinating one. The chickens have been remarkably resilient, easier to keep alive than house plants (at least for me). Put ’em in a box, give them heat, light, food, and water, clean up after them from time to time, and they’ve grown. They’re alive, and they’re laying eggs.
For someone who hasn’t always been the most competent when it comes to ‘practical’ aspects of life, it’s a wonderful thing. And now it’s literally rewarding with fresh eggs on a daily basis.
*Everyone needs a Paul Rudd-epiphany.
1And don’t bring up the fact that Cher and Josh were ex-step-siblings (although it is creepy that he’s in college and she’s sixteen, but let’s not think about that. Just think about the wonder that is Paul Rudd – I just hope he doesn’t have a Dorian Gray painting in his attic).