So. The tape. Oh, that tape. Well, it speaks for itself, and hopefully those chickens are coming home to roost in Georgia soon enough … so instead, I’ll stick to why you actually came here – urban chickenology! Chickens make a better topic than Lame Duck L’orange anyway.
If you remember our chickens, those three feathery, friendly pullets I wrote about so often you might have thought this was an amateur farming blog, you’re probably asking yourself what they’ve been up to lately, if they’re hens yet, and whether they’re pulling their weight around here, even in the winter.
Thanks for asking!
Well, they’re still here. Plump and sassy. Just like me after a year in quarantine (well, except for the sassy part. Whenever I’ve aimed for sassy, I’ve settled for snide).
They’re still pullets (if I have the rules right, a female chicken becomes a pullet once she starts laying eggs, and graduates to hen after her first birthday, or after first molting, whichever comes first. Or second. It’s very confusing. I’m not sure if there’s a secret hen ritual that they go through at night in the coop – is that what the English mean by a Hen Night? And if so, what the hell happens on a Stag Weekend?).
They’re squawky and flappy at times, scratchy and curious at others. I’ve thought of buying them a second run to jury-rig a larger enclosure for them, because I’m not yet emotionally prepared to let them free-range the backyard, not with too many gaps in and below the fences, and not with too many berries dotting the lawn from neighbor’s bushes which I have not yet identified as non-toxic (note to self … ).
For our purposes, three seems the perfect number. Company for each other, variety in the color of eggs, and not too many birds for the space. Marina’s sister and her family have a larger flock including roosters, but that brings complications. One of their roosters went rogue, and would attack anyone coming near, so they finally had to ‘let him go’ (the silver lining? He was delicious).
No such stress with our three, not yet at least. And they have thrived, consistently producing 2-3 eggs a day since August. So much consistency that sometimes we have too many eggs in the fridge, filling our fancy bio-friendly plastic egg carton, our spare, partially torn cardboard egg carton, and even a couple of large rubber ice cube trays. Because sometimes you don’t want to have a couple eggs for breakfast, at least not every day.
We haven’t reached the hide-bags-of-eggs-on-neighbors-porches-like-zucchini-stage yet, but sometimes it feels like that could happen. We have given away a half-dozen here, a half-dozen there, but not that often.
It wasn’t that I wanted to keep a reserve. I went along for months just figuring that this was how it worked, three eggs a day for the life of the flock.
But as it got colder with the onset of the rainy season, I began to wonder and I began to read.
Wintry weather brought challenges. In reality, their current hutch doesn’t provide much shelter now that they’re all so big, and the run is open to the rain. Below you’ll see the best of several improvised attempts at temporary shelter for my little feathered friends:
As things got colder, I noticed that eggs didn’t always appear at the same time of day that I expected. Were things changing? It seemed like a couple days we only got one egg, or two, but it was a little hard to tell, as I didn’t go check at the same time every day, and some days I only visited once, not twice.
I researched. And you know what? Apparently chickens aren’t biologically programmed to just pump out eggs 365 days a year. It’s like laying eggs isn’t a biological process devoted solely to supplying Motel 6 continental breakfasts year-round.
There were a lot of websites with advice on how to keep your hens laying in the winter, but I felt, “Well, I think the girls deserve a vacation.”
So I just kept feeding them the same as always … and their egg production resumed, maintaining an average of 2-3 eggs every 24-26 hours from the flock. And while the winter isn’t over yet, so far they remain a little backyard Bitcoin machine of resources that bought us freedom from the capitalist shackles of a collapsing society. At least when it comes to bartering them for bagels.
I’ve never really understood Bitcoin. It’s always seemed a nebulous sort of currency. Apparently it can be ‘generated’ online by mining, which basically seems to be running a program and wasting electricity to create arbitrary tokens representative of an agreed-upon worth. Or something like that. But I guess that’s not so different from a central bank printing currency and society agreeing how much said currency is worth in terms of resource-acquisition and -representation.
The appeal of Bitcoin, then, is the sense of security that comes with transmitting it via Blockchain – I’m sure I’ll get scolded for getting these terms wrong, but that’s okay; you can’t write a blog without breaking a few eggs. In other words, people seem to think that Bitcoin is inherently more secure when it comes to exchanging resources than other sorts of payments or purchases.
Well, eggs for bagels is an even more secure transaction. Hackers in Russia can’t snatch a bag of bagels out of your hand or dive in front of a carton of eggs and make off with them.
You see, our backyard eggs have allowed us to join the world of Bartering. All you need is the Internet, facemasks, and a baker perfecting his bagels before expanding his existing food services business (we’ll call the baker “Sam,” mostly because that’s his name).
Marina found him online, offering free samples of his test homemade bagels. We met him (outside, of course); he was a young dad about my age and level of prosperity with a son who takes naps in the middle of the day; he didn’t charge us anything for what would prove to be a delightful batch of fancy (non-Thomas, non-Sara Lee, homemade) bagels, but he let us talk him into accepting a half-dozen eggs from us (he would report that the eggs were amazingly large and delicious).
That transaction worked so well, we arranged another one in advance a couple weeks later. You see? Bartering. Converting one resource in abundance (eggs) for something less abundant (fancy bagels).
Not that we’re ready to burn all our currency or anything. But it was a nice feeling to be able to accumulate physical resources you could hold in the palm of your hand, warm, round, perfect eggs, and then convert those surplus resources into another resource you needed, the bagels. 10/10, would barter again.