RISING SUN - I’ve entered this weird phase of farming, slash homesteading, slash perpetual chaos, where I have over 100 chickens, but no eggs.
Unlike the neglected foot-high weeds in the garden, the no egg thing isn’t exactly my fault. The 100 chickens, that’s definitely my fault. Zero eggs however seems to be attributed to a weird instinct of my hens to only lay in one of the eight boxes available in the chicken coop.
This has been particularly disappointing to my kids–not because they exactly love to eat eggs, but rather eggs are basically an exciting treasure to find. Every day, Thatcher Farmer, as he likes to be called, pulls on his boots and runs out the door. He’s eager to pick the eggs. About one day out of seven, he might get lucky. On these days, he manages to swipe one or two from a chicken who figured out the other laying boxes exist.
The chicken that Thatcher dubbed Mean Eye Chicken has gone broody. Apparently this is infectious, because one of the twin ‘Tommy Chickens’ (also Thatcher’s excellent naming skills) has also gone broody. This would be fine and dandy, except there’s no rooster.
I may have mentioned this before, because, well, it’s been going on for an awfully long time now. We’ve attempted to slip a chick under her in the middle of the night, hoping to fool Ole Mean Eye. But no luck. Apparently her eye isn’t the only thing that is mean. For the next day, that the little brown fluff ball was running around on the floor of the coop, peeping its head off. I scooped it up with a sigh and placed it back in the brooding tank with the rest of its comrades.
My neighbor was kind enough to bring over a couple of hopefully fertile eggs. That was 22 days ago. Google tells me it takes 21 days to hatch a chicken. But so far, I can’t tell if we’re going to get lucky or not. The Tommy Chicken however is out of luck. She is lovingly rotting a pile of who knows how many eggs beneath her fluffy frame. I remain hopeful though, that when the time is right and we have an actual rooster to help things along, they’ll decide to become mothers once again.
As for the other 90 (well maybe 80-something) chickens, they won’t be long for this world.
We dove back into the meat bird extravaganza and ordered 75. It’s unclear how many arrived.
We went down five on day one from a case of accidental drowning. Hopefully, that’s the last time that happens. The meat birds are seemingly so much more fragile than a normal chick, and certainly not as intelligent. We lost five right away when they accidentally drowned in the water dish.
“I didn’t get much done last night, I had to nurse a pile of chicks back to life,” Chasca reported the morning after their arrival. “They were all wet and cold and pretty rough looking. I cupped them in my hand and held them under the light until they perked up.” The little yellow fluffs are lucky Chasca is compassionate to all his critters.
The other chickens are all replacements for when our initial egg chicken venture went horribly wrong. I should have known that wild and crazy herding dogs would think of chickens as a treat. I thought with all the ‘don’t-snap-at-the-chickens-and-get-rewarded’ training, it would have worked. However, it didn’t. About 10 of my blue egg-laying hens became a whole lot of fun for Sloppy and Queenie, until it wasn’t.
The doggy terrorist duo got put on very strict probation and seem to be doing well. We are watching them closely though for a relapse. Luckily, COVID has had one positive effect on the world and that is the extension of ‘Chick Days’ at Tractor Supply. So, I was able to impulsively replace what the dogs took away.
If all of that excitement wasn’t enough. I added a new random chicken to the flock. Her laying abilities are yet to be determined. She managed to make it into the coop two nights in a row though, so she isn’t doing too bad.
I’m sure I was quite the sight at Driftless Brewery picking up beer with two ornery kids in the back seat and a chicken riding shotgun. We discovered upon arrival home that she was even missing a toe. Thatcher named her Queen Stinkness and told her how proud he was that she didn’t even poop in Mom’s car.I suppose there are worse things I could collect than chickens. At least they’re fairly cheap, entertaining and my yard is big enough they don’t even poop on the deck. Now, if I could only get some eggs out of the deal, we’d be in business.