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I’m Not Chicken When it Comes to Poultry


My new sweet friends. To point out how small they are, let me make it clear  that  Neva’s petite hand is holding the Red one (we are calling her Hellen Red -y).



     Life lesson number six hundred and forty eight (for this week).


Don’t go rooster shopping with family members or you will inevitably start compromising!


     I went to lunch with Mark and Neva today (she had early release from school). Afterwards, I had plans to go to the feed store to buy some bunny food. I said, “What would you say if I wanted to buy a little rooster today?”


     Mark said, “What’s it look like?”


     I described my coveted oriental rooster (which at this stage is only a little blob of a chick).  I said, “He’s cute. You want to go see him?”


     This was met with enthusiasm (but only because my husband didn’t want to go back to work so soon, I’m thinking). We went to the feed store where dozens of chicks are in different cages – all kinds of poultry, from turkeys and geese to a variety of chickens.


We stare at the little gray and white stripped oriental chicks. The males have a purple dot on their head.


    Mark says, “How many did you want to buy?”


    “I was thinking one rooster and three girls to keep him happy.”


     Mark stared at the picture on the card in front of the cage. “Will they all look like this?”


     “Yep. Isn’t that rooster tail magnificent?”


      “Uh hun. But how will you tell your girls apart later?”


     This, of course, was a serious dilemma I hadn’t considered. If you want a lasting, intimate friendship with your chickens, you certainly have to be able to tell them apart so you know whom you’re talking to. Hummmmm


      Mark and Neva were attracted to the bantams in a cage next door. Bantams are small chickens – minis. They are not really good for eating like the big, fattened up Purdue sort of chickens, and their eggs are about the size of large marbles, so they are definitely not layers. They are best as pets. Considering I would never eat my friends, I think pet breeds are a good choice. However, you don’t know what sex you are getting with these low-end $3.00 bantam chicks. However, they come in a variety of colors and designs which is nice for defining character.


    Here is the issue to consider. You won’t know what sex they are until they get older. If you have more than one rooster, they will fight (to the death) so you have to get rid of all but one. That means heartache if you are attached. The feed store lady said we can bring any extra roosters to her and she will give us a bag of feed for them. Many people want the roosters and few want to wait for chicks to grow up taking their chances that they have a male.


    I learned more than that today. You cannot mix chickens – they have a pecking order (thus the saying) so I can’t really buy a few Orientals and put them with my bantams for variety even if I want to. Must strive for a harmonious chicken coup, ya know. But I can put any rooster with any kind of chickens, cause all the males want is to get laid (not to be confused with the egg laying kind of laid). Guess it doesn’t matter what creature you are, the basics of nature is universal.


     I think the smaller chickens are cute. They are personal (the store has a pet bantam rooster that is almost like a parrot, swinging on a peg by the counter – he goes up to everyone to check them out.) and they aren’t nearly as intimidating as the more aggressive larger chickens that grow to the size of a small dog. But alas, size matters when it comes to a cock. (Life lesson number one) The fact is, my bantam rooster won’t crow nearly as loudly as a bigger rooster.


     Mark heard the store rooster crow and said, “This is definitely the rooster for you, honey.” He grinned innocently.


     I didn’t fall for that trick. He wants to sleep past 5 am. But I want a loud, demanding cock to wake me every morning. (And a rooster too – har har) But I can live with a subtle little cock for now. A girl has to settle sometimes. So I said yes to the Bantams.


     I won’t get eggs from these chickens, which changes my ultimate plan a bit,  but I am not exactly sold on the idea of collecting eggs. I mean, of course the idea of gathering farm fresh eggs in my backyard and whipping up a gourmet quiche is romantic, but do I really want one more chore to add to my daily list? I love this farm-like existence, convening with nature and getting back to life basics and all, but I’m not quite ready to turn in my subscription to the New Yorker for a subscription to Mother Earth News. I love our animals in so far as I am learning new things by caring for them. But I don’t want to let them control my world either. I’m getting a kick out of hobby farming. But I don’t want farming to be kicking back, if you know what I mean.


     So, I went with the bantams.


     Neva was invited to pick them out. We have four very different chicks, one yellow with a brown stripe, one gray, one red, and one black and white. They are the size of my cell phone and they chirp in a gentle, soothing way that is endearing (without break hour after hour, ha). I told Neva she could name them, but all names are subject to change if one turns out to be Joe Cocker, my rooster. I am kind of hoping they are all girls – then I can go buy a big, fat, loud, dramatic ornamental rooster to romp with these colorful gals. But it may just be that my Joe is here with me now, chirping softly with his future ladyloves. That is nice to.


     We will keep our new chicks in a closed cage for a few months until they get big enough to be self-sufficient. Then, they will move to a coup that my daughter and her boyfriend will build next week while they are visiting (ha – they don’t know this yet) and this will teach my poultry friends where home is and keep them safe from predators. Then, when they are strapping (miniature) chickens, they will be set free to roam our pasture and forests. They can sit and crow on the fence while I feed the horses and eat the fly larvae in the dung so we don’t have pests swarming around when we are sitting by a campfire.  Fun! I have wanted free-range chickens to decorate the landscape. And I will get such a kick out of knowing they are out there, roaming the land and living naturally.


    These are my practice poultry, ya know. I am planning to buy two peacock chicks in August when they come into the shop, and I am toying with the idea of wild pheasants that I can let go on the Hendry preserve. Sound crazy?  Humor me. And don’t knock it till ya tired it. I’m thinking a gorgeous peacock spreading his tail out among the wildflowers I planted last month (but haven’t shown up) will be inspirational. Argue that, my friend!


    So, I expanded the menagerie today, and I can only hope I didn’t lay an egg doing so.


I’m so happy I could crow – only now I don’t have to. Got baby Joe for that.


 


  

About Ginny East Shaddock

Director of Heartwood Retreat Center, Ginny is also a writer. This is her personal blog with essay form writing about life and reflection. My entries are often lengthy and random, because I'm not here to promote or sell anything. I'm not expecting followers - just find this format a good place to think with the pen.

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