Ordered on Black Friday as my Christmas present I had to wait months for my May Christmas morning chicken delivery which I anticipated with almost ponyesque excitement.
My grandmother would be astonished to know how eagerly anticipated my chickens were. “In my day they were meat and eggs and they would never be named,” I hear her say in my head as she long since gone. She would also be very perplexed that I am RENTING my two laying hens from Rentthechicken. com and have read up on all the treats I can feed them such as a half a watermelon, which now on the grocery list.
Chickens seem to be a perfect convergence of the economic, environmental, foodie and emotional matters of the moment, plus, in the past few years, they have undergone an image rehabilitation so amazing that it should be studied by social media experts. Why do posts of a grinning person holding a garden variety chicken get thousands of likes?
Now that my chickens have arrived I am the object of more pure envy than I have ever experienced in my life. (I kind of like it.) I can’t count the number of friends that want to know all about chicken raising before they decided to give it a shot. I’m thinking of charging an admission fee to see them.
Until the nineteen-fifties, it was common to keep a few chickens around. They were cheap and easy to raise. Some table scraps and bugs, a coop and you were good to go. A hundred years ago, a chick cost about fifteen cents and a laying hen a few dollars. A hen in her prime, which lasts two or three years, could produce an egg every day or two in the laying season, and once she stopped laying she could be cooked.
Then came urbanization, the supermarket, the egg cholesterol scare, giant egg farms and you know the rest and all the horrible images of tens of thousands of birds crammed into a giant industrialized egg laying factories. (After hanging out with these friendly, curious and surprising un-bird brained creatures I feel even more strongly about giving them a nice life…)
Renting the girls will give me a good taste of what’s involved in chicken husbandry without worry about wintering them over or fully committing to the idea. I can adopt them permanently if I get attached or request the same pair again next summer.
Here are some observations after a couple of days of chickening.
- They are friendly…at least they seem so once they established that every time they see me I’m holding out some scratch, freeze-dried mealy worms, prize dandelion leaves, grapes, a bit of toast or to-die-for apparently…tattertots.
- Chickens make a wide-range of cool noises from a sort of purring sound to a happy cackle after egg-laying that I interpreted as I MADE EGG!!!!! But research says the egg-song made a distance away from the just laid nice warm egg is to distract predators from the bounty.
- There is a pecking order and a bit of squabbling between the ladies. The Baroness took a good peck to the neck over a grape squabble but shook it off like a prize fighter.
- Their legs and feet are kind of creepy and dinosaur looking and their toes are very flexible.
- Finding the first set of eggs was pretty cool, OK really cool, cooler than it should have been, but really, really cool.
- I’m losing sleep. I get up with the chickens to make sure they are OK. I imagine I will chill out soon. I had a reason to worry this morning. The door to the nesting area of their coop was wide open this morning and I had spotted a racoon in the hood last evening. It’s like the racoon was pulling up at a drive-through…just checking for his egg McMuffin. The girlies were OK but the nesting box is getting a second latch today.
- I like them!
- I was shown how to pick them up so I can have one of those Instagram grinning-person-holding-a-chicken photos but haven’t gotten up the nerve yet.
- You haven’t lived, if you are chicken, until you have had a dust bath. They really, really, really like it and fling dirt around, loll around, flap wings…
- Still not sure if chickens have lips.