Sep 17, 2007

Hot Chicks!

Yes, ladies and gents, before you cry "fowl!" I present a chicken post.

It's not enough for this family of three to have six cats, two dogs, a couple of dozen fish and a penchant for keeping hummingbirds sugared and whatever other freeloading avians who happen along filled with a pleasant variety of seeds. No, we need to go one step further and go into--



Chicken ranching.

Fifteen chicks now live in a wire cage on my back patio, fifteen chicks that arrived here one day old, fifteen chicks (I swear I keep wanting to shout "Fifteen live nude chicks fifteen!") who are so good at flinging their pine shavings bedding out of their cage at very high speed that it's dangerous to walk out there without leg protection. Such is the ferocity of this digging and flinging that it makes me wonder if maybe diamond miners in Africa shouldn't switch from dynamite and high pressure water cannons to a couple of thousand Rhode Island Reds.

See, Mrs. I is not a country girl. She's never stepped barefooted in a large steaming pile of chicken crap. She's never been threatened by a fourteen pound rooster with spurs so long he could be declared a lethal weapon in 35 states. Me? I've been there. I still have the scars to prove it. My father raised chickens, big mean chickens with teeth. And he had a rooster, an utterly gorgeous specimen of pure evil. White body like a Packer's linebacker, a huge blood-red comb, a beak like a scythe and the most exquisite deep green head and tail feathers. His tail looked like a fountain carved out of black-green jade. When that rooster walked by, people took notice. When that joker crowed old people would immediately leap out of bed and head to the nearest farm, implements in hand. And that bloody devil HATED everyone except my father. My father would, in the evenings, retire to the swing in the side yard with his evil companion scooped up in one hand like the world's most dangerous briefcase and there they would sit and swing, and he'd pet this rooster like a cat until the sun set.

I hate chickens. I made this point clear. And my point having been made, she decided we were going to raise chickens. In her defense she did her research. There were endless nights of her huddled over the cool glow of the monitor, searching The Internets for chicken lore. There was the teetering mound of library books covering such diverse subjects as Choosing The Right Breed and Chicken Husbandry and How To Wring A Neck. There were long discussions about whether to build a coop from scratch or to buy one pre-made. There was the night the guy from the Chicken Fancier's Board came by to give us some literature and discuss with us the merits of raising domestic versus imported birds. It was endless, and thorough.



And then there was the construction of said coop, after the decision was reached that we were not, in fact, going into commercial chicken farming and therefor did not need shelter for two thousand birds at a time. Almost as expensive as buying a new house, but not quite. When I build, you see, I build to last. I build serious. And so now for fifteen chickens which require about three square feet to roost we have The Chicken Cube, an 8' x 8' x 8' monster. We've still got to buy fence and posts and bird netting to lay out the yard and keep the wild birds out and the egg-producing beasties IN, and...whew. Unfortunately we also have room now to keep about two thousand chickens.



I kept holding out hope that something would derail this juggernaut. I hoped that after she picked out Buff Orpingtons and Australorps as being the best layers, most docile and easiest birds to raise something would change her mind. I lay awake at night trying to figure out a safe way to torch The Chicken Cube ("Resistance is futile. You will be brooded,") hoping that perhaps a conflagration of that size might stop this ongoing gallus gallus impetus. All to no avail, unfortunately. And then one weekend evening Mom and she got to talking about chickens.

You see, my Mom is a country girl from way back, and she knows all about chickens. I should have known better but I was hoping beyond hope that she'd inject some sense of chicken-poo smelling reality into this spiraling chicken-madness, but when Mrs. I said "We're getting Orpingtons" and Mom said (dare I say 'crowed'?) "Ooh, we used to raise those at the house when I was a little girl! They're WONDERFUL!" I could hear the final nail being driven into my feather-lined coffin.



So I think three more weekends of frenzied and expensive building, painting and fence running should finally put an end to the process, the chicks will be old enough to come out from under their heat lamp and their wire-mesh and pine-shavings cage and begin a new life roaming their chicken yard in the back 40.

I've figured thus far that with fifteen chickens laying four eggs a week each, figured against the cost of feed, with eggs going for $1.30 a dozen at the store it'll take until the heat death of the Universe for this enterprise to break even. I can't wait.

12 comments:

PodQueen said...

Hey! Nice post! We'll definitely buy some of these eggs! Keep us posted on the progress!

Schmoopie said...

This post was hilarious! The chickens are sooo adorable. What a good man to put up with raising chickens again. It is a messy business but it sounds so darned fun!

Batgirl said...

OMG...$1.30 a dozen??? I'm absolutely living in the wrong state. I don't think I've paid less than $3.00 a dozen. My grandma had a farm when I was a child, with chickens. I'm still haunted by the memory of being chased by a headless chicken. I now fear chickens, and because of this I feel they should eaten along with their eggs. Evil animals. Watch your back, Irr.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Happy Easter!
:o)

Nancy Dancehall said...

So tell us how you REALLY feel about chickens. Don't hold back now. ;-)

I must live near Batgirl because that's about what I pay for eggs. You need to export those beauties.

Bob said...

my condolences. messy bastards. my great-grandma raised chickens. I hated finding pin-feathers in my fried chicken.

meno said...

I wonder if the six cats could help you take care of those chickens?

Just a thought.

Maggie said...

This is one of those 'romantic' ideas I was talking about. The kind I get. Sounds like the Mrs. and I would have great fun together. I love researching stuff like this and planning and dreaming. Until I actually start doing it and then I realize how unromantic it actually is...

Let me know if the romance lives. :-)

Jean said...

My dad raised chickens. No smell more foul (heh) than wet chicken feathers after the dead chicken has been dunked in boiling water to loosen the feathers for plucking before cutting up and frying or roasting.
Quite tasty, though.
...and, he sold the extra eggs to his machinist co-workers at Goodyear. I'm thinkin' 50 cents a dozen.

Irrelephant said...

PQ, I promise I shall. I have the haunting fear that I'm destined to be waist deep in chickens by year's end.

Schmoop, I'm hoping it is. I don't near hate them like I let on, but I do know the reality of keeping any livestock. But, the Mrs. loves them thus far, so I'm backing her.

Batgirl, you're kidding! I mean, I know this is the rural south but wow, $3 a dozen? As for the headless bit...yeah, I've heard the stories. I don't think these are going to be eatin' chickens, though. Mrs. I chose them specifically for breed calmness, good egg production, and cuteness.

Joan, I'm told these produce the light tan to brown eggs. Looks like it's gonna be a drab Easter celebration in the Irrelephant household. *lol* Of course I just know she's going to buy some of those chickens who lay green or blue eggs next.

Nancy, I'm going to have to! And here I had creeping terrors of having to put one of those horrible hand-painted signs in the front yard that says "Eggs for sale $1/doz. Free roosters."

Bob, I doubt these will get eaten by us. Foxes, owls, hawks and racoons now, that's a different matter.

Meno! Thank you for breaking the subject! Now when the cats 'accidentally' get out on the patio it won't be my fault, it'll be a cruel twist of Fate that someone ELSE pointed out first. Heh! Got me off the hook you did!

Maggie, you're right. On the surface it seems like such a grand thing. Letting little baby chickens run across your hands and peck at moles is cute. Full grown chickens tearing up the yard and crapping like some sort of biological cannon is a whole other story. I promise to keep you guys abreast (heh!) on how it all goes down.

Jean, my Dad did the free-range yard chickens thing for a year or so, but their numbers dwindled (thankfully) pretty fast. I was sorely sick of stepping in chicken crap every time I ventured into the back yard.

Me, I have the sneaking suspicion that the egg surplus will end up like my garden surplus--no one ever seems to actually WANT anything, even though they talk a good line, and even if it's brought TO them. I threw away more pounds of fresh peppers this year than I can shake a pickle at.

Mona Buonanotte said...

When I was a girl, there was nothing better than visiting my Aunt and gathering eggs from her chickens in the coop...round and smooth and brown and warm...mmm...now I need an omelet, and fast.

Vulgar Wizard said...

Yardbirds Bond Wife and Mother-in-law . . . details at 11.