Confession time: I am enjoying the chickens much more than I expected to!
It’s been three weeks since we bought the first dozen. Four of them are adult hens and eight are pullets – which I have learned is the right thing to call a half-grown chicken. We were told that the pullets would be ready to start laying eggs in “about a month”, although the woman who sold them to us assured us that the big hens were already laying every day.
The first day was hilarious. Those poor birds had spent their entire lives within a pen, and they were totally overwhelmed by the grass and leaves available at their new home. They moved around as one big unit, taking possession of an old broken swing set in the back yard and chattering amongst themselves like proper old ladies congregating near the coffeepot after church on Sunday.
They became agitated at nightfall, as though they knew they should be going inside somewhere but not sure where to go. I am officially an awful wife, because I laughed myself silly watching my husband chase them around the yard. One by one, he scooped up each one, tossed her in the coop, and slammed the door.
After that, they put themselves to bed every night. They only need us to shut the door at around 9:30.
I had promised myself that I wasn’t going to name any of them. I refer to them as “The Ladies” and I love the way they spring out the door when I let them out in the morning. It sort of freaked me out at first when they clustered around my feet and chattered at me; I was sure they were going to attack my toes or fly up and peck at my eyes.
My five year-old refers to them as “The Peckers”. I know I’m going to have to put a stop to that, but I’m still having too much fun laughing about it.
One of the hens is a bossy Rhode Island Red who seems to be in charge of the other ladies. She reminds me of a busty redhead in a constant state of flustered excitement, and bears an uncanny resemblance to Mrs. Garret on The Facts of Life.
I call her Edna.
The other Rode Island Red became Irmengarde, and the two adult New Hampshire Reds were soon christened Charlotte and Gertrude. I haven’t named the pullets – a mix of Isa Browns and New Hampshire Reds – but my son named one of them Blackie.
Blackie, according to my husband, is a Black Sex Link chicken. I’m not sure I believe that’s really a breed of chicken; I think the Big Guy might be messing with me.
We added four new hens and a rooster this weekend. The rooster and one hen are Australorps, and they are simply gorgeous. Little Man named the rooster Awesome. The other three are Araucanas, or “Easter Egg Chickens”. When they start producing eggs in a few weeks, the eggs will be different shades of blue and green.
The Araucanas are without a doubt the oddest-looking bird I have ever seen. They have thick necks and broad heads that make them look more like some kind of a mutant hawk than a chicken. And they have these strange tufts of feathers on either side of the face that make them look . . . well, simple. They appear to be wearing a stupid smile all the time.
Unfortunately, their behavior so far hasn’t done much to make me think my first impression is wrong.
Having learned his lesson with the first group of chickens, the Big Guy released the new ones into the coop this time. And let them run out the other side. We assumed this would solve the problem of their not understanding where to go at bedtime.
We assumed wrong.
The two Astralorps did just fine. When the others trotted up the little ramp, those two followed obediently. Didn’t work quite so well for the Araucanas.
No, that particular brain trust settled in for the night on top off the chicken coop. It’s like they’ve figured out where the building is, but sort of gave up learning anything beyond that. For two nights in a row, my husband has had to carry a stepladder into the pen and climb up to capture the new ladies so he can toss them inside with the others.
For the most part, they don’t put up a fight. The Big Guy says they are still learning, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the only thing they are learning is that going to sleep on the roof is a great way to be picked up and tossed inside for the night. I think our Araucanas see this as the way the bedtime routine is supposed to go: climb up on the roof, doze off until the nice man scoops them up and speaks gently to them, and then snuggle in for a good night’s sleep with their sisters without ever having to climb the ramp.
For all I know, they aren’t bright enough to figure out how to get through the doorway at the top.
I call them “The Derps”.
We get three brown eggs every day, and sometimes a fourth one. We aren’t sure if Gertrude sometimes hides her eggs outside the coop, or if she’s just really sensitive and doesn’t always lay on a regular basis. But either way, I have perfected the art of making omelets; yesterday’s was made with tomato, basil and spinach. I have also subjected my family to quiches and the Big Guy is really becoming excited about starting to sell the eggs.
We hadn’t planned on selling the eggs, but when all sixteen hens start laying, I think we’re going to have to. If sixteen hens lay an egg per day, that’s 112 eggs per week.
That’s a lot of omelets.
I’m not sure we really thought this through.