It was a proud moment for me a few weeks back. I, actually had to talk Zach out of buying chicks! I’m not sure if we’ve come full circle, each turning in opposite directions…not that Zach was ever really opposed to keeping chickens, but I can’t recall him being this enthusiastic.
I, on the other hand am perfectly content with the amount of chickens we have this year. We don’t have a lot of roosters, and the breeds we have are very useful. They lay nice sized, beautifully colored eggs on a regular basis. The feed costs are manageable, as is clean up. But for the most part, the reason I didn’t want to add any more chickens this year is because we’ve been over run with 5-very needy baby goats!
Our does kidded early this year when temperatures were in the single digits. 3 of our 4 does rejected their offspring so for 3 weeks I had a playpen in the living room filled with demanding, long eared (and one curly) infants with bottle feedings every 3 hours, blanket changings, and lots and lots of mopping. For now, bottle feeding is coming to a slow end, but for a while I was feeling pretty overwhelmed. I didn’t think I could add incubators, brooders and chicks to the chaos! (You can read more about our goat kidding adventures in my posts over at Grit! with Goat Kids Galore and Kidding Season Comes to an End.)
Jersey Giants were the chicks in question. We’ve been researching a good meat bird that isn’t a Cornish Cross. (Something about how those chickens look at auction makes me think “not so farm fresh and healthy”, huge, with bulging waxy legs, missing half their feathers, laboring to breath under their own overly expanded weight…I dunno, I still feel like it’s not quite…natural.)
We’ve been looking for Jersey Giants for a few years and haven’t had much luck. Then out of the blue, our feed store got a bunch in. They were hatchery birds, but at this point it was just encouraging to see the breed. After some light hearted debate, Zach agreed that we should continue with our pledge to have a chick-less spring.
Well, that was OUR plan…but “silly humans” the animals had other ideas…
This is one of our Lavender hens…She is the most determined mother we have. Every. Year. She starts a clutch, without fail, and hatches a brood. (For more about past Lavender hatches read my post Last Lavender Out.)
This year, not wanting more chicks, I have chased her around the farm, scooting her off every nest she makes. She’s too smart to even try for the nest boxes. She knows better. Instead she slinks off into the tall grasses, or in the silo, or in the hay bales, she even set up camp in the outdoor goat kid pen. (How she kept the eggs from cracking with all those kids bounding around her I’ll never know.)
She’s really given up residence in the chicken coop, as many of our chickens have. And hangs out most of the time in the big barn with the goats. I noticed that she hadn’t taken roost next to our big Coronation Sussex rooster for a few nights, as they’d worked out a buddy system on the fence rail to sleep.
I knew she was somewhere, sitting on eggs little stinker! But where?
About a week went by and I heard her making dragon noises at our overly curious duck behind the table saw.
But the problem now was that the eggs were a week along in development, maybe longer and I didn’t have the heart to chase her off this time. (Ugh…I’m such a softy!) So I moved her nest back to the now empty kidding stall and now we wait. At this point, they should be hatching any time. Since moving our first mamma to the empty kidding stall, our French Black Copper Maran has joined the maternity ward and is setting up a nest of her own. Once again, the farm wins!
The broody bug must be contagious because our turkey hen has also set up a nest and is sitting on a good size clutch. This prospect I’m rather happy about. We did want more turkeys and I’m glad that the mother is willing to do the brooding and the rearing for us.
Its funny how a farm can teach you how insignificant you really are to the continuance of things. I can’t even give myself credit for providing feed, as most of the chickens who have elected to live in the barn rarely make their way back to the coop’s open doors with the feeders filled with crumbles. They prefer to eat the grass and bugs, wild seeds and berries that scatter among our property. And they are just as fat and healthy, if not more-so, than the ones that veg-out in the coop.
So whether we were planning for it or not, the farm regenerates itself. And even though it’s unexpected, we always welcome new life with enthusiasm and awe. I’ll post pics on the Community Chickens Facebook Page when the new little ones arrive.