by Meredith Chilson
Photos by author
The peas are long gone; the tender greens have bolted and become lunch for chickens. The beets have been thinned and now the beetroots are plumping up. It’s a cycle repeated year after year.
|“Stew” the Rooster|
I probably should have followed this schedule from the beginning of my chicken keeping days. My first chicks were straight run—they were just about equally divided between pullets and roosters. We gave the pullets names like “Mabel” and “Mavis”; we gave the roosters names like “Stew” and “Biscuits” and knew from the beginning they were headed to the freezer. It’s been almost four years now, and some of those original chicks are still living with us—Mavis has laid many an egg for us during those years. We know these birds, and aside from the fact that old hens on a plate tend to be so tough a fork bounces off them—I can’t do it. Not even for soup.
|Nice red comb, but is she laying eggs?|
My research has given me some insight in how to tell a good layer. Combs and wattles should be large, soft, red and waxy. The vent on a good layer should be large, moist and colorless. Pigment is bleached from a hen as she produces eggs, so the beak and legs may have lost their color, too. A laying hen’s abdomen should be full and pliable as well, and the pubic bones should be flexible.
|Rhode Island Red, wider pubic bones, larger vent|
|Lots more room if the door is removed!|
Another consideration would be to open up the two sections of the coop. There’s a door between the sections now, and if that were removed, the floor space of the coop would be a third larger. That could make all the difference. I would have to rethink my winter feed storage plans, but the small shed that holds straw for bedding could be used to store the covered aluminum feed cans, too.