Friday, August 31, 2007

Early Surprise

I arrived home from a quick trip to Denver at 2am this morning. I spent the second half of the drive pondering over the mysterious surprise which Aaron said was awaiting me at home. His only hint was that he found it and it was brown. When I finally walked through the door, ready to crash from exhaustion, he led me to the refrigerator and showed me the smallest, cutest chicken egg I have ever seen. Our first egg! We got our chickens in April and didn't expect them to start laying for another couple of months, but here we were, with one perfectly beautiful brown egg. This afternoon when we were hanging out with 'the girls' we noticed that First Lady was preparing herself to lay an egg. You can tell because the noise they make is much different from their usual clucking, and they pant while they find a good spot to lay their egg. When hens first begin laying, it takes some work, and the eggs are pretty small, but then it becomes much easier for them, and the eggs get larger as they do. First Lady worked at it for a while, and finding one of the nesting boxes to be to her liking, she settled in and fluffed up her nest. I left for just a minute to go to the house, and when I came back there was yet another beautiful brown egg. While I was checking out the egg, I noticed Abby doing the about-to-lay-an-egg noise too! It seems that once one hen starts laying, the others want to join.

Our beautiful chickens came to us in April in a little box via the United States Postal Service. They called me at work (the post office, not the chicks) and I went to pick them up right away. Before the box was even handed to me, I could hear them peeping. I opened up the box and peeked in at tiny little fluff-balls, who were two days old. It might sound crazy to have chicks shipped, but it's actually quite safe if you choose a company with a solid reputation, and it gives you the freedom of choosing the breed of chicks you get. The peeps are shipped as soon they hatch, and they live on the egg yolk (which is absorbed into the tiny babies), for the first 48 hours. They were all alive and doing well. I took them home, and brought them to the bathroom (where we had a tub, heating lamp, food and water set up for them already). We gently lifted each one, dipped it's beak in the water (so it learns where its water is) and set it under the heat lamp. It took them surprisingly little time to begin pecking at their food and drinking water. We kept a close eye on them, visiting them all the time. After a while, they got bigger and moved into our bathtub, and eventually, when the weather warmed up, we put them outside in their new coop.

We have four different kinds of chickens, Dominiques and Barred rocks, which lay brown eggs, Buttercups, which lay white eggs, and Araucanas, which lay colorful eggs. We chose the breeds for a few different reasons, but mostly because they are heritage breeds. Our heritage breed chickens are very different from the few predominately raised chicken breeds in the United States today. Factory-farmed chickens have been bred to sit in a tiny cage and produce large quantities of white eggs, or large quantities of meat. Many meat chickens can't even walk because they are crippled at a young age due to being bred to produce the largest breasts possible. Anyway, I could go on about this, but I won't, now. So, we chose breeds that are still very chicken-like. They can do things like forage for their own food, sit on their on eggs and run/fly from predators, because they haven't had their chicken instincts bred out of them. They are a delight to hang out with, and always making us laugh. They really love finding tasty bugs and eating tomatoes and strawberries. If you have ever considered getting chickens, do it. They are great fun, and you can't beat having fresh eggs year round.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Danny said...

"For the happiness of the chicken is measured by the brightness of the yoke. Sing to them and read them merry books and in turn thine chickens will be happy." - Proverbs 1613:34-36

9/09/2007 09:35:00 AM  
Blogger emily said...

Hiya, I know its been some time since you posted this, but I just stumbled upon your blog. I am new to the Valley, moved here in March and am in Antonito. My brother and I bought 35 acres down here on the San Antonio River and are going to build a small sustainable farm and a strawbale house. We just finished planting 1000 trees, and now have to water them all every day by hand with 5 gallon buckets! LOL! Are we in over our heads or what.. well, its working out, and we are starting to build a greenhouse now.
Anyways, you seem like cool people, and around our age too (Im 25 (or 26? i cant remember lol), and my brother is 24). We dont really have any friends here yet, so it would be cool to hear more about your adventures and maybe meet up sometime :).
ANYWAYS .. my real reason for this post was to ask about the chickens. Was just wondering how they were working out a year later? Are the breeds all good for the high altitude? Still laying proficient eggs, etc?
Feel free to email me at voide AT fone.net.
-Emily

8/05/2008 01:40:00 PM  

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