So, we finally got our chickens. When I say finally, I mean that the long hoped for event has occurred after waiting, dreaming, fantasizing, pouring over the Murray McMurray catalog, etc. They are, to put it mildly, wonderful. Well, mostly. The day that they arrived, our neighbors rescued them from the Post Office for us. I don't know exactly what misunderstanding took place, but when we were sold the chickens, we were convinced that they would be delivered to our door. We were mistaken. They were shipped to our Post Office, where they languished, thirsty and cold, until our dear neighbor boy of eight years was at the Post Office with his father. He heard them peeping and asked about them, and, learning that they were ours, and being privy to our misconception that they would appear at our door magically, they brought them home to us! Oh, shortest of knights in shining armor, how I thank thee! I don't think they realize just how grateful I am about that! I have, in the misty, glowing, dreamland that is my imagination, heard them clucking for years, as I collect eggs in a basket wearing a colorful apron and sun bonnet while humming contentedly under blue skies. I'm nothing if not idealistic. I've checked out books on fanciful hen houses. I've subscribed to Backyard Poultry. I remember aching to live on a farm six years ago, when we lived in North Dakota and consciously putting that dream away in the Hope Chest of my heart so that I could command myself to be content with life as it was. I wasn't very successful, by the way.
Now, I have a flock of chicks who peep away in our backyard oh, so sweetly. They live, right now, in a chicken tractor that was given to us by some good friends who hobby farm with goats and chickens and gardening. We plan on leaving some chickens in there... the ones we plan to put in the freezer. The laying flock is getting their very own blue house later. We love to watch the chicks! They are endlessly entertaining. For example, as the sun goes down, they all pile into one corner of the tractor, trying to get the place on the “preferred” roost. They play king of the mountain until the sun goes down, then they all spread out and go to sleep. While they're playing their “game”, though, there's tons of squawking, jumping to the top of the pile, stepping on the heads of each other, and jockeying for position. It looks like corporate America! I picked some whitefly larvae off my cauliflower plants the other day and fed the chicks the little caterpillars right out of my hand. Well, technically, only one chick, who would grab two or three on the run, gobble them up, and be back for more before any of the other chicks knew what was going on! We love to just sit and watch them. Really. We pull our chairs up, open the lid and watch for hours (I knit, too)! Who needs a television?! I told my husband it looked like only the Cornish Rocks were growing and he said that they were growing, but I couldn't tell because I stare at them for hours every day! He's only slightly exaggerating. If I could, I'd just meander back and forth between the chickens and the garden all day long... and knit!
Speaking of Cornish Rocks... they are just the ugliest, nastiest, most disgustingest chicks. They're like freaks of nature... except they're not really natural, in my opinion. They've been bred and bred to grow big fast on as little grain as possible, which is great for a factory farm, I guess. They don't forage, they don't scratch, they don't do anything natural, except eat grain, poop, and breathe. They're kind of naked and pink and ugly and blech. With grain prices getting higher, and hence chicken feed getting more expensive, I think I may just buy dual purpose breeds for meat from now on instead of meat birds. They may take longer to get big, but they'll feed themselves on bugs and grass instead of only eating grain. The Cornish Rocks make me feel kind of queasy when I look at them, actually. One already died... and I'd not be sad if the rest accidentally got eaten by a raccoon or something. Course, maybe that'll make it easier (emotionally) to cut them up and make into chicken noodle soup or something.
Anyway, I ended up buying five Americauna pullets, five Buff Orphington pullets, five Cornish X Rocks, and ten straight run Barred Rocks. I'm not sure, but there are four or five birds that were not ordered by us that might be Buffs, too. We ordered 25 and got 30 birds. What kind are the extras? Are they pullets or cockerels? What's the difference between a pullet and a hen, anyway? Do any breeds of chickens lay speckled eggs, or do I have to get guineas for those? Questions for the ages.....