>cue Arrival of the Queen of Sheba soundbite punctuated by clucks and squawks<
Growing up, my dad had an annual tradition of buying a recipe calendar for my mom.
My favorite was given to her when I was about twelve or thirteen years old and it was all about pies ~ beautiful pies featuring unique ingredients and beautifully photographed with antique serving pieces.
On the cover was a lovely woman with sandy blond hair, wearing an apron, and proudly rolling out a pie crust in her amazing kitchen.
The first pie I ever baked was her recipe for a buttermilk pie which, she claimed, featured eggs from her very own chickens.
She kept chickens? Her own chickens? Wow.
The woman on the front of the calendar was then still somewhat unknown but she was about to burst onto the homemaking scene to become a celebrity household name forever.
Her name was Martha Stewart.
Yes. Martha, Martha, Martha was the one who initially inspired me to keep chickens.
When I read about her garden, and then about her chickens I was impressed.
How cool to have eggs and vegetables right from your own backyard.
I wanted that.
Our first home shortly after we married had a large yard. Much could have been done on it, but we had a funky septic/sprinkler system which prevented me taking over the back yard with a garden and chickens were not allowed by the HOA.
I was bummed.
Then we moved to a home with a smaller yard which I did take over with a garden.
Chickens, here were allowed within reason but we opted not to try. We had four dogs, which were not allowed (we didn’t know that at the time) and in an effort to keep a low profile, we didn’t want to do anything that might potentially incite the neighbors against us.
Then we moved to an acreage in the country with no restrictions whatsoever.
I could keep elephants if I wanted to.
I began planning for my chickens before our house was built, researching breeds, and pinning my favorites to a pinboard designated just for them.
Shortly before our first Thanksgiving in our new home, I called a local hatchery and placed an order for eight Rhode Island Red day old pullets to be picked up the following summer.
We chose Rhode Island Reds for a variety of reasons: they were reported to be great layers, they were reported to be good dual purpose breeds (no, we *ahem* don’t plan to keep them for pets), and they can supposedly tolerate heat reasonably well (we have terribly hot summers).
I was stoked and immediately circled June 12 on our calendar as our pick up date.
We spent the remaining fall and winter months reading up on caring for chicks and building a coop to prepare for our flock.
When spring arrived I started to count down the days while gathering what we needed for a brooder: a large plastic tub, chick starter, a feeder and waterer, and a heat lamp.
The day before we were to leave, I got a call from the hatchery. They had hatched a day early and was there any way I could come and pick them up?
We were on the road in an hour.
The hatchery was one we had inadvertently found through a google search and I was delighted to discover they were within a two hours’ drive of us. Using them, and making the drive to pick them up meant the chicks would not need to be shipped (something I was concerned about), and I would not be held to a minimum order (something else I was concerned about).
In my mind I imagined a series of white clapboard buildings surrounded by a picturesque fence bordering a gravel drive.
The hatchery was, in reality, a red building the size of a mobile home just off the side of the two lane highway. We entered to find a small office with vinyl flooring and a counter stacked high with boxes of peeping chicks.
I had imagined we’d visit a bit, chat about breeds and other poultry they carried such as ducks which I have decided I also need. But they were busy and I was immediately handed a box of eight fur balls peeping for all they were worth.
While I stood there counting them, checking to see if they were (to my very uneducated eye) ok, husbie paid the $20 and we were back in the car.
Nine years of waiting for chickens was over and done with in about ten minutes.
>now cue FRANTIC NERVOUS new chick mom analyzing and evaluating
every twitch and peep<
For the two hour ride home, we peeped constantly, pecked at the box, and slept for seconds at a time.
Chick mom, who had read somewhere that peeps could/should be analyzed immediately set to work.
“That peep ~ was that an ‘I’m ok just chillin’ peep or what it an ‘I need help peep?’ “
“Ok, that. That. Did you hear that? What kind of a peep do you think that was?”
“That peep sounds weak. Do you think it was a weak peep? You think we’ll make it home?”
In spite of new chick mom’s over attentiveness we did make it home.
Once home, we had a brief “get to know you” session with the dogs on one side of a baby gate and the chicks on the other. With the exception of Ollie neither party was really terribly interested so we moved to the brooder.
We introduced the chicks to the water, turned on the heat lamp, and suddenly they went very quiet.
“THEY STOPPED PEEPING! WHY DID THEY STOP PEEPING?! OMG. THEY’RE DEAD!”.
Nope. Nervous, frantic chick mom just forgot that a happy chick = a relatively quiet chick.
Except for one last scare when watching them sleep:
“THEY LOPPED OVER! WHY DID THEY LOP TO ONE SIDE LIKE THAT?! OMG. THEY’RE DEAD!” we were good and everyone is getting used to happy chicks in the house.
Everyone except Ollie who has been beside himself since day one. He sits in front of the brooder and cries for a chick buddy.
We’ve been amazed at how fast they have grown, and while we’ve enjoyed watching them play, we’re anxious to get them settled into the coop and get them to work. Yes, they’ll have to earn their keep.
In addition to laying eggs, we plan to let them spend the day “free ranging” of sorts in a chicken tractor around the garden, or in finished garden beds tilling and fertilizing them to prepare for the next growing season.
So hop to it girls, you’ve got lots of work to do.
Do you keep chickens? What kind? What advice would you give to a newbie?
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|This is the book from which that calendar was printed. It is one of her older ones, but the buttermilk pie recipe is one of the best!|
|One of the books that inspired us to use our chickens in the garden.|
Find this post and others like it linked to: Homemade Mondays, The Homestead Barn Hop, Clever Chicks Blog Hop, The Scoop, Tuesdays with a Twist, The Backyard Farming Connection Hop, Wildcrafting Wednesday, Down Home Blog Hop, The HomeAcre Hop, Frugally Sustainable, From the Farm Blog Hop