When I was growing up we had lots of chickens. We had Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons, Black Australorps, Barred Rocks, and White Leghorns. My favorite were the Blacks, because in the sunlight their feathers shone emerald green, and they were just gorgeous. The Buffs were also in my favor for their gentle nature and willingness to be petted while setting eggs. We raised all of our chickens from day-olds. They lived in a big cardboard box brooder with plenty of heat from a lamp and comfy newspaper to snuggle and romp in. When they outgrew that, they were moved out into the coop, where they were confined all together in one corner under a heat lamp. Winters tended to be on the cold side where I grew up. As they grew, so did their enclosure, until finally they were allowed full reign. As soon as the weather was warm enough and they had enough feathers, we’d let them run around the yard eating bugs and terrorizing any garden plants that weren’t fenced-in. We had nearly 30 chickens at one point. Three roosters, and the rest hens. I deeply hated our roosters. They were smart and mean. They would wait until you were distracted, then all three of them would attack from a different side. We kept a shovel by the coop door for these occasions. Maybe it was cruel, but it was the only way to stop them: knock them out temporarily with the shovel, finish cleaning and feeding and egg-gathering, then make a hasty exit before they regained consciousness.
I really miss having chickens. My parents just got back into raising them this past year. They have a very mixed bunch of 20 or so birds. Plus two Guineas. Oh my goodness, if you have never seen nor heard a Guinea, you must put that on your to do list. They are the ugliest, most obnoxious birds EVER! But something about them is endearing. My parents named their Guineas Spaz and Schizo. They are the guard dogs of the bunch. They herd the chickens together when there is anything odd going on in the yard, whether it’s a hawk flying over, a new car parked in the drive, or a couple of cranes coming in to snack on fallen apples. They do not like to be touched, but they love grapes. As a matter of fact, all of the chickens love grapes. That was my way of spoiling them when I visited. I’d buy some grapes and my kids and I would sit on the porch throwing grapes into a mad fray of squawking, greedy birds.
Why do I want chickens someday? Well, nostalgia does play into it a bit, but birds have many uses. They eat all kinds of food scraps, bugs, spiders, and worms. Then they reward you with the richest orange-yolked eggs every morning. There is NO competition between store-bought and farm-fresh when it comes to eggs. And while we’re on the subject, freshly killed chickens taste amazing compared to meat that has been sitting in a butcher shop for a few days. Chickens offer free composting material in the form of poopy, well mixed straw. They can be raised gentle, to accept a scratch behind the neck or a pet on the back. Of course, there’s also the fact that chickens are highly entertaining when let loose. Watching chickens run around, converse, curiously explore ever nook and cranny… well, I’d say it’s even better than television.
I’ve already made a list of the types of birds I like. These are the dual purpose birds (meat & eggs): Brahma, Jersey Giant, Orpington, Rhode Island Red, and Welsummer. I also have a fondness for Silver Laced Wyandottes and Silver Phoenix roosters. I’d like to start out with a dozen or so assorted egg layers and maybe ten meat chickens.
I would also like to have some other fowl on the homestead eventually. Guineas are a given after watching Spaz and Schizo. I’m thinking about Khaki Cambell ducks because it’s been said that they are slug-eating extraordinaires. A few geese would be nice, as long as they behaved themselves. If they turned out to be naughty, maybe I could cook up a traditional Christmas goose one year. I’ve also been looking into heritage turkey breeding. I think the bronze are just gorgeous, but turkeys would definitely have to wait until we are settled in a bit more on the land. They are a difficult bird that requires a lot of attention when young. I’ve read many horror stories about turkeys piling up in a corner and smothering each other, trampling their nest mates to death, etc. Lately I have also had a fondness for runner ducks. They are silly looking birds, and I have heard that they lay rather efficiently. Ducks would also have to wait, as we probably won’t be set up for them for a while.
Instead of the crazy old cat lady, I plan on being the crazy old fowl lady. I can’t wait for the day that I can drive down to the post office to pick up my own box of peeping chicks.