Archive for the ‘Dear Chickens & Other Musings’ Category

Egg Insomnia and Chicks Having Chicks

Dear Chickens,

Do you sleep peacefully through the night or toss and turn in your chicken beds? Do you stay awake fretting about the future of your disappearing eggs?  Do you ever experience egg insomnia? Mommy is suffering from pregnancy insomnia, a fabulously Internet-based self-diagnose.  Apparently it effects 78% of all pregnant women and Mommy is wondering why she wasn’t part of the other group in blissful repose.

Or perhaps there is something more on Mommy’s mind tonight that makes sleep illusive.  Something that causes Mommy to fret about the future of my children, the world’s children.  It made me think about your first eggs, my darling chickens.  Do you remember that time?  Did it feel natural and right and in harmony with nature?  Or were you frightened by the changes happening to your body? But you were chickens and I think ready for the responsibility of creating all those delicious eggs we so hungrily accepted without much thought.  And so what if there was an errant egg in the garden instead of the nesting box?  They were just eggs and you could leave them for Mommy to find.  Like a game of hide and seek.  Or a chicken-instigated Easter egg hunt.

Today I learned through the grapevine that a neighbor, a young teen, recently gave birth.  Yes, darling chickens, people mommies give birth to live chicks, not eggs.  I know, no egg shells, that must be so strange to you.  However, I’m not tossing and turning over the lack of calcium carbonate.  This neighbor is only a chick herself.  How will she support herself and this new little person so helplessly dependent on her?  How will she finish school with a baby in tow?  What are the odds of the daddy rooster staying with his little flock?  What about their future?

There is no going back here.  Our neighbor chick is prematurely a mommy hen and in our culture and time, it is almost certainly dooming her and baby to poverty.  What is poverty, you ask?  Chickens, this means that she will have to work very hard and yet still find it difficult to find a nice coop and eat organic feed and roam large pastures with tasty grass and bugs.

So this brings us back to sitting up sleeplessly tonight.  Wondering if anything could have been said or done.   Fretting about the future when in a mere decade our little family will have matured to the point where this is a biological possibility.

Mommy, I hear you say, perhaps you should just concentrate on today’s sunshine and delicious weeds and that particularly juicy grub in the compost pile.  Chickens, I reply, you’re right:  I should focus on the blessings of today.  But I am responsible for our flock and I also need to think about tomorrow.

Love,

Mommy

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Like, How Frustrating!

Ok, so my last post had a little bit about chicken you-know-what.  A natural and innocent part of the farm, right?  Apparently no!  Two seconds after posting I received a “Like” from a risqué site with a not-so-family-friendly gravatar picture.  Despite being a firm believer in free speech in our happy WordPress community, I admit I’m annoyed because I know some of my readers will not be expecting that type of content here.  After all, this is my family’s blog about farming and cooking!

Anyway, after reviewing WordPress’ help section, I took off the Like display on that post since there doesn’t seem to be a way to actually remove a single Liker.  Sigh.  Anyway, my apologies, dear readers! Have you ever had that happen and if so what did you do about it?  Do you think I should do anything different?

The Birds and the Bees and the Chickens

Dear Chickens,

Girls, I should say Ladies, it’s high time we had The Talk.  Mommy doesn’t know where the time has gone and it seems like yesterday when you were using your little chirping voices to tell me how much you liked your bugs.  Nevertheless, time has passed and I’ve neglected this part of your education, thinking I could keep you safe from the world with farmer-enforced celibacy, safe inside your chicken nunnery.  You’ve matured, as evidenced by the tasty eggs you leave our family each morning.  It’s important to know the potential consequences of being a grown up chicken.  Because, you see, when boy chickens and girl chickens get together they can have baby chickens.  These are the wonders of unprotected chicken sex.

Mommies and daddies can make babies, too.  Mommy took a special test this morning and it turns out she is going to have a baby.  You are going to have another human brother or sister!  Silkie, thank you for offering to go broody (again) to help me out, but I assure you there is no need to pull out any more feathers for the nest.

I hope, my dear girls, that one day you find a special rooster so you, too, can have little chicks.  I would dearly love to have grandchicks, but it is best to wait until you are ready.  Having babies is lovely, but can be challenging.  I heard that chickens don’t have morning sickness.  Mommy would love to know your secret.

Love,

Mommy

Layoffs at the Farm

Dear Chickens,

Mommy found out that she still has a job today.  “What is a job?” you ask.  It’s the work we do to contribute to our little family.  Each of us has our job.  Mommy and Daddy go to work to earn a paycheck, your human sibling goes to school, doggie stays home to watch you, and you stay home to grow and lay eggs.  We each do our best to contribute to our family in our own special way, despite repeated efforts of a determined toddler to switch jobs with you to stay home and lay eggs.

Does it feel good to have your chicken job?  Eggs for grain and grass.  I know that Mommy likes her job very much.  It is a part of her and feels as natural as your instinct to dust bathe and chase bugs.  I would miss my job terribly if I lost it.  Do you worry about becoming a very literal casualty of layoffs when you become obsolete or outsourced or simply because times are tough and there isn’t enough grain to go around?  I hope not because I suspect it might lead to upset chicken tummies.

What will happen when, during the natural course of farm living, some of your brother roosters are laid off from the flock to become Sunday dinner for the family?  Will you, my darling laying flock, have survivor’s guilt?  Will it be hard to keep going when you know that those chickens forced into an early retirement could not?  What if those terminated chickens were just as capable as those left behind on the farm?

Sometimes good farmers have to make difficult decisions.  I am very lucky to have just such a good farmer-type at Mommy’s work and I strive to be the same for you, my hardworking chickens.

Love,

Mommy

Welcome Your Sisters and Brothers

Dear Chickens,

Congratulations, my dear girls, for you are going to be big sisters!  You must feel so grown up.  The fertile hatching eggs of our newest flock members arrived in the mail yesterday.   They were snuggly wrapped in paper towels and expertly cushioned for the journey. My lovely chickens, do you remember being shipped as day-old chicks?  I remember your arrival.  You were curious and pecking at every new thing, much like you do now.

Let me tell you about your new sisters and brothers.  The twelve Faverolles eggs came as promised as did a hatchery selection of twelve bantams:  6 Quail Belgian Bearded D’Anvers, 2 Porcelain Belgian Bearded D’Uccles, 2 Golden Sebrights, and 2 Silver Sebrights.  I admit I had a momentary twang of disappointment.  These were not the breeds I was hoping for!  Where were the Silkies with their funny feather poofs? The Barnvelders with eggs the color of dark chocolate? Why did I have to get these birds out of all the possible breeds that the hatchery carried?  Mommy was sad because she had read that the pretty Sebrights can be standoffish and flighty; Quail D’Anvers sweet, but plain.  Does this mean I’m a bad mommy?  Then I thought that perhaps this was a cosmic lesson in acceptance and love.  I pushed that disappointment away and made a promise:  I am your mommy and I will love you no matter what.

Daddy was a little distressed by the twenty-four new eggs now that they have arrived.  He said that was a lot of chickens.  I think he is concerned that mommy won’t have the courage to chop off their heads and eat them.  Gosh, I guess when I write it like that it does seem a little drastic.  No wonder daddy is uneasy, but I promise to be brave and follow through in my decision to participate in the rooster culling necessary to a small heritage flock.

My darling girls, I know you are curious to meet our new family members.  They will be home with us soon enough.  I delivered your new sisters and brothers to that nice teacher and his class this morning.  They will incubate them for 21 days and welcome them with love and affection into this world.  I hope the children enjoy learning about chickens and farming and the miracles that are you.  I hope they feel special because they are contributing to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy’s mission to rescue beautiful breeds from extinction.  I find helping is a dualistic action:  Simultaneously altruistic and selfish.  That feeling that you receive more than you give.  Mommy is very grateful to you, dear chickens, for all that you give in exchange for simple grain and grass.

Love,

Mommy

 

A Nudge From the Universe

Dear Chickens,

I’m writing today as a follow up to our discussion in the garden this afternoon.  It was rather complicated and one-sided; I know your chicken brains were too busy eating unearthed grubs and other delicious bugs as I pulled weeds to pay much attention.  If you do remember, our family was considering raising an endangered heritage breed to help preserve these disappearing and dear animals.  “Good idea,” I wanted to hear you bok-bok while following me for more weedy roots, but you were silent.  So I told you about the catch.  “The catch?” you must have thought.  Then I told you how with raising a self-perpetuating flock, comes the need for culling.  After all, too many roosters will hurt each other and isn’t the point to save your kin hurt in factory farms?  Yet, could I purposely take the life of another living creature that comes to me for nourishment and protection?  Especially one that my child chases among the grass and herbs and apple trees?  Could I?  We’ve been agonizing about this for months and you’ve haven’t offered much advice, allowing us to make this important decision in our own time.

This letter, dear chickens, is to tell you we’ve come to a decision. I think it may have been a small nudge from the universe (although I’m not sure I believe in such things); circumstances coming together and wistful me finding meaning and purpose.  Knowing my interest, a teacher at a local school asked if I could adopt their chicks and even choose their eggs, but I needed to let him know by today.  Then another little nudge:  Being torn between, Dorking, Faverolles, and Java breeds, a search of reputable breeders I know yielded only Faverolles hatching eggs ready in the given time frame.  I had already been leaning towards that breed since its roosters are reputedly the gentlest and quietest.  That is, if roosters are ever quiet.  The choice was made for me.

Now the order has been placed.  Two dozen fertile eggs arrive next week.  They hatch three weeks after that.  Modern markets slaughter their Cornish Crosses at 6 weeks old.  These new additions will not receive names as you have because how could I then do what has been required of farmwives throughout time?  I hope you will be nice to them and integrate them with love, but I suppose that would be asking too much of your chicken hardwiring.  So within three months we engage in what Barbara Kingsolver called a real game of Survivor were only the chickens that meet the American Livestock Breed Conservancy’s criteria will make it to breed another year.  So in the words of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games, “May the odds be ever in your favor” because the nicest, quietest rooster will win.

I hope it will not upset you, my omnivorous chickens, that we did not choose the vegetarian option.  I will do everything in my power to be compassionate and humane.  You deserve such dignity and more for all your kin have done for us.   You and I have have a special bond, my trusty laying flock.  A reader commented that every egg is a little miracle and I have to agree.  Thank you for all that you have given and taught our family.

Now the scary part… has anyone done this before?  I know, I know:  People have done this throughout time, but just not in my sanitized suburban setting.  Ahh!  I really need help!

Love,

Mommy

Ps.  I really think Alice Walker was onto something with this whole writing to chickens.

A Difficult Letter to Write to Chickens

Dear Chickens,

Mommy has been conflicted since you came into our lives last summer and my child kissed the tops of your fluffy heads. Is it odd to call myself your mommy? After all, I am the only one you knew since hatching from your shell. Like all beginnings, we knew there would be joys and tragedies, but I did not foresee how welcoming you into our garden would change my daily life. Before you came, I went grocery shopping; I ate. Now I cannot make a menu or walk past the market’s glistening shelves of plastic-wrapped cuts without thinking of you, thinking of your warm chicken-ness, thinking of your curious beak begging a treat, thinking of each feather quill on each of my fingers when I carry you inside your run at night. I’ve read about what your kin are subjected to in factory farms and wasn’t that the point of raising you here at home? To give you dignity, freedom, and chicken-joy?

We have had lots of joy: Glorious eggs, chicken chatter, scratching in the compost, and dust bathing among my flower beds. We’ve already had lots of tragedy. One of your number did not make it long after hatching. It was a case of failure to thrive and we had barely met. There were still so many downy little chicks to care for. We lost another a couple of weeks later. She was partially paralyzed and suffering severely. I admit I hastened her end. I had never before purposely taken the life of another animal, but she was in pain, I assuaged myself. Then not long ago, we lost Chocolate Chips to a hawk, our friendliest and most inquisitive of the flock. She was perfectly healthy and all that was happy in the sun and grass. This was the hardest of all and I still miss her every morning. This is life on the family farm. This is the cycle.

So, dear chickens, we are daily participating in that farm cycle that precious few families and livestock experience. Do we take the next step? Do we expand our flock with a heritage breeding program to rescue an endangered breed? If our family is to eat meat, do we do so from chickens that were hatched by chicken mommies instead of electric incubators and allowed to run in the grass and nap in the sun? How do families do this? Not technically (I’ve found that in books), but spiritually, emotionally? How do we explain it to a 3 year old? How do I pluck feathers that I saw moving with breath only minutes ago? How can I not when confronted with agribusiness?

Help. I need advice.

Love,

Mommy

Ps. Perhaps you can tell I’ve been reading Alice Walker’s “The Chicken Chronicles” by the letter format, but forgive me because it feel good to write to you, my dearest chickens.

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