Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The chickens are coming

Yesterday was the most beautiful weather we have had at the farm so far.

When we got up to make some coffee, the sun was shining on the world. A rainbow glistened above the western hills. Then, as we drank the coffee, the sky clouded over and dark, dark rain descended upon us. But, by the time that coffee was drunk, the sun returned and spring arrived.

Yesterday was the day that the world woke up. It was finally warm enough to open up all the windows and doors to get some air in the house. I also cleaned the oven. It self cleans, so it was pretty stinky which is why I do it on a warm day with all the windows open.

As the stink chased us out of the house into the sunshine we pottered about the farm. We pulled up some brambles that were trying to conquer the front lawn. We examined the buds on the fruit trees that G'pa planted in February. The weather was so warm that you could swear that you could see the buds opening in front of your eyes. We tidied up here and there.

It was a day's worth of good weather that is directly responsible for what we did next.

We ordered chickens.

We ordered 50 Red Sussex Cross unsexed chickens from a local farm feed shop to be precise. This is a duel purpose bird which is good for laying eggs and for meat. They don't fatten up as quickly as your regular meat chickens which is good because those chickens tend to have a rather unhappy life with high rates of heart attacks and what with a tendency to grow so fast that their legs cannot keep up and support their weight. Not all meat breads are like this, but I'm not going to risk it because if I'm going to raise and eat an animal, I want to know that it had a good and healthy life with as little discomfort as possible and with an environment that fulfills it's essential nature. Think Michal Pollan's book the Omnivore's Dilemma. One point Pollan makes is that if you are going to choose to eat meat, and it is an active choice in this day and age, you should be aware of the standard of life of the animal you wish to consume. That's what I want to do.

We are going to build what are called chicken tractors. They are a long cage about 8 foot by 4 foot and 2 to 4 foot high with a shelter up one end and the rest of the cage with wire mesh which are more for protecting the chickens from the many predators than it is to keep the chickens in. There are a lot of hawks, eagles, vultures, mink, cougars, wild dogs, raccoons, feral cats, cougars, and other wild things that like to eat chickens around here. If I am going to be responsible for the life of a chicken, I don't want to allow it to die a slow and painful death when I can prevent this. However, I also want to give the chicken an opportunity to live according to it's chicken nature. The qua that makes chicken, chicken.

In each tractor will go about 8 or 10 chickens. It could easily fit 16 chickens according to the common practice of 1 chicken for ever 2 square foot of space, but to keep them so densely populated would put unnecessary stress on the poor birds and increase the risk of illness. These tractors are small like this because they are mobile. Instead of housing the chickens in a coup and giving them a run which tends to destroy every non-chicken living thin in that exercise yard in just a few weeks; these chickens will be moved to a fresh spot each day so that they have access to fresh grass and bugs. Chickens eating the bugs will be an essential part of our relationship because we won't be using pesticides on anything. And since chickens like eating bugs, we just put them where the bugs need eating. It's a good relationship.

The chickens are unsexed which means we will probably get a mix of girls and boys. They arrive at our home as only day old chicks which means they should be extreemly cute. After a few days we should be able to tell the girls from the boys. The girls and one rooster will live in chicken tractors with a special hut for laying eggs and the batchelors will live in the regular tractors. Or at least this is the plan so far.

The chicks should be here around Easter which is just perfect.

The only thing is, this morning it's raining so hard that I feel that I should start building a boat and gathering up two of every animal. Was it really such a wonderful spring day yesterday? Am I insane for ordering chickens? I know that Dad and G'pa have raised them before, but I have almost no idea what I've gotten myself into. To be responsible for fifty little lives... wow... that's a daunting thought.


Sarah said...

I am SO excited for you! And a mite bit jealous. I would love to have chickens some day... and I'm trying to decide if that day should be soon. :)
May I please come play with your chickens, lots, this summer? And will you put me down for a dozen eggs/week once they start producing in a few months? You will have no problem selling your happy chicken eggs!

Josiane said...

Oh, the memories that this post bring back! When I was a kid, we used to raise chickens for the meat, and hens for the eggs. It was fun.
Your chicken tractors sound like an interesting system. I'll be curious to see pictures when you get them.

Jen said...

I love that you're getting chickens! It sounds like life at your new house is wonderful!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
趙又廷Mark said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.