What happens when you’ve recently acquired chickens and your birthday is on the horizon? You have made yourself an easy gift buy. What do you give the woman who has everything, including new chickens? Chicken stuff! So, happy birthday to me, and the start of many a chicken gift in the future.
First in a series of questions I never thought I’d be asking myself:
“Hmmm…there appears to be a hawk flying around my house…in the city,,,a pretty big one. Do hawks eat chickens?”
Sorry…no pics. Have since leaned that hawks will go after chickens, but chickens have hawk-instincts. If they have a place to hide, they’ll be okay.
But, jeez! A hawk! From it’s whitish underbelly, I’m guessing a red-tailed hawk.
Soon after getting the two new chickens, within a couple of days we had an egg. At least, if we were now caregivers for two semi-random chickens (well, we did pick out Comet), we would be getting eggs again.
Then it got cold, and snowy, and wet, and yucky. And chickens’ bodies are pretty clever. When they’re stressed, they don’t use up their body resources to make eggs. We weren’t (and still aren’t) convinced that they were both laying anyway and now our egg situation had declined from one every day or two to a big fat zero, zip, some would say l’oeuf, but that would be confusing.
Hey, Beaker…wanna lay any eggs? ‘Cus I don’t really want to lay any eggs. It’s too frikin’ cold to lay any eggs.
Look around. Do you see anyone else around here who wants to lay some eggs? Yeah. Me neither.
Screw the eggs. Let’s eat.
So, an egg drought. But times do change and one day sun shines again, snow melts, and, eventually, someone gets back to work. After an eggless week or so, I finally saw a new egg in the coop. I carefully reached in, pulled it out and…
…promptly dropped it on the grass.
Planning on cooking it up for the chickens–they mind eating dirt quite a bit less than I do–I cracked it the rest of the way into a bowl. Clean! Enough had remained in the shell to make a full scrambled egg. We’re back in action!
So, I guess the moral is: When life gives you scrambled eggs, um, make scrambled eggs. It’s not that deep of a moral.
The pause…and the run.
Well, the chickens have all been homed. We now have two rescued chickens from Chicago Chicken Rescue, our neighbors have original Buffy love chicken. We have turned 1 un-homed chicken in to 4 homed chickens. We, with our two random chickens. Neighbors with Buffy and a newly adopted rooster.
I’m in the middle of regaling my co-workers with the weekend’s chicken experiences. *Ding Ding* A text comes through. From Jeff: “Well, we’ve got a Chicken problem.” My heart skipped several beats. Me: “What now?”
Comet, the one I thought of as docile and maybe a bit enfeebled, had jumped the fence and took off down the street. Remember that rooster our neighbors had adopted? Well, he started a-cock-a-doodle-dooing. Sweet serenade to Comet’s ears, we suspect.
We live on an eccentric plot, with our house placed on a triangular space between two streets and an alley. It’s our own little urban island surrounded by concrete rivers.
Well, Comet apparently drew Jeff in a merry chase around the triangle twice, before she stopped teasing him and just jumped back into our backyard.
Now time for more yard work. That rooster’s not going to give up at tempting our fluffy hens.
Why did the chicken cross the road…again?
It was a nice, spring Sunday morning. We had just returned from Chicago Chicken Rescue with our new friend Comet. I was out in the back watching Buffy and Comet getting to know each other.
A teenage boy walked by the backyard then rang the front doorbell on the house.
“We think you have our chicken.”
And he meant Buffy, not the new chicken, so his claim held some weight. Apparently, grandma had left the backyard gate open a couple of weeks ago.
But, but, but…Buffy loves us. She comes running up to me out of love, not because I’m a giant food source. We’ve gotten her a cage! And a friend! (Other than me, because she mostly loves me in a true and genuine and not simple bird-brained sort of way.) Are you sure you want your chicken back? Can we buy your chicken from you? The chicken has been gone for over two weeks…you can’t possible care about Buffy like we do. He went to check with his dad.
Dad and son return minutes later. Apparently they live just across the alley and down the street from us. Yet they have not seen this chicken and realized it was theirs. We ask dad about buying the chicken from them and he seems to consider it, but then says, “The 11-year old brought the chicken home from school and when the chicken was missing, she cried.”
Okay, fine…I’m not keeping a chicken from it’s crying 11-year caregiver. She’s probably been holed up in her room, weeping into her pillow every night in a combination of loss and guilt for losing the only true friend she’s ever had. She needs her chicken back.
“Here, here, take the chicken.”
“No…you have given the chicken a good home. You have gotten a friend for the chicken. You keep the chicken.”
“No, no…I can’t keep the chicken from the girl.”
“Really, no, it’s okay; you keep the chicken.”
After a few more minutes of back and forth, it was decided that we would, in fact, keep Buffy. We gave the neighbors the information for Chicago Chicken Rescue in case they wanted to get a new chicken.
And, as one does, I went to a lecture about a woman who made miniature models of crime scenes used to help teach police officers forensic investigation techniques.
After a delightful afternoon of hearing the stories behind these tiny death dioramas, I returned home to continue trying to get Buffy and Comet to like each other.
I was outside for, maybe, 15 minutes when I saw them coming down the street. Three young people. An older teenage boy, an 11-year-old girl, and a younger 8- or 9-year old little brother.
And the girl had a chicken in her arms.
Indeed, they had taken the idea of Chicago Chicken Rescue to heart. They went and got two chickens. One for them to keep. One for them to trade for Buffy. There was no point in negotiating. Buffy was leaving. Crossing back across the alley to her previous home. I cried a little.
Oh…and remember that chicken that we had rejected earlier at Chicago Chicken Rescue? The one that seemed too aggressive? Yup. That’s Beaker. Beaker likes to peck. But I couldn’t bring myself to name her Pecker.
I’ve been keeping something from you
Those were the words: “I’ve been keeping something from you”. From my husband. This is a shockingly weird thing to hear from him. We’re pretty darned honest with each other. So, hearing something like this is a bit shaking. Only a couple of days after he got back from his work trip, it’s time for him to reveal some big secret to me. This has happened before with other partners, and generally it’s not a good thing.
It’s time to find a friend for Buffy! We’ve had her for a couple of weeks. We’ve created a home and gotten eggs and learned so much about chooks (Jeff really likes this British/Australian word for chickens, as do I…a name both cute and ungendered). Among so many things we’ve read and told, is the fact that chickens are social creatures who should have chicken friends.
Chicago Chicken Rescue is in Hyde Park, near University of Chicago on the south side of the city. Surrounded by apartment buildings and intermittent rows of single family homes in various states of repair. Being a University neighborhood, but also in a mixed economic area, Hyde Park is a combination of privilege and poverty. But even knowing that this is a historically eclectic area, I never expected a mini-farm in the middle of an otherwise unassuming block. Chickens may get top billing, but this place has chickens, a giant (GIANT) turkey, ducks, guinea fowl, peacocks, pigs, wedding doves, a pheasant. Although I didn’t see them, apparently this is or has also been home to goats, rabbits, geese, and more. Just about any domestic animal other than dogs and cats. They had coops, hutches, pens and a pond.
The helpful son (I’m guessing) of the animal keepers ran around the yard to find a couple of chickens that seemed like they would be a good match for Buffy. We were looking for a chicken that wasn’t too noisy, not afraid of people, not too aggressive, couldn’t jump too high (so they couldn’t jump over the fence), hopefully laid eggs. We were looking for Buffy Two. Two particular chickens were brought over–one a little worse for wear. Likely a Golden Comet chicken. A little older, a little more mellow. Then a larger, bolder Red Star chicken. Seemed peck-y, dominant, maybe a bit too much to match with Buffy.
So…home with Comet. Simple as that.
As of this point, I had read enough and learned enough about weather and chickens that I can let go and let Buffy sleep out overnight. She made it into our yard without knowledge or food or water. She survived long enough to find a little shelter, get along without specific food or water, though I don’t know how long she’d been chicken wandering. And now she has a coop, water, food, and we’re probably ready to pull her back in the house if it seems too cold.
And it was okay.
She quickly put herself away for the night and pretty much laid an egg a day for the next week or so.
The cats remained jealous that she got to be outside and she continued to want to come inside. But, as the chicken diapers hadn’t yet been delivered, I was comfortable letting her acclimate to the outdoors.
Buffy exploring the un-refurbished tiki bar (between seasons).
Our first new fresh house-laid egg. A second followed the next day. Time to get a taste of the product. Honestly, with butter, salt and pepper, I cannot say it’s any different from a grocery store egg. Darned good, but I can’t claim any magical house-grown egg flavor. Tried to do a semi-rigorous taste test, fully photographically documented. Just the fact that I was able to eat an egg that came out of that chicken is probably the most important bit…so weird…their bodies make that shell and there’s food inside and it comes out of the same hole as their poop, called the ‘vent’. The place the egg comes from (the cloaca) is actually physically separate from where the solid waste comes from (the intestines), but still, weird.
Really becoming part of the family.
And where where were we? Oh, yeah…me growing more and more attached to Ms Buffy. (I can now call her that, as, with the whole egg-laying thing, I know she’s female. I also have since found out that Buffy is an incredibly common name for Buff Orpingtons. Shocking, I know). By this time, Jeff is back from his travels and the coop has been built in the backyard (really simple construction, looks good), and it’s time to let her sleep outside.
In the meantime, I have ordered her some chicken diapers. Yup. So she can have the freedom to strut around inside the house and poop as she pleases. Hawaiian print, chevron, and polka dot are on their way. Sure, she’s not going to be an inside chicken, but she might want to visit occasionally.
Ready to let her out for her first night in the dark, in the coop, in the cold, by herself, for hours and hours. No kitchen warmth. No gentle petting. Just the icey blackness with but a layer of pine shavings (and a brand new wooden coop) to comfort her as she faces the infinite.
Nope. Nope. Nope. It’s too cold, it’s too dark. Back in the house with you, our mighty found foul. Clearly you couldn’t handle such stressors. This is not being projected by us at all. One more night as a house chicken.
So this is what it means to be a spring chicken in April in Chicago.