This post is about chickens. Our chickens. The Chickie Ladies, as we call them. Imagine, instead of “Single Ladies,” Beyonce singing, “All the Chickie Ladies, all the Chickie Ladies…” and then where she says, “Oh, oh, ohhh, oh-oh, oh, ohoh, oh, o-oh-oh oh,” insert, “Bouck, bouck, bouuuuck, bouck-bouck, bouck, bouckbouck, bouck b-bouck-bouck buk.” You’re welcome.
We’re one legit step closer to homesteading. This spring, we made the leap from store/farmer’s market-bought eggs to having our own dang chickens!!!! There is nothing finer, nothing I tell you, than holding a warm, fresh egg from a chicken you know. This former NYC girl is beside herself.
Our very chill new neighbors (who rent from the same landlords) asked us if we’d like to go in on a chicken coop and chickens, and of course we jumped at the opportunity. I didn’t think our landlords would say yes, having been struck down a few years ago in the same department when I asked if I could convert the battered shed in our yard into a chicken coop. They said no then, their intention to fix the shed …but, that, ah, never happened. We got clearance to use our (unused) large outdoor dog cage to house chickens instead. Over a few evenings we pieced together a coop using old scrap wood, pieces of torn apart pallets, and some chicken wire.
Concurrently, W and I browsed craigslist like (chicken)hawks and chicken swaps for some hens. Lots of people sell chickens on Craigslist, but we were being picky. We found our first Chickie Lady, to the right, at a swap in Toano – for $13. Colleen is a broody black and white hen (she’s a Dominique). She loves to say in a low chortle, “Buuuuuuuuck, buck, buguuuuuuck” and keeps everyone else in line.
K, our neighbor, found a woman at VIMS who was getting rid of pullets her granddaughter was not taking good care of, so we went out to her farm and picked up 4. The woman had reserved 3 for us but indicated that another, who was deformed, was going to perish. Instead, we convinced her we could take it and give it a dignified life…now “Leggy” as we call her (this is why), is a spunky member of our flock, has the sweetest personality and comes limping over enthusiastically to wiggle under our feet and get pets. She appears to be a Dominique as well. The other three pullets were all white with a few black feathers, but have since developed brown on the outlines of their breast feathers. I have no idea what type of chicken they are – thoughts? They stick together like nobody’s business, these three stooges, are super curious, to the point of taking on Ima (one of our labs) through the cage mesh, and come running like little friendly Compys from Jurassic Park to greet me when I walk out the front door with veggie scraps, “Heeeeey, Ladies!”
We rounded out the bunch with three hens from a swap in Gloucester – literally, the last three hens left for sale in Gloucester who weren’t either 1) stuck inhumanely in a cage with 100 other chickens, pecking each other to bits or 2) paired with a rooster. We don’t need no stinkin’ rooster. We saw them all in a cage together and asked the lady standing with them about them. She said her son was really the chicken person on the farm, and he’d be right back and could tell us more. I’m imagining an early-20’s fellow, her son, who helps around the farm. Up strides an 8-year-old who proceeds to expound matter-of-factly and in great detail about them – which one likes to try flying, how to catch them as the sun goes down, and what size of egg to expect. He was adorable. We kept his names, Bootsy (all white), Summer (brown and white) and Maple (brown). Maple is a skittish girl (although that 8-year-old deftly caught her without so much as a squawk or a lost feather), and is the only Chickie Ladie that I can’t catch. Her elusive ways are funny to watch. Bootsy and Summer are kinda dumb.
We get between 2-4 eggs a day, which will ramp up when the pullets mature. We split the eggs, feed costs, and upkeep of the cage with our neighbors. All 8 Chickie Ladies head into the coop in the evening and one of us manages to remember to we lock ’em up by dark and then let them out in the morning. It’s a rad set up and WV is totally fascinated with their antics. We have a little game where I make them jump for berries – it makes him laugh! I’m want him to understand from a very young age how to care for animals, how special it is to know where our food comes from. He certainly loves to eat their eggs!