Monday, March 24, 2014

...but us chickens

The fact that I picked this painting as my favorite at the Marmottan Museum last time I was there...


...and that just this year I picked up this card from Monsieur Louis in Roskoff, Brittany for myself...


-- this should tell you something.

There are aspects of farmette life that are just so appealing to me!

But, the above images notwithstanding, having chickens wasn't always part of the game plan. In part, I had a huge disrespect for chickens when I was younger. My grandparents' village home in Poland was next to a neighbor who raised chickens. The birds destroyed the meadow in front of both our houses. They dug holes in dirt. They were noisy and messy and when we ran barefoot in the meadow, inevitably we'd land in their droppings. Ugh.

Still, our neighbor had dozens of chickens. A small, controlled chicken raising project wouldn't pose those problems.

But as we learned from the chicken expert during a lecture we attended last month, raising chickens brings forth other issues. Predator issues, for example. We have racoons the size of walruses here. We have opossums. We have foxes, we have owls, in other words -- we live among wildlife that would regard a chicken hunt as a very nice way to pass the night. Waking up to dead chickens seems pretty depressing.

And, Ed has been adamant: if I am to keep on traveling, the burden of tending chickens would fall on him. He doesn't want the responsibility.

On the other hand, when an add appeared in Craigslist, one in which a delightful high schooler (call her Chicken Girl) was searching for a place to keep her chickens (because they lived in a community that allowed only four and no roosters and here she was, with seven hens and a rooster, so something had to give), we thought we'd step up, becoming, in effect, foster parents to her chickens.

So on this cold but bright day...


...after breakfast...


...we welcome Chicken Girl and her mom and they begin to build a coop to house the chickens in need of a home. That's the deal: they supply the coop and the chickens and the feed. They clean the place every now and then. We coddle the chickens and let them out to roam when we're around and we collect the eggs.

(chicken coop builders)

(the coop)

We still are a bit anxious about predators. Is the coop sturdy enough? Shouldn't we build additional protections? We're foster chicken parents, worrying about our four new (each less than a year old) chicks.

Chicken Girl's mom comes back late in the evening and with Ed's help, rigs a temporary solution -- a board and straps so that no raccoon can dig from underneath.


She also brings the first pair for us: Oreo the rooster and Lexie the white hen. (Whitney and Butterscotch will arrive tomorrow. Foster chicks, of course, come with names.)


It's nippy outside. She dumps sawdust for them to nest in and she fills their dish with food, oyster shells and she sprinkles mealy worms to entice them inside. Oreo, big man that he is, appears traumatized. Lexie feels more at home and goes right for the mealy worms.
She'll eat them all before he comes down!  -- Chicken Girl's mom tells us.

It's late. The night is cold. We've got chickens in the backyard.