Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Chicken math can easily equal hoarding

Last year we hosted a conference on hoarding. Half of the conference was on animal hoarding. In jest, a friend asked if I hoarded chickens. I told her no, as long as we have less than 15, I've decided we're good. Not sure why I picked that as the magical number, but it seemed to fit.

Now if this is your first time to read my posts, let me catch you up to date on where and how I have now exceeded that number, but not sure for how long.

Back in March 2012, during spring break, my dad decided to buy some chickens. He wanted 5 for the Cadillac of coops he had built from scratch. We were along for the trip to the chicken farm and ended up with 3 laying chickens and 2 babies, one for me, my daughters, and my 2 nieces. Later in the week, I was contacted by a neighbor who was selling some of her chicks. We went to have a look and I ended up with 4 more, one for each girl, so for a long time we had 9, until Annabel's decided to do a swan dive and fell to her death. (Really not sure what happened to her, but that is a better story.) So then we were down to 8, perfectly manageable and giving us enough eggs that we could eat a dozen and sell a dozen each week.

Then I read a Facebook post where this poultry farm was selling their hatching eggs. This is how dumb I was, and did not understand that I would actually be receiving eggs that I would have to hatch, so after borrowing a friend's incubator, we set up the 21 day vigil for the 12 eggs to hatch. The only trouble is, only 1 did, which is not good, as you can't introduce one baby chicken to an established flock, so we had to buy 2 more to have as friends.

So if you are doing the math, we are back up to 11. Up until this point, all the chickens have had names and things were going pretty well, until I had a chicken go broody on me and I guess in some ways, greed, not sure greed is the right word, but I keep hoping that the chickens will supply enough income to help offset their costs and finally put a little cash in our pockets for our trip to China next summer. So with my broody hen posted on Facebook, a friend offered me 6 fertile eggs to see if she would hatch them. Sure enough, 21 days later, 4 little heads began peeking out from under her feathers. How we went from 4 down to 1 is somewhat of a mystery as it was just at the time of the hoarding conference, which meant longer hours at work, summer had started and there were plenty of distractions. I know one was not quite formed correctly and 1 disappeared completely and the last just croaked, I guess.

Anyway, the lone survivor stuck close to Pollo, the "adoptive" (or would it be surrogate?) mom and learned the ins and outs and joined the flock without much problem. Daylight hours and eggs production increased dramatically and we were selling 3-4 dozen a week, with our flock of 12, still within my limits of hoarding. This is the first one not to really have a name. When the other 3 from that group died, after being given names, I think it was just too much and no one wanted to risk having something with a name die.

Then just the other day, my niece tagged me in a post on Facebook of a friend of hers, desperate to move her flock of 6, as she had moved and they could no longer live where they were. In spite of Annabel's reluctance, we now have a flock of 18, 3 over the hoarding limit!

The first few nights we tried to wrangle them and put them in a borrowed coop for their own sake, rather than let them sit on the chain link fence all night. I grew tired of that craziness after the first night, so we wished them the best and left them out all night, perched precariously between Mom and Dad's house and ours. Now Annabel is convinced that she can train these chickens and pretty quickly had 4 of them now finding a roosting place in our coop each night so we don't have to worry about them.

That leaves 2, of the scrawniest chickens you have ever seen, refusing to give up their freedom and still intent on doing their own thing. These 2 don't even huddle together, they sit across from each other at the joint of the side and the back fence each night, daring me or anyone or anything else to try something. That hasn't been a problem until hearing the weather forecast for tonight, with lows in the 20's. I did what the experts suggest last night, I snuck up on them after they were asleep, planning to pick them up and move them into the coop. Those stupid chickens were awake immediately, squawking and carrying on like I had an ax with me.

This morning when I let the others out, I noticed those 2 coming closer than they ever have, so I left the gate open for them to free range, hoping those 2 will join with the rest of the flock at dusk and march into the coop like good bird.

The kicker to this story - we have not had an egg, with 18 chickens, in a week!Someone suggested it might be time for a chicken dinner. Yow! I can't even imagine that. I just hope their brains start working and they realize it's time to give up and join the flock!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

One reason I do what I do

Our schedule continues to get more complicated. Two afternoons a week, Grace has to stay late for club meetings. It seems like the opposite afternoons, Annabel has to stay late for basketball. It gets especially complicated when one has to stay later than the school's required pick up time, meaning, if your kid is not picked up, they are put into the after school program and you have to pay a fee when you pick them up. So I go to the school before the mandatory pick up time and we wait patiently in the car until the other is ready to go. From the time I leave until we get back home can run from 2 - 3 hours that way. The other choice is to bring one home, then turn around and go back for the other. It probably ends up being about the same amount of time in the car, but the whole time is spent driving.

Recently when I was telling someone about this their comment was that was too much to ask. And it probably is. The high school I went to is less than a mile away. If they chose any of the other schools within our ISD system, they could even take a bus. But there is a big difference in their school than any in the neighborhood and yesterday I had a chance to witness it firsthand.

In our school district, you move to middle school when you are in 6th grade. 5th grade had been pretty miserable with both girls being bullied on a regular basis just because of their ethnicity. There were so many tears and it was so difficult for them. When we were faced with making a choice for 6th grade, I knew we had to do something different and a dear friend suggested I look for an International Baccalaureate schools. One school stood out due to its racial diversity. I know we were meant to be there because out of 2000 applicants, they could only accept 200 and we got in on our first try.

Each year this school celebrates the more than 52 countries represented by the student body with a whole week of festivities. The week kicks off with a World Walk. The students are encouraged to wear an outfit showcasing their heritage, and then they form a parade for the rest of the students and guests. This was the first year that both daughters decided to participate.

When I got to the school yesterday morning, the wind was quite gusty, there were intermittent showers, and it felt really cold. I had volunteered to help and was assigned to be a country escort. Pretty soon the students came pouring out of the building, stopping to pick up a flag and a sign for their countries. From there they lined up in alphabetical order, ready for the parade to start.

Each child stepped forth, proudly declaring their country's name, honored to be wearing the clothes of their homeland, when for so many, they have lost so much by leaving their war torn, divisive countries in hopes of finding a better life here. I watched as Egypt, lined up with Syria, who lined up with Afghanistan, then Pakistan, and then Iran and Iraq. Then Kenya, Eritrea, Cuba, Ghana, Bangladesh. Viet Nam, South Korea, India, Taiwan, Brazil, and Colombia. The list goes on and on, but what was consistent was the pride in their country, to be at a school that values and honors their heritage.



To say it was moving doesn't do the emotions I felt justice, as I still feel emotional just writing about it.

The band played, the choir sang, and then the procession began with a senior dressed as the Statue of Liberty leading the group. As we made our way along the route, the students and guests, waved and cheered when they saw their country.

And right in the middle of it, were my two daughters, proudly wearing their new outfits showing their Chinese heritage. Yea, 3 hours can be a lot but a lifetime of memories is worth it!