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!

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