Sunday, January 18, 2015

Chickens, chickens, chickens

I have chickens on the brain.  Last year we started the process of building a chicken coop in hopes that by late spring we could get some chicks.  Well, life got in the way again and we didn't finish that project in time. I know we could've gotten chickens at just about anytime but we did not want to overwinter our birds so we kept on getting ready for next year. Well, here it is 2015 and I can't stop thinking about chickens. I'm reading everything I can get my hands on. 
I love Mother Earth News articles on chickens.  I've bought the "Chickens" magazine at the farm store and asking local folks what they are raising. I have lots of ideas on what I want so now comes the research of where to get them. I feel like a chicken geek. But I love learning new things so this is right up my alley. 
As kids, my brother raised chickens and sold the eggs for his 4-H project for several summers. The day the chicks arrived was always full of excitement. There is nothing cuter than a baby chick. Plus it was the signal that spring had sprung as there was new life abounding everywhere you turned. Daffodils, trees, and grass emerging from their winter sleep. It's all so beautiful. My mother says the most we had at one time were 200 laying hens, and the crazy thing is we lived in a small town (approx. 200 people, tiny I know). Obviously this was before HOA's, because we always had at least one rooster.  
I remember that it wasn't always fun and games with the chickens.  Some were mean and those were the hens not just the roosters. Gathering the eggs was enjoyable when we had smaller flocks. Unless there was a snake in the nesting box. Ooooooooooo!!!!  And my poor father had the job of protecting the chickens from the nighttime predators. There was always a loss of a few birds every year. If my memory is correct it seems my mother did most of the work. Gathering the eggs most days, washing them, and weighing them and sorting them. The eggs were sold and were worthy of sale because of all the extra effort she out into it. 
Plus each late summer we had a large day of butchering the hens and then we had mountains for fresh chicken. There is nothing in the world like the taste of home raised chickens. While they weren't pastured because we lived in town, I'm sure they were better for us than what we could buy. 
My mom used EVERYTHING the chicken had to offer. Absolutely nothing went to waste. She even saved a special portion of fat on the chicken that was this beautiful deep yellow color and kept it in a tall Tupperware container in the freezer. Mom used some of that fat when she made homemade noodles, sugar cookies, and pies. I'll have to talk to her some more about that and get better details so I can write it down so I can do the same thing.  
One thing I learned about my Mom back then was that she was one tough bird ( lol, pun intended). This woman could kill a chicken in numerous ways and did not need a man to do it for her. Let's just say that when you are a pre-teen and you see your mother step on a chicken and pull its head off that you suddenly understand that you should not mess with this woman. ( I say this in the utmost respect). My mom was/is tough. 
At then end of the butchering day she would fry up the biggest plate of chicken you've ever seen. Everyone else loved this, I on the other hand would have had my fill of the smell of chickens and would eat the vegetables while my older brothers made fun of me. 
Going down memory lane is sure fun and reminds me that chickens are a lot of work. They are not for the faint of heart. They need a lot of care, and sometimes have to be put down or die on their own.  However I'm looking forward to all of the wonderful things the chickens will bring to our family.  
Beautiful healthy eggs, cleaning up pests from our pasture, providing some manure for the garden, and some nutritious meat for our freezer. 
Bring on the chickens.