Friday, July 29, 2011

Farm Friday

Hope you've all recovered from last week's Farm Friday post. Now sit up. Wipe that little bit of drool off your chin.

This week's FF isn't so juicy. Not juicy at all in fact. All it is is a bit of a chuckle for you. A chuckle about chickens.

A chicken chuckle.

A chickle?

Anway, I have no idea where I found this years ago, but I've dug it up from my archives and dusted it off and I present it here to you for your reading enjoyment. And to whomever I stole this from, my heartfelt apologies. I beg your forgiveness.

Chickens 101: How NOT to Raise Chickens

Chick: A hatchling

Pullet: A female chicken under one year old.

Hen: A female chicken over one year of age.

Rooster: A male chicken over one year of age.

The longing for fresh eggs from your own happy free-range chickens can
lead down the path of temptation. Be cautious. Your dreams may become
scrambled. Raising chickens for the first time is a humbling experience.
When I first called my local feed shop, I was trying to sound like a
pro. I asked, "Do you sell pullets?" "Yes", the man replied. "Are they
all females," I added. It's been an uphill battle ever since.

Pullet parenthood is as much of an adventure as child rearing, only with
more feces per pound of body weight. However, I've been reading quite a
bit on poultry matters. (Yes, my coolness just turned over in its
grave.) So if I am correct and I am quite certain I am not, here is how
chicken rearin' goes.

Go to your local feed store and purchase $10 worth of chicks and $50
worth of food and supplies. Don't forget the water dispensers. Buying
the metal ones, never plastic is always advised. Must be country humor.
I have yet to see a metal water dispenser.

Next, place the chicks somewhere sheltered, like a bedroom closet. Toss
in some highly flammable straw or wood shavings and promptly dangle a
glowing heat lamp just above them. Note to self: Update homeowner's

For the next several weeks feed them 3 lbs of food per day and remove 4
lbs of manure per day from the closet. Despite all logic the birds get
bigger. As the adult feathers grow in be sure to clip one of their
wings. That is one per bird, not just one wing total. If clipping is
done late chicks will nest in your toilet. This is a bad thing.

Clipping can be accomplished by tossing your scissors and yourself into
the heaping mound of chicks, feces and straw. Grab a wiggling screeching
bird from the bile pile. Restrain it with one hand. Stretch the wing out
with your second hand. Clip off 50% of the wings outer ten feathers with
your third hand.

As the birds grow adjust the heat light temperature down by one degree
per day. No, this is not actually possible. That's not my point. You
start at 100 degrees for hatch lings then continue down by one degree
per day until your bedroom is a minimum of three degrees cooler than the
spring blizzard outside your window.

Once you have frozen your ear to your semi-cannibalistic down pillow and
the chicks have grown their adult feathers, they can be moved outside to
the coop. I estimate the initial closet rearing stage to have taken five

Before the move, experience the Joy of Wing Clipping one more time.
Feather clipping never works the first time. No one knows why. Still,
after all the hassle you probably don't want them to fly the coop in
under sixty seconds. Of course, if you're like me, by this time you may
be inclined to pack them each a lunch and leave a stack of Greyhound
tickets by the open coop gate.

Regarding habitat construction: Hen houses and chicken coops are a
competitive art form. Pampering pet birds can be a passion. There are a
myriad of websites showing off architectural designs from Chicken
Chateaus to Bird Bordellos. The meticulous craftsmanship makes my own
home look like, well, like a chicken coop.

Always fashionable, I went with a shabby chic motif for my coop. The
nesting boxes are an eclectic mix of stolen milk crates affixed to the
wall by anything in arms reach. As for the coop itself, there is a gift
for tight chicken wire which eludes me. Quite frankly, my first attempt
at a coop looks like Dr. Seuss dropped a hit of acid, blasted some
Jefferson Starship and rolled around on the wire with every Who in
Whoville. I think I'll keep it.

Inferior design aside, I ultimately learned a thing or two. The nesting
boxes are supposed to be up off the ground. That is correct. For those
of you keeping score you just spent two weeks cutting back the birds
flight feathers only to hang their houses in the sky. It's just sick.

Higher than the nest boxes, you are to build a roost. This is where the
birds poop at night so they do not poop on your breakfast eggs. Of
course, the roost is usually OVER the nesting boxes, so whatever you do,
don't use those perforated (stolen) plastic milk crates.

They say for young birds you should maintain a heat light in the hen
house. Then on cooler nights an animal with a brain the size of a
bulimic toe nail clipping will make the conscious decision to forgo your
nest boxes, bypass the instinctual roost and leap into a tanning bed.

And finally there is the feed regime. I asked several experts and read
up on feeding as well. Make sure to give your chickens starter formula,
mash, growth formula, start & grow, brood formula, grit, no grit,
scraps, no scraps, goat placenta, nothing suggested on the internet,
tetramyaicn, no antibiotics, medicated starter, non-medicated starter
and never, ever switch in-between.

I may not be Queen of the Coop yet, but I'm working on it. Though I am a
zoologist and I still know Birds 101. You do not need a rooster to get eggs. Most folk,
especially those who have never kept chickens, will advise you all about
chickens. Each will insist you need one rooster to do his manly duties.

Roosters are only needed to make fertile eggs. Hens are all that is
needed to make breakfast eggs. Fertile eggs are just peachy if raising
chicks was such a joy the first time you want to repeat the whole
freakin' process. Years of therapy will follow.

To keep it straight in your mind consider this: You are going about your
life. Suddenly massive balls of calcium start stacking up inside your
abdomen. They want out. Are you going to hold on to them just because
you have not had a date lately?

Yes, I realize my eggs are not all in one
basket. Delusional, close-minded people who insist you need a rooster to
fertilize your eggs drove me crazy! So did my chickens. And I love every one of the little buggers.

I can attest,
It is all as crazy as the writer suggests.

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Lori said...

I have a friend who also lives in PA and also has a "farmette" much like yours. I LOVE your stories and always look forward to Farm Friday (especially last week...*happy sigh*). She has shown up at my house with dogs, guineas,chicks, ducks, rabbits, and goats in her car (not all at the same time!). I'm sure the animals add much chaos to your life, but also a great bit of balance. Thanks for writing and sharing your life.

farmbeachgal said...

Thanks Lori. Those critters of mine do certainly make life

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