Seriously. I knew I would like having chickens–I mean, who doesn’t love fresh eggs–but I never expected to actually like the chickens as individuals. I loved watching them in the yard (back when we could actually see the yard before the winter-that-aims-to-bury-us showed up). I love feeding them and talking to them. They all have surprisingly different personalities and I love them all.
Did I mention that we lost two chickens on Christmas? Of course I didn’t because I didn’t talk to you at all during December. Well Christmas day we went to visit family and asked a neighbor to close up the coop when it got dark. He told us peeked into the darkness, thought he saw about four of them, closed up the coop and left. It’s hard to count them at night, they tend to roost all smooshed up together so I didn’t think anything of it and waited until the next morning to check on them. Long story short: feathers everywhere, two chickens gone, four chickens left terrified and a visit to the yard a week or so later by a big coyote who we assume was the culprit who ate the missing ladies.
We had planned on not naming the chickens because we expected that something like this would happen, except that I actually did name one by accident. When I picked up the chicks at 12-weeks old, a man led me to a giant cage filled with about 100 chicks and told me to choose the ones I wanted. I tried to be selective, but really I only took home the ones I could catch, plus one little white one who walked right up to me in the cage and stood there cocking her head at me. As the chicks grew older, I realized that in the chick grab bag, I managed to get five Ameraucanas and one Faverole. The little white one was the Faverole and my nephews named her Peep. Peep was, of course my favorite, because she was so different and so bold. She acted like the rooster of the flock, always in the lead, warning the others of danger, and I think that’s probably what caused her to be taken by the coyote on Christmas.
Poor Peep, I really miss her. The other four chickens that were left really missed her, too, because they suddenly had no leader and didn’t know what to do. They wouldn’t leave the coop, they were terrified and they weren’t eating. I mentioned to a friend that I was looking for a couple of older hens to adopt so the four scaredy-chickens would have authority figures again and she hooked me up with a friend who kindly donated two Barred Rocks, which are the gorgeous black and white speckled chickens I’ve always wanted. He said that one was about two years old and the other was just over one year. They weren’t in the bast situation when I got them and the older of the two looked a bit dehydrated and old, we call her “the older one” and sometimes “granny”. The younger one, who we call “the younger one” (clever, right?) immediately took to being the leader of the new flock and the four youngsters (who we call “the orange ones,” “the scaredy one,” and “the other dark-headed one” – maybe it would be easier if I just named them) took it all in stride. After just a couple of days together, the six of them were happily scratching around the pen and finally stopped jumping with fright when I walked into the coop.
We still weren’t getting any eggs from them but I had resigned myself to wait until March when the weather was warmer and the days were longer. And then one morning I opened the coop and – SURPRISE! A beautiful, brown egg sitting in the center of the coop, frozen solid. The dummy. There are two lovely next boxes available, but she chose to lay in the center of the floor. I found one more egg on the floor and one outside in the pen before I decided on some modifications to the nesting area. Now we’ve been getting about two eggs every other day in the nest box. Hooray! I don’t have to threaten them with the turkey frier anymore.
Now you’re probably wondering how I could possibly babble on for 700+ words about chickens, but let me just share one more thing. As I mentioned, our original four chickens are all Ameraucanas and the two new ladies are Barred Rocks. Barred Rocks lay big, brown eggs like you’d see in the grocery store, but the Ameraucanas are called “Easter Egg Chickens” because they lay blue and green eggs. The first two (frozen) eggs I found in the coop were brown so I knew that it was one of the two new ladies, but the one I found in the pen was green and I did a little dance of joy when I found it because it means that the original four are laying! Now we’re getting one brown and one green egg about every other day. How cool is that?