It has been a weekend of birds for Ms. Jeannie. While others may have been grilling or swimming or relaxing in a hammock , Ms. Jeannie was chicken sitting. Well actually, Ms. Jeannie managed to swim and grill and relax in a hammock too, as it turns out there really isn’t that much to chicken sitting, but responsibility is a responsibility so tethered to the feather she was. This was her flock of 18…
There were 16 hens and two roosters.
There is not really too much to watching chickens other than to make sure they have food and water every day and to collect their eggs. This group is temporarily housed in a vintage cow trailer that has been outfitted with chicken wire and nesting boxes.
It has a lot of different levels in it so that the chickens can scamper about, look out the windows and catch the afternoon bugs. It sort of reminded Ms. Jeannie of those hippie buses from the ’70’s, with people poking in and out in all directions.
This housing arrangement is only temporary, as soon, the chickens will be grass-side and able to forage on their own. In the meantime though, they remained caged in. Ms. Jeannie’s friend had a dog named Tex who was a little too enthusiastic about having chickens around the farm. He wanted to herd them, he wanted to protect them, he wanted to eat them. As you can imagine, this was all most unsettling for the chickens.
Miraculously, like a cowboy drifter, Tex, moved on. To a new farm where he knew was needed to hered large animal livestock, many miles away from the chickens that tormented him.
It was the talk of the chicken coop all weekend, with much nodding and bobbing for emphasis! The other big bit of gossip was the state of Flossie’s hairdo (or comb as it is officially called). Take a look…
Ms. Jeannie thought this might be some sort of defect in the chicken as she’s the only one of the gang that’s floppy headed. But actually, it is quite normal in female chickens. Some combs stick straight in the air, some flop over, it is just the way it is. Ms. Jeannie learned that there are actually eight different types of combs, all varying in shape and size. Who knew?!
Incidently, Rooster #1 has a pea comb.
Another thing Ms. Jeannie didn’t realize about chickens, was how beautifully human-like their eyes are. Rooster #2 even looks like he has eye lashes…
Chickens eye color, like people, come in all shades from green to blue to gray to brown, yellow and even red (not so humanlike). They can also actually see more colors than people can, due to highly sophisticated retinas that allow them to see all colors at once from all parts of their eye.
Domesticated about 8,000 years ago from the wild Red Junglefowl, a breed that can still be found in Southeastern Asia, chickens now number 24 billion in population today. To Ms. Jeannie the male J looks a lot like an old english chicken. The female Junglefowls look very pre-historic, almost like buzzards.
Ms. Jeannie did great with her brood on Days 1 and 2. She brought them kitchen scraps from the previous nights dinner preparation, which they seemed to like. Lettuce leaves, mango stones, banana peels, blackberries, garlic paper all seemed to be a big hit. On Day 1 she collected 13 eggs in a variety of shades from light brown to dark brown to white. On day 2, she collected 10 eggs. But on day 3, just as she went to fill her basket, one of the roosters (#2) attacked her.
Not quite sure what do about that, Ms. Jeannie left the bus and went home to research the situation. It seems that the rooster had mistaken Ms. Jeannie’s rubber boots for another rooster and was trying to show those boots just who exactly was boss.
These are Ms. Jeannie’s boots. They don’t look very chicken-like to her! But saddled with this new information, Ms. Jeannie went back to the chickie bus and plied that silly rooster with more blackberries which seemed to keep him happy while she collected the rest of the eggs in peace.
In the next few days, the chickens will move out to the grass. Ms. Jeannie’s friend is thinking about building a permanent chicken house before the winter sets in. That way, the chickens will stay nice and warm in the cool weather.
As it turns out you can pretty much design a chicken house anyway you like from grand to provincial. Tori Spelling’s coop is an elaborate affair…
While maryesggs is wonderfully cozy…
Ms. Jeannie has often entertained the idea of having a couple of chickens of her own. And now that she has a little experience under her boot buckle, she just might go ahead and take the plunge. One of the great things about watching the chickens over the weekend was that she got to keep all the eggs. Nothing taste better than a farm fresh egg!
Ms. Jeannie is currently reading a wonderful book called Tessie and Pearlie: A Granddaughter’s Story. It’s a memoir about the lives of author Joy Horowitz’ two grandmothers, Tessie and Pearlie, who were at publication time, both in their 90’s.
Tessie’s husband, Izzy Horowitz was an egg candler in Brooklyn in the 1920’s. Brooklyn and farm fresh eggs are two things you’d never think would go together. But alas, here there are in history! It was Izzy’s job to inspect the eggs by candlelight and discard any that were bloodshot. This is a picture of an electric egg candler from the 1930’s. Clearly a more sophisticated machine then an ordinary candle!
We have Christopher Columbus to thank for bringing chickens to the New World in the 15th century. At that time, chickens were more prized for their eggs then their meat.
Gaining mass popularity in the early 1800s as a valuable farm crop commodity, chickens were raised in larger and larger numbers on family farms for both their egg and their meat attributes. Following World War II, commercial egg production soared due to significant advances in breeding, feeding and housing chickens.
After seeing a disturbing documentary on PBS about modern-day chicken houses, Ms. Jeannie opposes the inhumane treatment of chickens in today’s commercial poultry industry. So she only buys organic, free range, humanely treated chickens and eggs. The eggs taste much better and the yolks are always a vibrant orange-yellow, instead of a pale butter color. Ms. Jeannie thinks it is because they are “sunnier” chickens – happy to be eating a natural diet and running around in a natural environment. Why not encourage as much happiness as you can!
4 thoughts on “The Weekend of Birds”
Miss Jeannie, Thank you for the great chicken tale, I have been thinking about keeping a few chooks myself but as I’m hoping to move house Ithink I’ll wait just now. I was told by someone who has had chickens for many years that sometimes they just up and die for no real reason – Isn’t that weird? But your friends brood look so at home and contented. Good luck with yours if you get some and I’m sure I will be reading about them if you do. Thanks again. Mary x
Thank you Mary for writing in! Ms. Jeannie has been considering this whole chicken scenario for many years now. But if you decide to take the plunge on one or two (or 18!) chickens, Ms. Jeannie bets you’ll do just fine with them.
Chickens live on average between 5-7 years but some have been known to live up to 35! Goodness gracious. There a lot of factors that play into that overall number (living conditions, diet, stress level, etc.). A chick is most fragile in the early development stages between incubating and hatching, but rest assured these are hardy little creatures and can withstand quite a bit. The commercial poultry industry’s treatment of them is proof enough of their tolerence level.
Ms. Jeannie checked with her friend about your concerns and she said, that yes, sometimes they just don’t make it and that is nature. Silkie chickens are known for their great parenting skills and are the most friendly and relaxed of all the breeds, so perhaps you could start with them and go from there! Either way, please keep us posted. We’d all love to know how you are fare:)
The photos you took of the chickens are amazing! Thank you for sharing!!!