My curiosity about chickens began when my friend (and Two-Lane Livin’ columnist) Sue showed me her chicken tractors. See, I didn’t know you could have chickens without the chicken house. A chicken tractor moves around the yard, and (most) remove any requirement for shoveling poop three seasons out of the year.
At one time, Sue had several chicken tractors, but had downsized during a move to two. One day, she asked if I would be interested in taking one of her larger tractors home with me.
That really set the ball rolling.
I told Frank I wanted to go to the livestock sale that Friday. He bucked a little. Seems, here in the country, like cats and dogs, chickens just happen. There’s always someone with extra or one or two they don’t want. Turns out, someone in our community was working to get rid of about 100.
Frank agreed that I could have four.
We went over so I could see what they had…
What they had was about 150 chickens of all breeds and types, mixed and non-mixed. I had no idea what the breeds were, or what I wanted.
“I want brown eggs.” I said.
Now, Sue can reach over and pick up her hens with no problem. She raised them. They know, like and trust her.
But the chickens on the farm we visited we free and independent. We left two pet porters and said we’d be back at dusk.
So, when we went and got the hens, it was dark, and I didn’t see them. Not until the next morning.
Chickens, if not pampered and cared for, stink. So, I immediately (with Sue’s advice) brought my hens back to optimum health.
The first to be named was Pepper. The four hens, as hens do, established a new pecking order among the newly formed flock. She was the loser. Interestingly enough, she also is the most tame. We ‘talk’ to each other, and she will eat out of my hand, although she won’t let me reach out and touch her — yet.
The next one named is the head of the pecking order. Miss Ellembee. Now, I realize that it’s a strange name, but actually it comes from the initial’s of what I first called her – Little Miss B@#$* – L.M.B. See, Ellembee doesn’t like to share, and she complains a lot. Whenever another hen uses the nesting basket to lay an egg, she complains. Whenever someone she doesn’t know comes around, she complains. Whenever another hen tries to each or bathe next to her, she pecks them. Believe me, she has earned her name.
Dee Dee was next to earn her name. In fact, her full name is Miss Dirty Dancer Prancer. (I know, another weird one.) But, I think Dee Dee is a weird chicken. First off, as I previously mentioned, the hens arrived with a smell. Dee Dee was the worst of them all, and turns out, even when I supplied them with daily access to a DE & Dirt bath (chickens bathe in dirt), Dee Dee wouldn’t bathe.
In addition, when I began letting them free range in the evenings, Dee Dee showed her tendencies to dance and prance and jump around as though some invisible spook was behind her, goosing her. So, she was dirty, and prone to dance and prance.
In all, it was about five weeks before I finally saw her bathe herself. I think the other three hens were as thrilled to see it as I.
The final of the four is Red, and I have yet to get a picture of her in focus to share with you. She’s basically a rusty brown hen, who, never earning a name by her character, was named for her coloring by default.
We’ve been getting about three eggs a day pretty consistently out of our four hens, eggs that most often go to my Mother and Aunt in the city who remember the taste of, but have little access to, farm fresh eggs. Frank and I eat eggs on a regular basis now, many of them pickled.
Feed costs me about $10 a month – much cheaper than a single dog or cat would in that amount of time.
So, there you go. Now you’ve met my ladies. I’ll see if I can get Red to be still long enough to get a focused picture, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.