Once upon a time I had four chickens. They sweetened life around here, and somewhat paid for their keep by laying large coffee-colored eggs. Eventually they succumbed to age and disease. One of contracted had leg mites I couldn’t treat for fear of setting our place on fire. It was recommended you dip their legs in gasoline for several days in a row. It was dangerous and sad.
Last February, nearly a year ago, as I poured over the chicken hatchery catalogue, I was enthralled with exotic breeds. Denis peered over my shoulder and insisted I needed to get one of the White Polish hens sporting a ridiculous white fountain of feathers growing straight out the top of her head. We could than take a pet/owner portrait, me with my curly white hair and her with her white feather headdress. He’s full of, well, suggestions I must ignore. Secretly I did want a White Polish, but the entire breed fell victim to the Avian flu and I had to reimagine my order.
It was the beginning of November and my four young hens still had not begun to lay eggs even though I spoke to them about this daily. They were 25 weeks old and could have, maybe, possibly, begun to lay at 18 weeks! The little punks. Some breeds don’t begin to lay until they are 28 weeks so this was definitely a losing enterprise even if I sold them at $5.99 per dozen. Denis tells me I will never recover my “investment” which led me to redefine what I was doing by owning chickens in the first place. It isn’t an investment, it’s a hobby. Far less costly than, say, scuba diving, owning an RV or ordering a new book every week.
The hen’s real estate definitely increased in value. They have a new house. It’s called an Eglu and looks like a space ship with spikey legs and a sleek design landed in their enclosure. It is perfect. I love it. So do they. It is insulated and will be warmer in winter when the temps drop below zero.
I’ve named them after cheeses. The two Columbian Wyandotes are Brie and Pecorino. The New Hampshire Red is Velveeta, because she is slightly nasty like Velveeta which is not real cheese. It’s a processed food product, people. Fontina, is a shiny Black Star who likes to sit on my lap. I know. Despite what you may think, I’m not a crazy chicken lady. You should know that because I don’t allow them in the house, nor do they wear chicken diapers. (That’s a thing, you know. Disgusting.)
Owning backyard chickens does me good. They constantly remind me how easy it is to forget where our super market food comes from. They keep me grounded and aware of needs, other than my own. Every day no matter the weather or how I feel, I trudge out to feed and water them. More importantly, I find pleasure in these animals and God’s incomparable creativity and humor in making a fine feathered creature that delivers delicious nutrition from her rear end.
Photo credit: The author with my iPhone.