Winter Delivery #2: Wednesday, Nov. 19th – REGs only
While you know us for raising vegetables, on our farm we do a few more farmy things mostly for family subsistence. We raise pigs; we have fruit trees and cherry bushes; and this year – chickens. We have them as laying hens and have been pleased to have 3-4 eggs/day for most of the season. (There were a few exceptions, like when we fed them shell corn by accident and when they had an autumn mini-molt).
At first our daughters were really excited about the chickens, but seeing as their little hands aren’t quite strong enough to independently open the coop to feed them and get eggs, the hens quickly lost their allure. Soon the hens became a chore they had to do with me. Then I just began doing it myself – as I could combine it with pig chores and accomplish the tasks about 10x faster on my own.
For our daughters, the existence of the chickens has mostly meant having to eat an egg for breakfast every day. The girls didn’t really care much about the chickens. That is, of course, until the dramatic capturing and killing of one of our hens by the neighbor’s dog last Friday.
To set the stage: our chickens are in a moveable chicken coop that for the majority of the season was moved around the pig pen in order to keep the weeds down around the pen. (I hate weed-whackers; egg-makers are a much more desirable option). Once the pigs went to the processor and the weather got colder, we moved the chickens up near our home where we could have access to electricity to have a light in the coop and to plug in a heated water bowl.
The chickens are used to being moved around, which means access to fresh ground and freedom from their own waste. With this winter set-up, I was feeling bad keeping them ‘cooped -up’, so I started letting them out to roam. They had been out roaming for a few days and I thought all was fine, so long as the birds didn’t stray too far and kept laying in their coop.
I did not know our neighbor’s dog was a bird dog.
Friday morning, Rudy (not our dog Ruby) caught his first whiff and dashed into our yard. He tackled Trey (the only one we’d named, as she was a very light blond/red) and tossed her about. The other chickens scattered, frightened, into the neighbor’s yard. Thankfully our neighbor was home. She called her dog inside and caught the other birds and brought them back to our coop. My husband ended up having to put poor Trey out of her misery, as the dog had not.
Lucky for us, a hunter friend of ours was over when this all occurred. He was able to teach us how to gut and de-feather a chicken.
The chickens have become of great interest to Zea after this. She commemorated the fateful event with a drawing. I took the liberty of adding some captions to her drawing per her dictation.
So we are now 1 layer down, and a pot of chicken noodle soup and 6 quarts of stock up. We would have preferred to keep Trey as a layer, but such is life. We are grateful for all the food little Trey created for us; the dozens and dozens of eggs and her meat.