March 11, 2015

The Fact Is: Chickens

March 11, 2015
Owning chickens is easily one of the coolest things I've done.  I never in a million years thought I'd have chickens and now I can't imagine not having chickens (I keep saying "never in a million years" when it comes to talking about this farm).  What turned me on to the idea?  This:
The Fancy Farm Girl
And I have two friends that talked about their chickens and how I needed chickens too.  A picture very similar to the one above was sent to me by my friend, Mrs. Frakes and I was hooked.   There is a chandelier hanging in there, people.  And here is where I get to the point of this post.  Facts.  This photo is beautiful, dreamy, and perfect.  This is not reality, however.  Not mine anyway.  Fact numero uno: Chickens are not clean, shabby chic respecting animals and would have this filled with chicken $%&* faster than you can sing Old McDonald Had A Farm.  I see the chicken wire barrier but chicken $%&* has a way of getting in places other than where it was plopped.  So, I settled for a chicken shack made of scrap wood and dog fence panels.  The closest I'll ever get to a chandelier is a heat lamp, covered in chicken $%&*.

Even the Coca-Cola sign has chicken droppings on it!
Fact 2: Eggs are not dairy.  If you are lactose intolerant you can still enjoy scrambled, fried, sunny side up, over easy, boiled or raw eggs.  Truth be shared here...I too once thought if you couldn't have milk you couldn't have eggs.  That was until a doctor looked at me, laughed and said, "Eggs aren't dairy, honey.  They don't come from cows".  True.  Very true.

"How would you like your eggs?" -most asked question asked at IHOP,  I'm sure of it.
Fact 3: Baby chickens are chicks. Female chickens are pullets until they’re old enough to lay eggs and become hens. Male chickens are called roosters, cocks or cockerels, depending on the country you’re in (here on the farm, I call them annoying).

Fact 4: You don't have to have a rooster to have eggs.  Most chickens lay one egg everyday, rooster or not.  A rooster is how the birds and the bees come into play with getting fertilized eggs that later turn into baby chicks.  It can get awkward from here so I'll leave the rest to you and Google.

My newest girls.  Just about the cutest thing that ever arrived in the mail from
Fact 5: A brown egg does not mean an organic egg, from a free range chicken, or super fresh egg.  The color of the egg depends on the breed of chicken, "organic" or not.  

My Americaunas (Easter Eggers) aren't laying yet.  Photo courtesy:
Fact Six:  Chicken families begin communicating with each other before the babies have even hatched. The mother hen talks to her eggs (often a purring sound), and the chicks begin peeping back to her from inside their unhatched eggs.

Fact 7: A rooster announces to a flock of chickens that he’s found food with a “took, took, took.” But the hens don't pay attention if they already know that there is food around. They just give the rooster the bird and go on about their way (I'm desperate to catch this on film).

Fact 8: A female chicken will mate with many different males but if she decides, after the deed is done, that she doesn’t want a particular rooster’s offspring she can eject his sperm. This occurs most often when the male is lower in the pecking order. I will not provide a visual for this nor will I go in to more detail.

Fact 9: A chicken CAN live without its head.  There is truth behind the saying, "Running around like a chicken with it's head cut off" after all.  Big Dog and Parker have seen it.  I'm still not sure I'm buyin' it. For more information on this phenomenon visit the The Modern Farmer.

Fact 10: The question of the chicken and the egg has been asked since at least as early as 384 B.C. (Aristotle said both had always been in existence, while Stephen Hawking took a stand and said the egg came first). It is perhaps the most famous example of a circular reference—a situation where you have to know the answer to calculate the answer. Click here for more.  I find myself in circular references all the time.  Don't you?
Of all things on the farm, having chickens is by far the easiest and most rewarding.  They are entertaining and curious creatures.  If you live in the city and want chickens check with your local government to see if urban chicken farming is allowed.  If it is, then you are in luck!  I would go to your local farm store or SAMS and buy a coop.  Start with six baby chicks.  You will likely end up with three or four which is perfect occupancy for the standard coop.  
These girls stay safe and warm in the nursery until they are ready to transition to the chicken yard.
There is a wealth of information out there including books, blogs, websites, and magazines that can help you along the way.  My only caution is this:  what you see in Southern Living, Pinterest and the like is likely staged.  They can really set the bar high.  I'm convinced the chickens were placed in a beautiful garden, a picture was snapped, and the chickens were quickly removed from the beautiful garden before devouring it to nothing but dirt and roots.  Trust me.  I spent money, blood, sweat, and tears in making a Southern Living chicken garden.  Then I spent a lot of time doing deep breathing exercises to get over it.  Chickens love to scratch and dust and "spa" in dirt.  They will eat through anything that gets in their way of doing such pampering activities.  I  finally resorted to straw as ground cover and we are all happier for it (including our budget).  

I love my girls and am so happy to have them here to keep me company on the farm when all the kids are at school and Big Dog is at work.  Happy clucking ya'll!

For a list of good chickens to have in your backyard, click here.

These facts and more can be found on:

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