The adventure began 2 1/2 years ago with nine "girls" from the local feed store in Gambrills. My partner and I had already been known in the neighborhood as the "all girl" house with all female pets so adding the hens only cemented the label "Hen House". After a month of indoor pampering, the chicks were let out into their brand new cedar coop (plans purchased online). They quickly adjusted to outdoor life and worked out a pecking order. Helen is top bird, a great layer and lover of chinese, who prefers lawn furniture to a perch.
Predators claimed a few birds that year and thus "Chicken math" began the following spring with additions to the flock always adding up to a greater number that was lost. Precise calculations go into the recollection of how the flock has grown and how many birds the coop can fit, etc. but you'll hear crickets when asking about the monies spent on this middle-age adventure.
An innocent day at the Mid-Atlantic Poultry expo produced a Cuckoo marans Rooster, "Little Prince" (needed to balance out the estrogen levels) He and his flock mate "Svetlana" were too young for the great outdoors so they spent their days feathering out in the comfort of our foyer, kitchen and living room. Here is a photo of "Little Prince" way after he was able to stay in the "big bird" coop, but definitely before he was no longer terrified of the snow and had to be brought inside for the day!
That spring, as Chicken Math lives on, five of the chicks at the country feed store did not have very long to wait before they were chosen to go home with us. This is of course after my partner (a Psychologist by day) gives them a quick "personality test" just to make sure we have some friendly girls. The youngsters, affectionally called "the book club" after our favorite authors, enjoyed kitchen life until moving into a small coop designed as an interim area before moving up with the main flock.
Here they are as peeps, in various stages of falling asleep (they kept the same sleeping order in the coop) Above is Barbara Kingsolver in the foreground. She is a Barred Rock who has lived true to the breed's reputation for friendliness - a real "talker" with no sense of personal boundaries! She will gladly follow me closely, chattering about the latest flock news, requests for sphagetti or perhaps simply her latest discoveries, who knows!
Another member of "the book club" is Ann Patchett, a white Leghorn, who has turned out to be a real surprise. As she grew, so did her wattle and comb. She was still rather narrow as compared to the ever widening girths of the others so the possibility of a rooster in our midst became so real that I changed her name to Andy. When my daughter called to tell me that Little Andy laid an egg (I was away for the weekend), I did not believe her. But, yes, Andy, has, as a matter of fact, turned out to be the best layer of all!
"A poultry swap in Sharpsburg?! Oh yes, let's go!" was all it took. After swapping money for birds, we brought home "party of six", a mix of Marans, Welsummer & Easter Egger), a trio of Polish chicks named the "Hair Do's", and two Cockatiels.
The Hair Do's were so tiny! They really needed a soft mother substitute! A retired pillow pet was perfect for the job! (and, yes, it was a chore, gladly done, each day to keep "mama" clean) They quickly grew into sweet but timid chicks. The roo was called Hair Dude
The 1st week outisde they got caught in rain storm and I snapped this photo as they were drying out inside.
The latest endeavor is hatching out eggs via our resident "Broody Judy" Daisy. A Buff Orpington destined for motherhood. The 1st time Daisy planted herself in The Nest, she was given 4 fertilzed from the neighbor's small flock of golden comets and ????.
The single chick showed us that Daisy was a natural mother. After grief therapy (for all of us) when a black snake took the life of Baby Haley, Daisy went broody again. The photo above is her reaction to the Dwarf Olandsk eggs that arrived perfectly packaged. She was skeptical at first but when four delicate creatures hatched 21 days later, the satisfaction on her face was undeniable! A great experience for us all....complete with a "Baby Shower" to celebrate the new family.
Each day brings a new story and I am happily obessed.