Monday, June 27, 2011

I am SO DONE with chickens.

This began as a venting facebook status this morning and morphed into a tirade.....

 I think I am going to make this farm a fowl - free farm. And let me explain why.

 When I moved in here, I had visions of an adorable farmette, complete with a clothesline and chickens and veggie  and flower gardens. You know, like you see in all the magazines. Cute.
 So we made our "chicken park" out of a tiny log cabin builgins (built in the 20's and originally used to store canned goods, etc.) and tall steel dog kennel panels. And I had visions of going out in my sundress and vintage floral apron, and collecting large brown eggs from nest boxes where fat and fluffy hens had deposited their daily fruit; like all farmgirls do in the magazines and movies, and books  and such. Awwwww.


 So we got some eggs from a friend and I incubated them; they hatched, and I had about 20 chickens. They were all killed a few months later by foxes.

 Then our friend gave us over 20 game chickens, and plumed heirloom birds with fancy feathers and whatnot. They were so neat looking. In one night, all but two or three were killed by the foxes. Or skunks, or coons, or whatevers. But we're pretty sure it was foxes.

 Last year, I bought 25 more chicks from the feed store. When they were old enough,  I let them go free ranging all over the place, and one by one were picked off by foxes, skunks, or killed in the road ("why did the chickens cross the road?" was a very legitimate question asked in my house).

It was so quaint, I thought, to see my chickens puttering about the place; so "farm-y" and "cute". But it stopped being so "cute" and became downright annoying when they started scratching holes in all the mulch in the flower beds, and digging holes around all my plants, and worst of all, pecking holes in my tomatoes and other veggies in the garden.

 I didn't see "cute" feathered fowl when I looked at my chickens, I saw chicken and dumplings. And chicken salad. And chicken divan.

 There were eggs.... healthy, 100% organic free-range eggs from happy hens. When I could find them. "Free range" meant hunting for their nest day after day, until I finally found it; hidden away in some dark hole in a brush pile, or in the back of the barn where you have to climb over a mountain of junk to get to them; or under the barn where you have to find a hole in the floor and hope your arm is long enough to reach the egg pile in the corner, just barely out of range or your grasping fingers. Then, once you discover the nest, the spiteful, conniving hens move their laying spot to a new top secret locale, just to be mean.

 And, because of the fox killings that had gone on in their cute little log cabin hen house, they didn't like to go in of their own accord. They decided that the thing to do was roost on my front porch furniture. So every night I had chickens or varying numbers perched on my white wicker porch furniture. And my white wicker porch furniture was covered - and I mean covered - in chicken doo. And every night we had to pick them up and carry them to their coop, and secure the doors and windows. Every night.

 One night, during the nightly visits from the fox in which they managed to get one  bird per night for a whole week, I decided to let the chickens stay on the front porch and I was, by God, going to bait that fox and shoot him. We kept the front porch lights on and slept on the sofa in the front room and waited. Just as I thought, about 3:30 am, I heard the chickens make a commotion on the front porch. I jumped up ahead of Kevin, grabbing the shotgun we had sitting by the front door. I was going to put and end to the fox issue once and for all. I've never shot an animal before, but I was totally prepared to shoot this one. I was sick and tired of buying and feeding chickens just to feed fat foxes on a nightly basis! By the time I jerked the door open and brought the gun up to shoot, that evil fox had dragged a hen, screaming and squawking, across the road and into the tobacco field, where her squawking abruptly ended, and the fox disappeared with his dinner into the darkness; leaving me with nothing to shoot at. Plus, it's illegal to shoot across a highway. I bet that no good fox knew it, too. Stinker.

 The four chickens that survived the foxes last year lived through the winter and gained my good graces. This spring, I declared that they would not be free ranging anymore, because of the damage they did in the gardens last summer; so we kept them locked in their chicken "park", and my garden was safe and life was great.
I was overcome by the cuteness of the spring chicks at the feed store in the early spring; and I broke down and bought 20 chickens. Cute, fluffy little yellow balls of adorableness; populating my cute, adorable chicken accommodations. I already had folks asking to buy eggs when they started laying. More visions of quaint farm scenes formed in my mind - but I hastily pushed them aside. I started getting over the "cutesy farm" thing a while ago; along with the fantasy of farming in a floral apron and sundress - the first time I got on a tractor to bale hay, and ended up having to fix the flywheel on the baler all by myself with two wrenches and a bolt in the middle of the hayfield on the hottest day of the year and got home at 10:00 pm covered in hay, sweat, and axle grease. 
There is really not very much cutesyness in farming; no matter what you may see in magazines. Trust me.

Anyway, back to my chicken issues.

I raised 20 chicks this spring, and when they were feathered out, moved them into the chicken park. A few weeks went by. I started to think I had finally outsmarted the wicked fox and his kin. One morning, I discovered a small portion of the chinking between the logs in my log cabin hen house ripped out and one of the little birds missing. We fixed it. A few weeks later, we found half the young chickens missing and feathers and blood and a body or two - and the boards from the door pushed in. We fixed that. The next day he managed to get in again and kill more..... leaving me with six white leghorns, one red one, and my four grown birds from last year. It's been several more weeks and we've made some improvements to the chicken park; and thought we had this licked once and for all.

 No such luck. This morning Kevin found one of my lovely big red hens from last year - the most faithful of the egg layers - dead. The fox had somehow slipped in a crack around the door; ate his meal, and escaped; unable to drag the meal with him, since he slipped in such a small crack......

 One of the other hens escaped when Kevin went in, and ran up here to my garden, where she proceeded to eat holes in every single one of my almost ripe, big, juicy tomatoes that she cold get to.

 I have done everything short of electrifying my coop to keep varmints out; or making it from solid, reinforced steel and shatterproof glass like some sort of maximum security prison cell.

 At this point I am thinking it is easier for me to go to the farmers market in town and buy my eggs from now on. 

Anybody want my chickens?


Herb of Grace said...

Waaahahahaaaa!!! ROFLMAO!! I could have WRITTEN this post ten years ago... Add in sticking my hand into a nest after eggs, only to realize that there was a SIX FOOT LONG black snake in there, complete with several suspicious bumps along those six feet...

Raising chickens is over-rated.

Susannah Forshey said...

Yeah, I agree. The only way to do it "neatly" is to get one of those fancy portable ones where the eggs are predictably in the nest, and you can keep them in and the critters out. Of course, then you still have to have a lotta poop around your yard.....

Lisa T. said...

Yup--on everything. Stepping in a blob of chicken poop in flip flops-not cute. Dead chickens every morning--not cute. Holy tomatoes? Yeah not cute. I remember a Mary Jane's Farm issue where someone wallpapered their hen house. Really? Farming, even a little bit of farming is NOT cute.

Hosanna said...

Lisa - YES! I remember that issue too! There was even a little shelf with china tea cups hanging on it. REALLY?!