As much as I railed about how I was done with poultry earlier in the summer, when I suggested to my husband that we "just buy eggs and chicken meat at a farmer's market or something", he was highly offended.
"You can quit the chickens if you want," he said, with a air of noble loyalty;
"But I will always have chickens. It just wouldn't be the same around here without Roo (as we affectionately call our rooster) and The Girls (as we affectionately call our pesky hens)running around and ...stuff."
So I feel as if I have been raising, babysitting, and otherwise supervising fowl all.year.
First, it was my two batches of feed store chickens in the spring, most of whom met a morbid end. (Read all my railings about our chicken situation here.)
Then, when we got into hay cutting in the summer, I did a really illegal thing. Which I have not mentioned before now because I was scared of getting in big trouble for it.
One afternoon while cutting hay, my brother ran over a nest of wild turkeys in the middle of the field, by accident. The hen ran off and didn't return for a couple of hours. My brother, who kind of makes it his business to know all things wildlife, said he didn't expect she would ever return to the nest, since the cover was totally destroyed. He felt really bad about it.
So, I - knowing the risks - collected the 12 or so eggs from the nest, and popped them into my chicken incubator at home. No one expected them to hatch; it is very rare that wild turkeys are successfully raised in a "domestic" environment. But we felt like we owed it to Nature to try to make things right after ruining everything for that hen.
I counted out the days for turkeys to incubate. I turned the eggs twice a day - by hand. I carefully monitored the temperature.
And on the last day, I said to Kevin: "Can you take those turkey eggs and dump them somewhere where Dodge cannot eat them? I don't think they're going to hatch."
And that evening while cooking dinner I kept hearing peeping outside my kitchen window and I wondered why my hens were hanging out there so I walk over to check it out, when I happen to notice there is a wet, newly hatched infant wild turkey peering at me through the window of the incubator. I was dumbfounded. I had defied nature and hatched out wild turkeys in my kitchen! So THERE, wildlife experts!!
We hatched seven.
We told no one.
I never even took photos.
There is a steep fine for keeping wild animals without a proper license and training.
We raised them in a tank in the dining room, just like the chickens; and I did it without touching them or interfering very much as all; because we intended to set them lose once they were grown.
But when they got too big for the tank, and it came time to move them to bigger quarters, they flipped out and one died from the shock.
In fact, one baby turkey died from shock/fright each time we had to re-locate them as they grew. I started to understand why they don't want lay persons, without a license and training, raising wild turkeys and other wildlife. It is a pain in the neck to do it properly, if you're not making pets of them. I told my husband that he and my brother had better not make a habit of ruining turkey nests in the fields anymore; because I never want to raise wild turkey babies ever again.
We finally ended up with three, and we put them in the chicken run and put a roof on the chicken yard to keep them safe. The evil skunk got one; and I finally got rid of the other two, just a couple of weeks ago. When I opened the doors on the official release day, I expected them to fly away into the woods, leaving me standing there feeling all warm and fuzzy about my rare accomplishment and noble efforts to rescue wildlife. Like in one of those Disney, "family" movies. (I still have all these convoluted, idealistic, hopeful fantasies about living on a farm, but it never works out like Disney tries to make you believe.)
But instead they just ran around all frantically; and never went near the open door. For a entire week I opened the doors and finally, one day, one was gone. Then the next day or two passed, the the second one was gone, too. My babies "done growed up", and went to live with the big turkeys! And good riddance. Turkeys are kind of...... dumb. Poor things.
Well all was great, until about three weeks ago when one of my remaining chickens from the Spring batch got broody and started sitting on a nest full of eggs... in the hay baler. Nothing could get her off. So we left her. Most of these attempts do not end well; leaving me with a pile of rotten eggs to dispose of.
But then last week, I came home from work after dark, and walked by the baler on my way to look at something else, and heard that peeping I recognize all too well....
Lo and behold, that Spring Chicken hatched out 8 chicks all by herself. Apparently no one told her that you usually sit on eggs in the springtime. Not right before cold weather.
I did have to move them out of the baler, as the babies kept falling out and complaining loudly. They're safely stowed in a large cage in the yard till they get some size on them. But I am letting the mother raise them, because I am done with raising poultry for 2011!
They really are stinking cute, though. I can't help but gush at them in baby talk when I go out into the yard and see them scurrying around.
Hopefully, this is it for the year for me; and, depending on how many we loose over the winter, I may beg and plead with Kevin to NOT get more chicks in the spring.