Every quintessential farm must have chickens. (I had to look that word up.) Ours is no exception. Currently we have four hens and they provide us with plenty of eggs for our small family.
I remember the first time we thought we might like to get some chickens. It was almost 20 years ago. We were visiting a friend and his wife, who just happened to be the daughter of Jeffie, the 4-H leader of my daughter, yet to be born. Jeffie's daughter also happens to be the first wife of our eventual next door neighbor, Dean. (It's a small, small world!) At that time our friend and his wife lived in a mobile home on Jeffie's property. Are you confused yet?
Jeffie and her husband raise Suffolk sheep and Quarter horses. They also had a variety of dogs, peacocks, and semi-wild chickens running about. One day they decided the chickens were getting out of control so they rounded up as many as they could and stashed them in unused rabbit cages. The day we visited she asked if we wanted any. She used the magic word, "free". Since I'm unable to resist such a bargain I said "Sure!"
She found a couple of burlap bags and started stuffing a bunch of chickens in. I was a little concerned about getting roosters, since they can be noisy. She assured my husband and me there were mostly hens in there.
We brought the squirming bags home, and not really knowing what else to do, dumped them out by the gate to the big back yard. Out flew about 20 cackling, squawking, protesting chickens, at least half or more of which were, you guessed it, roosters!
My husband and I looked at each other in dismay. But she said there weren't that many roosters, there were mostly hens! I imagine Jeffie and her husband having a good chuckle over a simple solution to their chicken population problem and the greenhorns that provided that solution. Of course, later on when we mentioned all the roosters we were met with pure innocent looks of puzzlement and "Oh really? Hmm!"
So while the mostly roosters decided to stage their own cock fights in our back yard we had to come up with our own solution. Quickly.
There was only one thing to do. My husband ran into the house and got his .22 rifle. As quickly as he could he started plugging away at the obvious roosters. He's a really good shot, so it didn't take long. I went around and collected the bodies and shoved them back into the burlap sack they had come in.
There were about 12 chickens left. We fed them chicken food every day and they learned they didn't have to search out their own dinners. About half of those left before we could get them into their own chicken coop, not yet built. They may have been so used to roaming before or maybe they tried to find their way back home. I don't know. We obviously learned a valuable lesson on the incident. Planning ahead is very important! And if you don't want roosters, pick them out yourself.
Making eggs in nest boxes made from leftover lumber.
Now when our chickens get old I go to the feed store to buy replacements chicks. They have the usual breeds, nothing really exotic. But I have bought several different breeds; the brown egg layers, the white egg layers, and the blue egg layers. I don't really have any favorites. As long as they earn their keep, that's all I'm interested in.
We have had as many as ten hens (on purpose this time) and I've found that is way too many for us. We could not keep up with their production. So I would give them away at work, or find recipes that used a lot of eggs, and share the goodies. I have a pound cake recipe that's useful in these times, which I will share here. I found the recipe in one of my mother's old cookbooks. It was one of those cookbooks that are put together by an organization or group and sold as a fundraiser. Unfortunately I don't remember the name of the book but it was by a group of Army wives.
OLD FASHIONED POUND CAKE
1 pound butter
2 1/3 cups sugar
4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cream butter and sugar; add eggs one at a time, beating
well after each addition. Sift flour and salt; add to egg
mixture in 10 portions, beating after each portion.
Pour into greased and floured 10" tube pan, bake at
300 degrees for 2 hours.
We did end up getting a rooster from Jeffie on purpose several years later. He was getting badly beaten up by the other roosters at her place. If chickens can have personalities then this one did. He was very sweet and loving and would let anybody pick him up and carry him around like a little dog. We had him for a long time before he died of natural causes.
With my favorite rooster in 1988. I was four months pregnant with our daughter.
Today I have to keep my chickens totally penned up, unless I am outside to keep watch on them. We have a neighbor whose dog likes to jump the fence so he can "play" with the chickens.
I haven't ever worked out the numbers to see if the egg production is worth the cost of chicken feed. The merit to me comes from having really "farm fresh" eggs and for the fun of it.
Farm fresh eggs!