Thursday, May 29, 2014

Cover Girls

by Pa Rock
Chicken Rancher

The postman brought the latest issue of Backyard Poultry yesterday, and on the cover were two gorgeous, copper-toned, plump-in-all-the-right-places, Rhode Island Red hens!  The voluptuous feathered vixen were staring at each other in an almost mirror image, calmly and peacefully, totally at ease with the knowledge that life will never demand more of them than scratching for bugs and laying the occasional egg.

My own brown beauties turned five-weeks-old this past Tuesday.  All of the literature that I have read indicates that most will be laying an egg a day, with the occasional day off for good behavior, by the time they are twenty or twenty-five-weeks-old.   The fat brown hens will lay fat brown eggs - and double-yolkers are not uncommon while the birds are just beginning to lay.

The nesting boxes have all been cleaned and filled with fresh wood shavings.  As egg time draws near, I will place some of those plastic Easter eggs in the boxes just to make sure the girls understand where to drop theirs.

I am currently reading Take to the Hills by Marguerite Lyon.   It is the autobiographical account of a couple from Chicago, Mrs. Lyon and her husband, "the Jedge," who come to the Ozarks and begin farming at the height of the Great Depression - as a retirement plan.   Interestingly, their place, Sunrise Mountain Farm, was located in northern Howell County, Missouri, the same county where I also happen to reside, and years ago I even knew one of the characters whom she highlights in her book.

Mrs. Lyon's reflections of her and the Jedge's life on the farm is rife with similarities to the life I am currently living, so much so that I find it hard to read for laughing!   She said this about their experience with chickens:

"We had heard that chickens in the Ozarks will forage for their own food the year round.  Perhaps some do.  But ours have a way of gathering expectantly around the feed room door, come sunup, and who could deny them those few scoopfuls of grain.  Not softies like us, that's certain!  If we get an idea that our eggs are costing us too much, we gloat over the tremendous satisfaction of having all the fresh eggs we want, even for such extravagances as angel cake."

My girls like to run and play in the tall weeds of their pen, and perhaps they forage - a little.  But when Pa Rock brings in the grain, all beaks are pointed toward him.   Fighting over the odd bug is great sport and a lot of fun, but when it comes to filling their gullets, nothing hits the spot like finely ground chick-starter feed.

The busty babes on the cover of Backyard Poultry also appear to be grain fed.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to retire to the kitchen and figure out how to bake an angel cake!

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