Farmer in Winter
Nine fat red hens are enjoying their mid-morning brunch beneath the bird feeder in the front yard. They are feasting on a nice assortment of sunflower seeds, corn chops, and other small bits of bird feed. My chickens eat well all day, but they particularly seem to enjoy their daily jaunts up to bird feeder.
Three of the peacocks managed to escape yesterday as I was fumbling around trying to get them fed and watered. Each time that happens it takes more and more effort and cunning on my part to get them back into their lock-up. The peacocks are about ninety percent grown now and in need of better living arrangements. I have developed a plan (and found most of the necessary materials) to build them a large pen connected to the barn. They will be able to move freely between the two structures, and will undoubtedly be happy in their new, and much roomier, digs. The large pen will even allow room for flight.
The new order form for "chick days" at the local feed store has arrived, so it is actually starting to feel like spring. The delivery dates this year are March 24th and April 21st, depending on when orders are placed. The April delivery date is smarter, because it is warmer by then and much easier to get the chicks off to a good, warm start.
Years ago when I was a child protection worker, my supervisor and I visited a home in the country where the family had several boxes of baby chicks under heat lamps in the kitchen. My supervisor was appalled and proceeded to bend my ear as we were leaving about the awfulness of having chickens in the house. She became even more appalled when I told her that I also had baby chicks in my kitchen sunning under a heat lamp. It's a farmer thing!
I am planning on ordering some bantam chicks for my little bantam hen to mother. Banty hens make wonderful moms. The order for the little bantys will be "straight run" which means that it will be a crap shoot as to how many of the chicks are males and how many are females. While banty girls develop into splendid mothers, banty boys are born fighting. The little feathered spitfires go after each other (and anything else that gets in their way) from first light until dark - and they are quite comical to watch!
(By the way, "banty" is a legitimate word. It would be nice if Bill Gates and the language police at Microsoft would occasionally update their lists!)
In addition to the banty chicks, I may also order a few Rhode Island Red chicks to supplement my established crew of dedicated egg layers.
One final thing that I am considering is a few (minimum order is five) "jungle fowl" just as conversation starters. The order list has three varieties available: Sumatras (gorgeous greenish black birds with tail feathers several feet long), Red Jungle Fowl, and Saipan Jungle Fowl (one of the ugliest chickens in existence). These breeds have developed on isolated Pacific islands over hundreds of years. The Saipan Jungle Fowl actually requires some fish in its diet. My planned Peacock Palace would accommodate a few jungle fowl, so I may just experiment with that this year. Having been to the Mariana Islands (Guam), I am leaning toward the Saipans.
So its still winter here at Rock's Roost, but spring (like Mulder's truth) is out there - somewhere!