Two weeks ago, we drove out to a farm that had many, many chickens and we bought a momma and 4 chicks. I think this is a brave move for two city kids who don't really know what they are doing! We put the chickens in a Rubbermade container (lid off) and drove them home, then set them free in our back yard. With the exception of the hen jumping the fence to the neighbors yard to see if the grass truly is greener on the other side (which, by the way, it is - our neighbors have a great lawn), they have been in our back yard ever since.
Although I've been warned that it is a bad idea to do so, we did name our birds. I figure it's ok since we only plan on using these chickens for their eggs. The momma is Velma, the chicks are KC, Foofoo, Hilda and Caroline. I'm hoping all of the chicks are female, but if not, we'll be finding a different home for any roosters. We want to do all we can to keep from annoying the neighbors.
Most everything I know about chickens has been from things I found on the internet or from a few books and magazines I've read. It's fun to observe Velma interact with her chicks - all barnyard/chicken cliches come to mind as she scratches around, looking for worms and other critters to feed her family. I now understand more about someone being a "Mother Hen", about "chicken scratch", being "all cooped up" and the need for moms to "nest".
I've also noticed that Velma is a much better mom than I am and that her chicks are better behaved than mine. She doesn't mind that her chicks climb all over her, follow her everywhere, she doesn't ever seem to be in a hurry and she enjoys doing outdoor activities with them. (I did notice that one of the chicks tried to hop a ride on her back once and she gently pecked it a couple of times. But she didn't yell, like I would have). Whenever the chicks get too far from Velma (like when they sneak into the neighbor's yard through the holes in the fence), all she has to do is cluck a couple of times, and they immediately come back to her. Unlike my "babies" who only return to where they are supposed to be after they've been threatened with no tv or video games for a week. (perhaps analysis of my parenting practices will be the topic of another blog post later on. Then again...maybe not).
We've been letting the chickens roam through the back yard during the day, then they go into their coop at sunset. So far, things seem to be working out well with them and I think they like their new environment. They have quite a nice sized back yard and don't have many others they have to share it with (except for 7 year old and 5 year old humans). I think they are pretty happy.
One of the things I did not anticipate was feeling guilty when I eat chicken. The other night I was getting ready to throw some chicken thighs on the grill. My husband was playing with the kids in the backyard and I was up on the deck near the grill. I wanted to ask him how long I should cook the chicken, but felt like I needed to whisper because Velma was roaming around within earshot. I sure hope this isn't how it's going to be from now on - being consumed by guilt every time I want to eat chicken. I don't think I can take that kind of pressure!