Our first summer raising chickens has proved to be eventful. While we purchased our chickens for the explicit reason of being able to provide ourselves eggs, we’ve waited all summer to begin reaping the rewards of our $12 investments from Tractor Supply.
Finally, our pullets started laying around labor day. We’re getting two eggs a day from our four pullets (one of which we’re thinking may be a rooster [see pic below]…so maybe three pullets). Our one-year-old Plymouth Rocks that we acquired at the beginning of the summer stopped laying sometime in July. We’re hoping that with the cool weather they may start laying again. After the drama one of these birds has inflicted on us, I’d say she owes us big time.
One of our Plymouth Rocks has proved to be a crafty little bird. Throughout the summer this bird has found numerous ways to escape from the chicken run and head into the garden. This really became a problem when our tomatoes starting coming into full production. Once this chicky realized there were fresh tomatoes growing nearby it was like nothing could keep it contained. Throughout the day we would spot it through the window bobbing its head up and down as it poked holes into the reddest, ripest tomatoes. After hastily running out to capture the escapee we would look again at the run…making sure the gate was latched, checking for signs of fencing weakness. But shortly the chicken would be back in the garden wreaking havoc. I would find myself frequently staring intently out the window like a madwoman, squinting my eyes with suspicion, muttering to myself and trying to spot whether or not a bird was hiding behind the tomato vines or camouflaging itself in the bean patch.
The blatant defiance of this animal quickly grew old for Wyatt, who started talking a lot about needing to know how to butcher a chicken. I kept having to intervene on behalf of the critter each time a frustrated Wyatt went out to chase it back into its coop. One weekend a farm tour I had scheduled for work was canceled last minute and I ended up staying home. Wyatt sulked around the house for a while before finally admitting he had planned to have a home-grown chicken in the oven for me when I came home.
Later on, while we were harvesting out in the garden, Wyatt said “LOOK!” and I glanced over to see the Plymouth Rock fly up to the side of the fence and then carefully climb up the rest of the way and hop over. And she made it look so easy! We hastily made plans to modify our fence.
After a trip to Tractor supply for extra fencing we erected something of a “chicken maximum security prison,” with chicken wire curled ourwards in a razor wire style from the the top of the fence. “Chicken Gitmo” is what Wyatt called it. We enjoyed about four days of escape-free bliss. Then we started noticing the chicken in the garden again. Again, during harvest we witnessed this bird’s escape tactics. This time it was climbing to the top of the chicken house, then flying to the top of the gate (which did not have chicken razor wire), and hopping over. Arg! Outwitted again!
By this time the Plymouth Rock had grown fat on its steady diet of garden produce. She was easy to distinguish from the other of its kind due to it girth. Maybe baked chicken wasn’t such a bad idea after all…
For those of you who raise chickens I’m sure you’re laughing at how long it took us to realize an obvious solution that fell a little short of offing the bird. Finally someone suggested a simple solution. While at a potluck we were sharing our chicken saga with a farmer friend who told us, “You know, you can just clip its wings.” Wow. What a revelation. We came home, looked up a diagram showing where to clip the feathers, walked outside and in about 10 seconds solved the problem.
Now that our tomatoes are finally free to grow they’ve decided to stop ripening. Vines and vines of safe tomatoes sit hard and green. Go figure.
Oh, by the way, I spent yesterday learning how to butcher and process chickens (I’ll blog later). So for your own sake, chicky, don’t try any more shenanigans.