Sunday, November 09, 2008

MORE chicken blathering

I've been stealing bagged leaves from the curb in front of my neighbors' house. I think it's OK because they're just waiting to be picked up by the city anyway; I don't know if they're composted or just added to the dump. It still feels a little weird, though, to scurry across the street and surreptitiously grab a huge bag of leaves. I'm stealing them for my compost heaps, to balance out the bounty of chicken manure in there. I got the birds for essentially two reasons, the eggs and the manure... if they turn out to be as good at producing eggs as they are at shit, then I've really struck gold. I'm not expecting eggs for another six weeks at least, and not really much until spring (because they don't lay in the short, dark days of winter), so we'll see when the time comes.

We've had the girls for a month now, but somehow it seems so normal to have chickens that it feels like we've had them a lot longer. They just fit right into our lives and our backyard: we have a solid routine now, letting them out in the morning, back in at night, moving the whole contraption twice a week, mucking out the inside every weekend. I'm learning a lot about them. Today, for example, I learned that my toes look exactly like tasty, fat white grubs or something similar, and that my Birkenstocks are REALLY not the best footwear when working around the birdies. I thought chickens make more noise than they do; they're really quiet. Maybe when they get older and start laying? Right now they don't cackle or crow, just make little chirping noises. There's so much discussion in some quarters as to whether chickens are all right as urban, backyard pets (banned in a lot of cities, for instance) that I figured that they had to be more troublesome somehow, loud or smelly. But they're completely unobjectionable! Even cleaned only once a week, their house doesn't stink; the cat's litter box is much worse. It might be because they've got plenty of space, inside and outside; when people talk about chickens being smelly they're probably thinking about over-crowded chickens.

Sorry about writing about nothing but the chickens, but that's what's going on around here; everything else is business as usual. Work equals blech. Economy equals double-blech... if Don loses his job we're absolutely screwed. (Not that I think that will happen, it's just my main economic worry.) He's making good progress on the downstairs unit; the hole in the wall is gone. I'm hoping to have it ready to rent for January, especially considering that having rental income was a big part of the can-we-afford-this discussion when we bought the house and we've already made three mortgage payments without that. One thing at a time, though, right?


Benjamin said...

How do you tell one chick from another? Don't they all look pretty much the same? How long do chickens live? Why did the chicken cross the road?

Mara said...

1. I tell them apart by personality, which is kind of a crapshoot.

2. Yes, they're basically identical, and they act alike as well.

3. Depends on the bird and circumstance. Good backyard birds can live five years or longer, laying reliably up to four years or so. 'Factory' birds are usually worn out much faster and slaughtered after 18 months-ish.

4. The ROAD? Who opened the damn gate and let the chickens out? Get out there before someone gets run over by a truck, already.

Rachel said...

You know, I could really use your help getting my chickens established. There's a chicken coop, but it's huge and dark and kind of scary. I want one I can move. I don't think I'll do it until spring though.

Mara said...

Ack! If you already have a chicken coop, use that one! Building the coop was definitely the most expensive part of this operation. The chicks were like $4 each, the feed is cheap (when you only have a few), but the housing set us back at least $250.00, which is a lot for what is essentially a hobby. As Don says, it will take years of free eggs to recoup that. Find out what it would cost to run an electric line to the coop if there isn't electricity out there already, so that you can turn the lights on and it won't be scary anymore!

Bex said...

hehe I am just imagining you running across the road to snatch leaves. I wondered about the stinkiness or lack of as it turns out.

Mara said...

So far so good with the stinkiness, although they are still quite young, barely adolescent. Maybe adult birds are smellier, who knows.

And yes, I feel quite sneaky and forbidden with my leaf-theft, even if I am stealing refuse that has been left on the curb.

Vita-VEGAN-Vegamin said... cute!

I keep noticing "Chickens 4 sale $5" near my house. I must resist!