Friday, July 3, 2009

kickin' chickens

I have kept chickens almost from the time we moved out to the boondocks in 1991. I like to call them my Hereford chickens because of their hardy constitutions. I have an incubator that I use to increase my odds of success over the old fashioned methods of leaving a broody hen with her eggs.

Periodically I'll bring in stock from far and away to infuse some new blood into the genetic equation here, but over all it's been a Darwinian scramble of those that can survive poor housing and cheap feed that have prevailed. Some are even beautiful, at least they are, in my eyes. My favourites are what we call Black Betty. There have been many over the years. They seem a little less bird brained than most.

I've always thought that chickens should be capable of reproducing well, enough given half a chance to do so, on their own, but that hasn't been supported by my experience.

I've quarantined areas of the barn to make them free of cats and other disturbances while trying to encourage various broody hens to hatch out their own clutch. I've marked eggs for hens to commandeer a nest in the coup to help track the progress of a hatch there and after every attempt, I've retreated to my incubator for any reasonable degree of success.

This year my success with the incubator was unprecedented. Given that it never rains, but it pours, today Rose found a hen that had gone AWOL. Rose had likely been keeping tabs on her, if I think back about the dog's behaviour in the past little while. She's a funny dog. I'm really enjoying she has finally graduated from being an adolescent. She's still a terrier, but whatever, life with her is better now.

On my way back from chores at the barn this morning there was a tenacious clucking coming from a place that it's uncommon to hear such a racket. When I went to investigate, there was Rose standing guard at a respectful distance as a hen was hatching out her brood in the tall grass behind the grainery. It's maybe a distance of 100m from the coup. Dangerous indeed, but the Tommy dog has been working much more at night this year than last.


When I got home from deliveries today there were eleven little puff balls following the hen around by the barn. When I went to check the nest there was a late hatch looking a little worse for wear and three duds that didn't make the cut. What a percentage! I wish I could do as well with the incubator.

It seems to me ironic that the bird that hatched these chicks out, is a leghorn variety bird from commercial stock. We have never kept commercial stock, save the Cornish Giants that are butchered in the fall as roasters. Our layers have always been mutts until this year when the commercial layers we bought last year came on line. White eggs! How novel. Heaven knows we've had every other colour. Someone must be paying attention. I'm wholly impressed with this hen's ability to hatch out a brood through a once in twenty year storm that included 80mm of rain. Nice work Henny!


After a bite to eat she rounded up her wee juans and settled back down inside the fenced run, to provide some warmth and safety for the crew.


Unsophisticated simple pleasures. Yum.

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