Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Fresh Eggs

So . . . once again, optimism triumphs over experience.

Longtime readers of the Bee Drunken adventures-in-farming will know about Ralph and Lauren -- who used to be our chickens.  Perhaps they are someone else's chickens now; maybe they didn't like the fact that my oldest daughter kept changing their names?  Possibly, they wandered off to seek greener pastures.  Quite probably, the wily fox got them -- although he didn't leave any feathery evidence.  All we know for sure is that when we got home from our Spanish cycling trip, those chickies were gone.  They had flown the coop.

I will admit that I dealt well with my grave loss.  After all, who was the one who waded through the mud all through the winter to feed them?  Who scraped all of the chicken poo and hay off the eggs?  Whose flower borders were wrecked, more than once?

As time went by, though, my hard feelings softened.  As I gazed out of our kitchen window, my eyes would inevitably fall on the empty hen hut.  And I would feel just a teensy bit sad.

There were practical reasons, too, to miss our poultry.  For one thing, the stale bread kept piling up.  Also, as I bake a lot, we never seemed to have eggs anymore.  I was always forgetting to buy them after three years of a steady supply.

Unsurprisingly, when my youngest daughter started making noise about getting more chickens it really wasn't that difficult to wear me down.  Yes, I am a sucker.  Not only that, instead of holding the line at two chickens (one for each child), we left the farm with FOUR chickens -- two of which (whom?) won't even be earning their keep for another 9 months.  "But Mommy, they are so fluffy and cute!"  Yea, yea.

Do you dear bloggy readers realize just how many breeds of chickens there are?

We bought our chickens from a 13 year old astoundingly knowledgeable farmer's son.  He had a dozen breeds at least, and he tried his best to educate us on their finer points:  how to tell males from females when they are young, what color of eggs they each have, etc.   I was somewhat overwhelmed, though, by the profusion of farm animals.  The main thing that I learned, and can pass on to you, is that an unruly chicken may be "tamed" by grasping it by the legs and flipping it upside-down.  Apparently, the blood rushes to its meager brain and it immediately goes docile for you.  Well, it worked for the farmer's son; I didn't test the technique, actually.

My youngest daughter immediately determined that we must have the "white silkie" breed.  They lay very small eggs, but compensate for this shortcoming by being soft and cuddly.  Frankly, I think they are the "dumb blondes" of the chicken world.  It has already become obvious that they don't eat a lot of carbs, either.  Ralph and Lauren were plain, but they were sturdy and reliable egg layers.  They could dispatch half a loaf of bread, no problem.  These dainty dimbos haven't laid an egg yet and they keep trying to eat the baby chick food.

One of my daughter's friends raises chickens, and her only comment on the white silkies was: They are really stupid chickens.  Since all poultry is fairly dumb, this is hardly a recommendation.

Still, my daughters spent all weekend gazing adoringly at them.  They promised me that, unlike last time, they are going to take care of these chickens.

I give it a week.  Maybe two.


Anonymous said...

I am envious of your chicken adventures. My grandmother had a pet rooster called Cocky. She used to walk round the house with him under her arm. She had, however, been brought up in a lunctic asylum.
Your chicks look bliss.
In Morocco on every merry holiday when children celebrate, chicks are dyed all sorts of brilliant colors and given as toys to little kids.
I feel you shudder. Me too given the number of cats, attention span of 5 year olds etc.
However, when one considers the practices of battery chicken farmers in the US.....need I go on.
Anyway, sometimes, weeks after the holiday s, one would come upon straggly teen chickens with ust the vestiges of color on the tips of their scraggly wings........So these are my thoughts on chickens.

willow said...

I always wanted chickens here at the manor. We always talked about it, but never took the plunge. Your white silky really is lust worthy. Hope they finally give you a few eggs!

B said...

I remember my grandparents' chickens! Although I was always a bit scared of them, for some reason. Good luck taking care of them... I bet your family is looking forward to you being able to bake again!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I'm rather afraid of chickens. Sad, but true. Not if they are behind a fence of some sort, you understand...and it's not as if they haunt my dreams or anything, but I don't think I could manage that early morning search for eggs if my life depended on it. But I do think they are beautiful. So many varieties.

It's fun to think of Ralph and Lauren off wandering around Europe somewhere, isn't it. Would make a lovely story methinks!!

ArtSparker said...

Lady, you must have some biceps to be able to flip a farmer's son upside down...even one not fully grown.

I was young and fluffy once...

Delwyn said...

Hi Bee

I loved the chicky story- why do we so willingly acquiesce when a part of us knows that other ideas might be better...I hope the girls get lots of fluffy pleasure while the chicks are young...and I hope that you can bake again one day...

I am going to be watching the Bee-Julie cook ups with interest...

Happy days

larkspur said...

What fun. Chickies in the garden!

linda said...

you, my dear, are in a lucky and happy time of life with those two darlings by your side...not the chickens, the daughters!

my dh has never relented on his refusal to have them as they wouldn't do well with the heat here and would keel over and die, or so he will have me believe and i can't eat eggs anymore anyway...but oh the delights of fresh eggs, although the cleaning? not so much....i used to help my dh clean turkey eggs, if you can believe it, and that's a story i could blog about...what a mess those suckers were!

enjoy the fall!

julochka said...

the white silkies look almost like they have fur, like a rabbit, rather than feathers. but it's true, chickens are pretty dumb...

Barrie said...

You and your chickens. Me and my reptiles. Who would've predicted this?! Also...I wanted to say thank you for your kind words about Flo.

rachel said...

After my kitten fostering debacle, I can empathise with the weak of will. Four chickens aren't enoughthough -you need two more, big sturdy girls who will keep those fluffy blondes right!

Tessa said...

I'm going to write a book entitled 'A Chicken Broke My Heart'. I kept a little flock of beauties and two ducks called Virginia and Vita (we think they were lesbians), all of whom were murdered and after the a fox. I tried hard to shoot said fox with my husband's old pellet gun (just to scare him, you understand) but only managed to make a series of random holes in the washing that was hanging on the line at the time. I still have three eggs and a tail feather as mementos. Sigh.

I wish your chickens a long and productive life, Bee.

steven said...

hi bee - what a cool story! i've never felt tempted by chickens even though i'd be deeply grateful for fresh eggs. cute? hmmm i dunno - cats, dogs - they can be cute. i'm going to see what my daughter thinks and maybe she can convince me!!! have a great day. steven

Tracy Golightly-Garcia said...

Thanks for your story! I would love to have my own chickens, but my husband does'nt think we could keep them in our back yard (county or city law). Good luck with the new little ones!
Tracy :)

Dick said...

We've been thinking about keeping chickens when we move in to the new house. This post has concentrated the mind, Bee, although I'm not in which direction! We'll have open country in front of us, across which I've already seen foxes trotting in the manner of lords of their domain so I guess that doesn't bode well for any future on-site domestic fowls!

Nimble said...

Long live the chickens! Those fluffy ones are very silly, close to Seussian, just right for pets.

Chairman Bill said...

Love the accessorised nail varnish.

Dave King said...

You bring back fond memories of keeping chickens as part of our war effort. I'm tempted to blog on them, but I had promised myself to stop living in the past.

Sarah Laurence said...

The fox got my mother-in-law's chickens twice and she gave up. Fresh eggs are nice and as pets go, not so much work, especially if the girls did their share!

I had a little chick imprint on me and follow me all over campus for an animal behavior class at summer school when I was 16. That was fun, until we had to return the big chicks to the farmer.

Sorry, grizzly comments on a sweet post. Happy laying to your brood.

Stealth Genius said...

I <3 baby chickletssss :)

Anne said...

What beautiful chickens! They look like they're luxuriously soft. I wonder if there's much difference in taste between the eggs of one breed of chicken and another? Here's hoping the two older ones start laying soon so that you can find out.

Do they have names yet?

Bee said...

Ewix - You must write a post about your grandmother some day. As for the dyed baby chicks, we used to to a hotel in Tobago at Easter and they always had a flock of pastel chicks for the small children to play with. Yikes. Personally, and leaving aside the subject of chick torment, I can't bear the feeling of their bony little bodies.

Willow _ I can't wait to see the eggs. I have a feeling that they might be as eccentric looking as the chickens. We saw some absolutely gorgeous chickens at the Newbury Show. Really, you should think about it. (But you need a chicken run. Chickens are little beasts for tearing up the garden!)

B - Maybe they pecked you? Not having chickens didn't stop me from baking; it just meant that I kept having to visit the grocery store!

Pamela - Yes, I would prefer to think of Ralph and Lauren with their red gingham knapsacks off on some adventures.

ArtSparker - You should have seen me flip that young farmer!

Delwyn - I'm sure that some children DO learn to be responsible as a result of taking care of animals. Ahem. And thanks for following our culinary adventures, too.

Larkspur - I am bemused and amused by my chicken ownership.

Linda - You MUST blog about turkey eggs someday. And yes, I am appreciative of my own little chicks -- especially because this will be the last year with both of them at home.

Julochka - They really are silky like rabbits . . . which reminds me of the craze for rabbit-fur jackets when I was in 5th grade. In South Dakota, too?

Barrie - Yes, I wonder what it reveals about us that we have ended up with these particular pets? Very touching about Flo. I bet she would have loved the thought of all of you getting together in the spirit of friendship and tribute to her.

Bee said...

Rachel - I didn't mention that the farm was also overrun by adorable kittens. I held firm against acquiring one, though.

Tessa - What fabulous names for your chickens!! We still haven't decided on names, although oldest daughter is leaning toward Thelma and Louise for her two. You really must write up that chicken story. Wonderful visuals.

Steven - How old is your daughter? Is she likely to take care of the pets?

Tracy - Oh, you're safe then. ;)

Dick - I'm amused by the "concentrated my mind" bit. Yes, I'm even-handed with the pros and cons. One farmer friend has an electric fence around her chicken coop. Are you prepared to go to these lengths?

Nimble - They really ARE Seussian. I hadn't thought of it. And you should see their absurdly frilly feet.

Chairman Bill - Coincidence, that. (I didn't even realize until I took the pictures, because I don't like being too close to the chickens.)

Dave King - Definitely blog about your chickens! Oh please. Btw, I was in the Alton Sainsbury's today and I thought of you!

Sarah - That makes me think of the story "Are you my Mother?"

Stealth Genius - Yes, this afternoon I checked on their food and the stupid big ones had eaten all of the baby chick food again!!

Anne - Yes, very soft. They are beautiful little fluffballs. The farmer told me that the eggs all taste all alike -- although they vary widely in color and size. I will say that our eggs used to have a rich orange yolk, and store-bought ones (even good-quality ones) always seem pallid by comparison.

spudballoo said...

So you'll end up with stupid chickens that lay small eggs and don't finish up the leftovers? Hmm. Pigs, you need pigs...although not so good for cuddle. x

kristina said...

welcome chickens! you've chosen the best place to live :-)
I wonder if that flipping upside-down action works on people too? might come in handy! ;-)

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

Wait. Did you say FOUR chickens?


Well, I would probably cave too. They are ADORABLE. So hartelijk gefeliciteerd on your new babies :-)

A Cuban In London said...

I have a funny tale to tell. When I was little I used to go to my family's in the countryside and always came back with a chick. Since we lived in a flat in downtown Havana I was always told we could not have any pets but a little chick, my parents let me keep it. I used to walk it everyday after school in the local park until one day when it 'mysteriously' disappeared. That night we usually had chicken casserole or fried chicken. When I asked where my little chick was (I was five or six at the time) my parents said that it had grown too big and therefore had decided to go back with its brothers and sisters. I always imagined the chick with a little bundle hanging from a pole on its shoulder walking back home, hundreds of miles.

Your post reminded me of those times. Many thanks. Fantastic photos.

Greetings from London.

The White Way of Delight said...

Oh do you live in England? Very nice! :) Loved your blog... Such sweet pictures. :)
Emily Anne

Cait O'Connor said...

We used to keep chicken but don't know, just the two of us and it doesn't seem worth it now, they are a tie and we have lost so many to the fox. But that is all negative, if you have a young family I think it is worth it and bought eggs really aren't a match for flavour.
Congratulations on your anniversary and your two beautiful daughters.
Sorry I have not called by for ages but I have been rather busy with life. I will visit more often now.


Loved your chicken story. I may have mentioned before that we once kept chickens when living in Southbourne, Bournemouth. It was then that I discovered that chicken manure produced the best
sweet peas I ever grew! That is why I fell in love with
your picture of the sweet peas! No wonder, they must have been grown on the same fertilizer! Most of all these days I long to eat a 4 minute new laid egg
placed in an egg cup and eaten with bread and butter fingers of bread! I have a new blog now. You will see why.

Emm said...

Poor Ralph and Lauren! I would love bunnies or ducks myself but I fear my Labrador would love them more.

Love the blue nail polish!

Beth said...

You have your priorities straight – the delight of your children takes precedence over egg production. ;)
However, I do think you’re optimistic with that two week prediction…

Reya Mellicker said...

There's a long article in last week's New Yorker about the renewed interest in raising chickens. Here on Capitol Hill in DC there's an affinity group named "Hens on the Hill" - it's so interesting, and, well, quirky.

You rode the crest of the return to the old ways. In the New Yorker article they said that until the 1950's in the UK and US, it was very common for people to keep a couple of chickens.

LOVE your daughter's blue nail polish.

Meri said...

When I was little we had a rooster named Archie. Archie ended up as dinner. . . and I think that was the end of chicken ranching at our house.

Merisi said...

Chickens! You gotta lov'em! :-)
The middle picture is gorgeous,
the look of the chicken worth a whole book.

My mother still keeps a small flock,
one rooster and a few hens. Some old breed, they are like jewels under the trees in the orchard.

Lucy said...

Damn, Artsparker got there first with the 'turning the farmer's son upside-down' quip!

These designer chickens are all very well, but it's true they're not so useful, and that fluff isn't quite so cute when it gets all mucky... also, the soppy hens tend to go broody more easily. Our barenecked ruffians never went broody once, and laid eggs for a good six years.

But they are awfully beautiful aren't they?

Tom ritually burned all the hen hut and paraphernalia in a combination of a weird access of grief when our old Martha passed away, and a determination that we'd now 'done' hens and weren't going to do them again.

Check out Francine Raymond for stuff on keeping hens for fun, I feel you'd like her...

Bee said...

Spud - If we only had a barn! Of course, our house was the barn.

Kristina - It is a funny image to contemplate.

JAPRA - The babies were irresistible. Unfortunately?

A Cuban in London - When did you start putting two and two together, I wonder? The silkies have too many feathers to look like they have much meat on their bones. Little daughter and I went to Nando's the other day, though, and I was amused to notice that they had the silkie listed as their top chicken!

Thanks for visiting, Emily Anne.

Cait - Oh yes, life . . . it does sometimes get in the way of blogging. I haven't been on the computer for a couple of days now and I feel dreadfully behind!

Margaret - I haven't used the chicken manure, but thanks for the tip. I will check out your new blog.

Emm - I know; we have had to board up the bottom of the chicken pen so Minstrel can't get in anymore. We're afraid that he will mistake our chickies for one of the birds he likes to snag.

Beth - Yes, my older daughter has already tired of them. Three days . . .

Reya - Well, I wouldn't rely on them for our meat or anything. I would have to be pretty desperate before I could work myself up to wringing a chicken's neck. I realize that I am very Marie Antoinette about our "barnyard animals."

Meri - Oh dear.

Merisi - When we went to the county fair a couple of weeks ago we were really surprised to discover what a VARIETY of chickens there are, and how beautiful they can be. Your description of them as "jewels" is definitely warranted. I wonder if/ how the qualities of beauty and being good layers correlate?

Lucy - Thanks for the tip on Francine. And yes, the silkies are really quite absurd and I don't know how they will weather the mud season . . . but since they are for the children, sometimes you just have to let them choose for themselves. I guess!

Jeanne said...

Visiting via Maggie May's....

They certainly are pretty. Being a bit bird-phobic myself, I wouldn't care to own any, but it certainly would be nice to have a ready supply of eggs.

Christina said...

they are just adorable! the girls, i mean! : ) and of course the chickens too ; ) how can you say no, to blue painted finger nails. : )
so sweet, my friend.

Anonymous said...

Adorable girls and chicks, lovely story but alas the fox will get them unless they are penned up.

Susie Hemingway said...

You new little chicks looks so delicate and somewhat ladies of fashion but I am sure they will be good layers. I have chickens as well, a boon they are for I would surely forget now, like you to purchase eggs. Bombay, Sapphire and Hendericks (a bit of a theme going on here) although purchased by me,they live at Orchard End my sisters property also in the village, so although I do very well for eggs I do not have the daily chores that need to be attended to. They like to escape and Jenny is often caught chasing one or another round her garden to protect her vegetables. I loved your beautiful Sunset photo and delighted at the vivid colours and I also remember the Berkshire show well having lived in Taplow for a number of years.
Sincere Regards to you Bee.

Pam said...

Ah give me a good old Rhode Island Red hen anyday.When I've kept chickens they've always been my favourites. The lady next door gave me some of those little chickens you've featured. They were flighty and brainless. Reminded me of the decades-ago office pool where the old girls weren't the lookers, but they got the work done in a steady way, scratching away at the In tray.

La Belette Rouge said...

Those chickens have fantastic hairdressers ( or is it a groomer?).

We have friends who just got a bunch of hens so they could have eggs hen fresh. I can assure you none of their eggs are close to being as fantastic as these.
p.s. I am not going to admit to you what I had for dinner. Oh, the shame I feel.;-)

Fantastic Forrest said...

I love that blue nail polish. Love it, do you hear?!

I am puzzled by this passage:
" unruly chicken may be "tamed" by grasping it by the legs and flipping it upside-down. Apparently, the blood rushes to its meager brain and it immediately goes docile for you. Well, it worked for the farmer's son; I didn't test the technique, actually."

So who DID turn the farmer's son upside down? Eldest daughter? And what did the farmer say when she did this?

Tee hee.