I dislike our garden-shed coop for so many reasons, but I do like that when we bought our house, we had a ready-to-use chicken coop, so it has sufficed. One day, though, I have real coop dreams. Until then and in-between the awkwardness, I have the occasional comedic moments in our less-than-perfect coop.
I understand that animals live and die and that chickens are no exception. Usually, on our little suburban homestead, chickens die very purposefully: to be eaten and to make room for new layers. Of course, I care for the chickens that we eat though a few of our chickens are jerks. On the flip side, a couple of our chickens are pets and have earned themselves a name. Yesterday, my pet chicken Ianigena died of unknown causes.
As an Alaskan, I never feel as if winter has arrived until it has snowed. To me, that means a blanket of snow that causes the grass to disappear and the trees to huddle up under their white garments. As a Kansan, I take what I get whenever it arrives (and it’ll probably change the next day).
Fall has been a touch on the warm side this late into October, but autumn also arrived early. The temperatures in August and September were nowhere near as oppressively hot as they normally are even if October has been unseasonably warm. Our garden is still producing more tomatoes than we can eat (though fewer than we can can). Better yet, the baby chickens are all grown up and laying teeny eggs in the nest boxes.
When I’m holding a baby chicken, I forget in the euphoric rush of delight that the downy fluffball will inevitably grow up into a jerk. Chickens can’t help it: they’re hard-wired to have a pecking order. This pecking order allows the strongest of the flock to have the best access to food and the choice spot to roost, along with other perks. In an established flock, the pecking order is more or less stagnant with few changes to the hierarchy. As a suburban chicken keeper though, my flock is changing every year as I introduce new baby chicks or remove the older hens from the laying population, thus creating a need for a new pecking order.
One of my new baby chickens has an exceptionally sweet personality, and her breed is not a dual-purpose chicken. White Faced Black Spanish are built to be egg layers with slighter bodies than is generally conducive to eating. After pretending to debate for a long period of time whether I could have another pet chicken, I decided that she would be. As a pet, she merits a name. (I can’t name chickens that I intend to eat.) When I name a new pet, I consider it a solemn duty to be as nerdy as I can. I didn’t always roll this way, but I wasn’t always a certified Latin teacher either.
For nearly the last two months, our home has been an aviary for baby chickens. I’ve raised and cared for nineteen downy fluff balls that became awkward tweenagers and now resemble miniature versions of the adults they’re quickly becoming. Last week, my coworker picked up her friendly buff orpingtons, and I drove thirteen chickens out to my friend’s farm this week. I was particularly eager to drop off the Lakenvelder rooster who proved to have a keen interest in improving his crowing ability and whose repeated efforts terrorized my dog (and us).