Wednesday, July 21, 2010

State of the Chicken Address

It’s been about 5 1/2 months since we made the decision to give over our backyard (and Courtney’s brother’s front yard) over to three shit-where-they-please roach eating Rhode Island Red chickens, so we’re due for a little update about them, aren’t we?

They’re awesome.

I love owning chickens. In general, there’s a certain pleasure that you get from sharing your space with a pet, and the chickens have filled in a niche we didn’t know we had. No, they’re not particularly loving, nor do they offer much in the way of personality (well, one does, more on that further down), but there’s a contentment in owning them that I ascribe to two things- 1) the contemplative enjoyment of simply observing them as they stalk around the backyard, scratching up insects, tearing weeds to pieces, standing up to the dogs and just generally pursuing their own agenda with little regard for anything other than their own immediate needs, and 2) they’re productive, actually adding something tangible to the family, unlike those free-loading dogs with their “unconditional love”, or whatever.

In other words, there’s a satisfaction in tending to an animal who you’ve brought into your life, not for companionship, but because you’re actually working for mutual benefit. I’ve never had livestock, but now I see the appeal. You’re forming an actual working relationship with an animal, and that’s, well, wholesome.

So, there they are stalking about the backyard, retreating into their hen house at dusk or in the heat of the day or if it rains, or, every day at 9am for one of them, to lay an egg. They do their own thing, and we’re happy with that.

The chickens formerly known as Audrey and Bess. Don't ask me which is which.

You may recall that we named them. This has turned out to be a moot point for two of the chickens, once known as Audrey and Bess, now referred to as “the other ones”. They are, as far as any of us can tell, completely interchangeable, and uninterested in any but the most passing and food-producing of interactions with human beings. They stay away from us and we stay away from them, and we're reasonably happy with each other. The third, however, seems to have sucked up all the personality from the other two. That would be Blackie, named for three black spots that were on her fuzzy red head when she was a few days old that have long since disappeared. She is actually the lightest in color of the three, so a bit of accidental irony there.


Here’s the thing about Blackie- Blackie likes us. No, no, Blackie looooooves us. Blackie comes running when we go outside, Blackie enjoys being picked up, Blackie wants to follow us inside the house, Blackie wants to go for rides in the car, and Blackie talks to us in a constant croaking chicken soliloquy. This means, naturally, that we like Blackie, and the fact that she is the first of the three chickens to actually start laying only bolsters our regard. Make no mistake, Blackie will never be eaten, even after she has outlived her laying capabilities. The Other Ones? Well...

Speaking of eating- Damn but fresh chicken eggs are good! The yolks are the yellowest I've ever seen, and the whites have a cohesiveness to them that store bought eggs seem to lack. And their delicious, lacking in some off-flavors that I'd never realized weren't an integral part of egg-taste. Of course, the fact that they are rarely more than three days old when eaten probably helps immensely- we'll see how the flavor changes once we're getting enough eggs that we have to store them for longer. Currently, Blackie is giving us one a day. The others haven't yet gotten there, but we expect them to start sometime in the next month. If not, well, maybe I'll start sharpening the cleaver outside the henhouse door in the evenings.

Or perhaps Sharka will have a suggestion.