She Was a Very Masculine Hen

| 1/12/2012 2:29:47 PM

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The fact that a single chicken produces 45 pounds of poop in one year didn’t dull my enthusiasm for starting a small flock of six chickens. That’s 270 pounds of dooky a year.

For an urban backyard flock, that’s a serious pile to consider, I suppose. But on Shuddering Squirrel Acres, where fruit trees, vegetable and flower gardens, and outdoor potted plants all need to be fertilized each growing season, it’s a potential heap of gold.

Composted for a year or two with the chickens’ bedding of straw and pine shavings — as well as kitchen food scraps, dead leaves, grass clippings, and a little bit of dirt — chicken manure becomes one of the finest natural fertilizers you can use. Try buying a five- or 10-pound bag at the garden supply shop, and the price will tell you its relative value.

Getting chicks and raising them was the first thing I wanted to do when we moved here, but more pressing concerns around the property delayed it for a year. At the end of last April, we bought the chicks at Tractor Supply, dipping them out of a big galvanized stock tank packed with peeping fuzz balls and warmed by a red heat lamp.

We wanted all laying hens, so we chose from the tank labeled “pullets”— the name for young female chickens. They were all supposed to have been sexed, found to be female, and separated from an adjoining tank labeled “straight run”— the term for unsexed, unsorted chicks that may be pullets or may be cockerels (young males).

Ric's ChicksI chose three red chicks, two blacks, and last, a single yellow chick just like those you see every Easter, given to temporarily interested little kids by unthinking parents who are soon stuck with the problem of how to get rid of them. I don’t much like to think of how they go about that.

Christiane Potts
1/13/2012 11:37:08 PM

Larry is a definitely a handsome devil. I'm sorry that he did end up being a him though. We have five hens and have chosen not to have a rooster simply because we love our neighbors. Plus, one crow at a very early hour and there would be coq au vin for dinner. Good luck!

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