Why DID the Chicken Cross the Road?

Reader Contribution by Cam Mather

By Cam Mather

Ever notice how when you buy a “blue”
Honda Civic, or a red Chevy Cobalt, or whatever, you suddenly notice how
many other people have the same car? It’s a bit like how ever since we
acquired our chickens, we began noticing how many expressions that we
use, are related to chickens.

Here are just a few that Michelle and I have noticed.

We
bought our chickens as 20-week-old birds ready to begin laying. If we
had tried the whole incubation thing, we wouldn’t have wanted to “count our chickens before they were hatched.”
The 20-week-olds were only $10 each, which when you think of the eggs
that they’ll provide us with over their lifetimes, it really was just “chicken feed.” I was kind of hesitant about getting them but when Michelle said, “Oh, you’re just chicken!” I was inspired to finally take the plunge.

I usually let them out of their coop at dawn because I’m “up with the chickens.” Once they got settled in, we realized that the ladies really do have a natural “pecking order” and that Henrietta “rules the roost.”

We tried to find a cheap, used coop to buy but around here they’re as “rare as hen’s teeth.”
We recently moved their coop to behind the house and we placed bales of
hay around their coop to provide some insulation. We couldn’t figure
out how one of the chickens kept escaping from her pen until we saw her
climb the hay bales near the fence and she literally “flew the coop.”
And now that we allow them to run freely around the yard during the
day, we tend to bring them in late in the afternoon because we don’t
want to “wait ’til the chickens come home to roost.”

Since the ladies love to dig holes in their pen, which makes walking treacherous, we’ve learned not to “put all our eggs in one basket” when we collect them, for fear of tripping.

I’m sure there’s more.

We
moved the coop to its winter location during the week that I had Heidi
and Gary’s tractor. Even though I thought I had designed the coop to be
movable, as I added a better roof and insulation and other “stuff,” it
got heavier and heavier.  We moved the coop closer to the house. It’s on
the south side so it’s sheltered from the prevailing wind and will get
some solar heat. Since I had recently acquired a lot of older square hay
bales, so I put them around the coop for insulation. I’m calling it a
“strawbale coop,” even though it’s really hay.

The
ladies seem to really like it. Even before I moved their coop, I
noticed how much they seemed to enjoy climbing on the other piles of
square bales I had placed throughout the gardens. So now they have their
very own jungle gym to climb on all day. There are also some maze-like
spots where they can get in and play hide and seek. It took them a few
days to settle in to their new spot. Egg production dropped for a day or
two.

Michelle spent a recent weekend with a group of friends having a “hen party”
and she was gearing up to take lots of eggs to her gathering. Henny,
Penny, Flora and Belle each provided one egg a day for weeks and
Michelle was able to take plenty of eggs with her. On the Saturday that
Michelle was gone I found just two eggs in the nesting box, and on the
Sunday there were just three. On Monday when Michelle came back all four
of them laid an egg. I’m sure it was just a coincidence, but I swear
they knew she really wanted them to go full out and when she left they
finally relaxed and took a bit of a breather. Good for them. They
deserved it. They are doing a marvelous of job of providing us with
amazing eggs. And they are also good at entertaining “Princess
Elizabeth” aka Lizzy the cat, who spends hours watching them.

When they start to feel “cooped up”
they natter at us to let them out to graze during the day, and they are
often out roaming for 3 or 4 hours a day. Unfortunately, with the cold
weather, most of the grasshoppers are gone. But as I’ve been planting
garlic, they hang around me and unearth all sorts of grubs and cutworms.
While I’d love to think that they just enjoy spending time with me,
they do seem more focused on what they can unearth from the freshly dug
soil where I’m working.

It’s my job every day to gather the eggs and also clean out the coop. I enjoy doing it, really I do. I don’t do it because I am “hen pecked!”

The
ladies have been here for 5 months and I must say, the novelty of
having them hasn’t worn off yet. They are simply a treat to have around.

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Photos by Cam Mather. For more information about Cam or his books, please visit www.cammather.com or www.aztext.com