Even city people have rural genes in there somewhere
I live in a rural area of Wisconsin, but ordinances changed a few years ago in my county and my town regarding the keeping of chickens. My neighbors informed me of this a couple of years ago as they came over with a dozen of the best eggs I’d ever tasted. I was fine with it – my neighbors are not that close to my property, so I was glad to give them my blessing. Since then, I have been learning a lot about chickens, the most surprising being that even if they were close to my property, as long as they were well-cared for (and didn’t have any roosters!), I would hardly know they were there at all.
Nowadays I get to go over there sometimes to chicken sit, if they are out of town. I term it “get to” because I don’t see it as a chore. The chickens make comforting noises as I let them in or out of their coop or enclosed yard, and cleaning up a nesting area or collecting eggs somehow makes me feel close to nature.
Flock at First Glance
When I first saw the flock, I was amazed at the variation. I had just started my chicken research but I could already identify the big, but squat Orpingtons from the Sussex hen, little Bantams from the two Silkies that made up the flock. It was pretty satisfying knowing that I could identify at least some breeds!
The hens were very used to people, and when I went into their yard to check the food and water, they gathered around and responded to my voice. Their clucks had a soothing quality and I could definitely see myself keeping chickens one day.
The Broody Hen
The owner told me there was a broody hen in the coop. A broody hen is a hen that sits on eggs, even when not fertilized and even if they’re not hers, and expects them to hatch. In addition, the hen may stop laying eggs, and, since she is always on the nest, it prevents other hens from laying. A broody hen will not come off the nest unless forced and will even deny herself food and water because the obsession to sit on eggs is so strong. Our word “to brood” has a similar meaning.
I was told to just reach under her and get the eggs (one of the cures for this condition is taking away eggs right away). I tentatively reached under her the first morning, but she did not have any eggs. However, the place under her downy breast was the softest, warmest place on earth. The next morning I was surprised to find three eggs, so I took them in my egg gathering basket, along with the rest of the eggs I found in the nesting boxes. Yummm!
Are chickens for me?
I only got to chicken sit for two days, but it was a great experience. I got free-range eggs for my “trouble” and got to know a little bit more about chickens, and the more I get to chicken sit, the more I’ll know if I want to take the chicken-keeping plunge!
If you have chickens or are thinking of starting your own flock, Doctors Foster and Smith is now selling chicken supplies – everything from coops to food to toys. Do you have chicken stories to share?