“Chicken in the bread pan picking out dough.”
Ever heard of Freewill Baptists? Well our chickens are Freewill chickens. They do not prefer the henhouse. They love to roam and even go to the pond for water when they have a perfectly good water spigot in their house. They love running around roaming here and there for grasshoppers and worms to eat. It is getting harder and harder to get our eggs.
Our Rhode Island Reds are beautiful, except when molting. They have pretty red speckled feathers that match their waddles. When Ron goes anywhere near they run and start following him as if he were the pied piper. They know he is going to fill their feeder and throw them out a handful or two of scratch for them to enjoy.
We started on an early spring day with ten little red chicks in the laundry room in a cardboard box warmed by a heat lamp. They grew fast and soon we had them out in the henhouse that Ron built of wood, chicken wire, and sheet metal. Their little loft boasted a roosting bar and the nesting boxes were hung with a short leopard skin curtain for chicken privacy. Supposedly the dark safe feel to the nesting boxes would encourage the hens to lay there.
Every morning we let them out to run and catch their own meat. They laid pretty brown eggs that I sold at the market. We enjoyed having a constant supply of eggs with dark yellow yolks and some of those double yolks. But those hens do not want to share and besides what we took they lost some to critters. Four times Ron found king snakes inside the nest boxes. The hens started laying under the forsythia bush, in the kindling box by the back door, and in other odd places. We can’t climb under the bushes searching for eggs. Our take dwindled to three or four a day.
I love to watch those chickens waddle around the yard and peck at the leaves and hunt for bugs to feast on. I like to see them run and hear their little turkey warbles and clucking. They are not a lot of trouble for the fun and eggs you get from them. The day before Thanksgiving I stopped at the neighbors farm and bought four dozen eggs. Imagine that! And it’s a fact that they cost more than my first ten chicks cost. They came in several colors and most were small but I had eggs.
Soon the temperatures will drop pretty low and I will need to shut them up in the coop with its metal walls and a heat lamp to warm them. They may not like it but they will be warm all huddled together and roosting in the safe coop. The life of chickens is not a hard life unless you realize their eggs get taken and they have to root for food. There are two dogs to guard them from predators and someone to feed them and give them water.
We only have six chickens left from that first installation of laundry chicks and I can no longer tell them apart or get their names right: Giselle, Ginny, Gloria, Gina, Gussie and Giszelda. Which is which? I can no longer tell.
This fall I am thankful for my hens even if they spurn the henhouse and lay eggs in the garage or the kindling box.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!