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December 10, 2009

Hawthorn Hill: We’re experiencing chicken mania

I have discovered that chickens do quite a bit more than drop eggs. They have other virtues as well. I suspect for those who have raised chickens the novelty has worn off a bit. But for me the experience is new enough that every day seems to present us with interesting occurrences.

A friend bequeathed us with a fancy metal, two tiered nest box `condo.’ About a week before we expected the `girls’ to start laying I filled each box with fresh cedar shavings. Cedar is supposed to be a bit more mite-retardant than pine, according to the chicken experts I consulted. Our first clutch of eggs appeared when we were away. Our chicken minder discovered the eggs and left a piece of white paper stuck in the door for us to see when we returned. The message was clear: ``Eggs!’’

Our neighbor took them home where she and her family enjoyed what I suspect was some delicious French toast. I had some myself this morning and can say without any sense of false pride that homemade bread soaked in fresh organic eggs is about as tasty as it gets.

Since starting this husbandry project I have discovered, as is the case with just about everything, that there are as many ways of raising chickens as there are chicken raisers. As my close friends know I am not one to gab much. At most parties or social gatherings I tend to hug the wall closest to the either the darkest wall or nearest escape route.

I am not one to go out of my way to ``make’’ idle conversation. Oddly enough, I find myself jumping at the chance to engage friends and neighbors in chicken discussions in the oddest of places.

For instance, I saw a friend and neighbor at the concert the other night and leaped out of my seat to run down the aisle to ask her about her chickens. Are they laying? Do you incarcerate them for the winter or do you let them out? How do you keep their water from freezing? Etc.? We chatted a bit about tactics and strategies and then she said, with a slight hint of bemused exasperation, that she was in the market for some intelligent chickens. I suggested that there are no chicken Rhodes scholars and that chickens will be chickens. Given my firm adherence to evolutionary theory, I suspect chickens are about as intellectually capable as they need be.

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