Thursday, March 4, 2010

Peep Show

We’ve got quite a peep show going on over here at our house. We are seriously overrun with chicks. I’m not completely sure how this happened. Actually, that’s not true, I know exactly how it happened. It happened because I am a weak mother and I have chick problem. But going back further it happened because of a gray fox that entered our chicken pen at dusk a few months back. The roosters alerted me to his presence and I went running in to the pen with the only weapon I could find at the moment, an empty manure bucket. My husband pointed out later that there was also a pitchfork available to me and I said “Ah! I should have grabbed that!” And then he gently asked me if I could have truly speared a fox, to which I had to honestly say, “No.” So the manure bucket was as good a weapon as any considering the situation.

I waved my manure bucket and yelled all kinds of hateful things I never knew were hidden in the far recesses of my brain. The fox ran back and forth along the fence line in a panic because of the crazy woman with the big blue bucket blocking his escape through the gate from whence he came. This stand off went on for what seemed like hours, but was probably only 30 seconds before I realized I was blocking the only way out for the fox. Since I just wanted the horrid beast gone, I stepped out of the way and he darted by me while I jumped up and down (just in case he was planning on nibbling my toes as he passed by RIGHT NEXT TO ME!).

In the aftermath of the fox’s visit, we were left with only eight living chickens, six of which are hens and two of which are worthless, noisy roosters. Unlike our first rooster, Snowball (may he rest in peace) who gave his life for our hens, the two useless roosters had high-tailed it to the top end of our pasture where they commenced crowing their lungs out while the hens were savaged in the chicken yard. True, it was their yelling that alerted me to the situation in the chicken pen, but still, if the fox had to kill so many chickens why couldn’t it have been one (or two) of the roosters? Why did it have to be my best laying hens?

We have been down to 1 or 2 eggs a day (at the most) since the fox incidence. I’ve even had to go to the market and buy eggs, which felt completely wrong. And our whole family learned again that no store bought egg tastes as good as a fresh one.

This set the scene for what happened two weeks ago on my laptop. My daughter and I were taking advantage of some free wifi at the music studio where she sings with her rock band (think School of Rock) and we surfed over to the McMurray Hatchery website. We explored all the options available for ordering peeps (one day old chicks). In my mind I was thinking we might order as many as a dozen peeps, but as we paged through the options there were just too many beautiful choices! Hens that lay blue eggs, pink eggs, brown eggs, speckled egss. Hens with fluffy feet, pompadours on their heads, jet black ones, speckled ones, striped ones, and fancy chickens with extra long tail feathers. And they only cost about $2.50 a piece, so what’s the harm in throwing in a few more? We were up to 18 chicks when I attempted to place the order. A message came back quickly, “Minimum order is 25 peeps”. Well, we don’t really have a choice do we? And what if the fox comes back? He hasn’t been back since the fateful night. Either he was freaked out by the crazy woman with the bucket who trapped him in the chicken yard or he’s terrified of the ferocious puppy that has been turned loose to patrol the barn (chase the cats and bark her fool head off at fast moving spiders) and has been forced to move to more lucrative venues. But what if he decides to come back? A few extra chicks aren’t a bad thing.

In the end we picked out more Arucanas (they lay blue eggs!) and Rhode Island Reds (my favorite and the smartest chickens, if there is such a thing as a smart chicken). To that we added some Buff Orpingtons (because our neighbor has the most beautiful one named Julie who hatched our roosters for us last year, even though they weren’t her eggs), Black Giants (they lay lots of eggs, even in winter and they look really tough), Silver Laced Wyandottes (because they are just so pretty), and Buff Laced Polish (they have the pompadours on their heads). Then when I was ready to place the order, another message from the hatchery appeared, “Would you like a free exotic chick with your order?” Well, of course we’d like a free exotic chick – how exciting! It’s almost as if there was a wizard behind the screen in the next room pulling my strings. My only defense is temporary insanity and an overly-excited daughter.

So that’s how we came to have 26 chicks in the Pack n Play in our mudroom. It was easy to do. None of us can figure out which one is the “free exotic chick” because she looks kind of like an Arucana, but then again she might look like the Silver Laced Wyandottes. And who’s to say what’s exotic anyway. We’re talking about a chicken.

I could spend hours just watching the chicks as they scurry about and peck at each other. Every once in awhile one of the chicks picks up a piece of bedding and tears around the enclosure like she’s got some kind of treasure and several others will start chasing her wanting what she has and setting all the chicks to peeping. And sometimes one chick will be happily lying under the heat lamp and another one will walk right over top of her like she’s a simple speed bump, or worse yet, a chick will stop and peck the prone one in the head for no apparent reason. And even though the chick feeder has 24 holes to eat from, whichever one the first chick starts to eat out of becomes the one every chick wants to eat from and a tussle ensues. And then there’s the mess - it’s everywhere.

Funny, these chicks act a lot like my children but I don’t find it nearly as entertaining or as relaxing to watch their antics as I do the chicks. Still, I have to enjoy the peep show while I can. Pretty soon instead of 26 little balls of fluff that peep and play, there will be 26 big noisy hens attacking my gardens and leaving their eggs everywhere. Now if the fox comes back for a visit, we can spare a few hens because I’m wondering just how many eggs we can eat.

Note to my local readers – feel free to stop by to see the peep show!

1 comment:

  1. I love your story and the colorful descriptions. The picture of all the peeps is adorable!