Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Our choice of paths to chicken farming

Back in April, when I first mustered up the courage to order an Eglu from Omlet (actually, when I finally got permission from Left Coast Mom), I backed out when I found out the chickens I wanted to order along with the Eglu wouldn't be available until June 18. Back then (April 20), June 18 seemed so far away, I just couldn't imagine cooling my heels that long before getting jumping into backyard chicken farming.

Yes, ordering the chickens from Omlet meant we'd get a couple Gingernut Rangers in mid-June that were T.O.L. (Time Of Lay, or within four weeks of laying their first egg), but it also meant two months of empty Eglu in the backyard waiting for chickens to arrive. And these chickens were spending their formative weeks in some mass-production hatchery operation, not in the coddling environs of a wannabe backyard egg farmer. Who knows what bad habits the Rangers would be picking up from the rest of the flock at the hatchery? (Yes, I realize McMurray Hatchery is a reputable joint, but c'mon, we're talking about the chooks we'd be living with for years!)

So, back in April, I went to Plan B instead: get a couple chicks and raise them from days-old to old-age. Save for a few days at the beginning of their lives, we'd know exactly how they'd been treated (loved, adored, etc), and they'd imprint on our family like we were their own. Besides that, we'd get to pick our breed instead of being told which breed we could have.

As fate would have it, we ended up with a couple of fine Barred Rock specimens, Sophia and ZsuZsu. I'm hoping they're both girls, but part of choosing Plan B was taking the risk that they'd been sexed correctly. This being our first time raising chickens, I have no way to tell whether they were sexed right until one or both start a) cock-a-doodle-dooing or b) laying eggs. And that won't be for another three months when they approach 20 weeks old.

So, now I see that I skipped two months of empty Eglu in May and June on the way to getting eggs from Gingernut Rangers in July for two months of adolescent-full Eglu in July and August on the way to getting eggs from Barred Rocks in September.

Given just how amazing it's been to watch the girls(?!) grow from chicks into adolescent pullets(?!) in these short seven weeks, I think Plan B should have been Plan A all along. In this case, the chicken coming before the egg was indeed the way it was meant to be.

In my next post, I'll talk about just how ugly these chooks get as their wattles start to form. Good thing there are no mirrors in the coop or they'd scare themselves to death!

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