Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chicken math!

People who've never had a chicken just never seem to understand how much like potato chips they really are... you can't just have one or even two!  They're addicting....  Then there's this  whole thing called "chicken math" and it seems to sneak up on you out of the clear blue sky.
5 of our original starter flock
Let me explain:  we started out with a half dozen chickens in the spring of 2010.  Once we were on a roll of acquiring our flock, it grew to a bakers dozen.... 
Remind me not to take my youngest child to the feed store with me when they have baby chicks in stock.  Little man gave me those big ol' hazel green eyes, that sweet innocent smile, and said, "Please!?!"
That's all she wrote.  Twenty five new chicks came home with us from the feed store that very day and wa-la!  Our flock grew to THIRTY-EIGHT laying hens and TWO roosters before the end of summer 2011.  (sigh)  
Chicks hatched from the Green Mile coop (summer 2011)
I had some hens and a rooster separated from my main flock for awhile.  They were in what we referred to as the Green Mile coop - for us, that was equating to hens who were no longer producing and a rooster we didn't want.  My brother was supposed to take care of them (as in wringing their necks and sending them to freezer camp) in exchange for the eggs he received.  Well, almost a year later, and this group was still there.  To our surprise, the hens that were no longer producing ended up giving it one last ditch effort and laid some eggs which were fertilized by the rooster.  Out of twenty some odd eggs, we had SEVEN hatch and added to our flock as a direct result!  

Uh huh.  That’d make 47 birds now.  (Although we ended up losing some to predators such as the likes of raccoons and hawks, so we’re down to “just” forty now.)  
This, my friends, is the "chicken math" in which I referred to earlier....  After awhile, you cease to be able to count them because they refuse to sit still long enough for you to do so!  Twenty-five can look at lot like forty and forty can look a lot like a hundred when you're trying to count them.
I kid you not.  It happens.    
2 Frizzles (we lost one to a predator)
Honestly, we don't NEED forty chickens!  We're just a family of three, but they're just so darned cute and offer so much entertainment!  It's better-than-TV.  Plus, you get the incredible, edible egg, natural bug control, fertilizer for your garden, and if you're so inclined one can produce their own homegrown meat.  Multiple purpose birds!
With our flock, we get far too many eggs for just us three to consume and there's only just so much you can do with them all, so I sell to our neighbors (covers most of the expense of our chicken feed) under the on-farm sales program that doesn't require us to have a license in our state.  I also give a couple of dozen to my brother and his family.  When we have some extra eggs leftover from all that, I boil them up and feed them back to the flock.
"Cannibalism!", you protest?  Yes and no...  If you can get past the fact they're possibly eating one of their own kind, eggs are not only a great source of protein for us humans, but also to the poultry (they need at least 16% protein to maintain their health and laying abilities).  I also give them the crushed shell of the eggs back into the fray which gives them much needed calcium to produce hard shells.  Plus, it can cut down on my feed bill...
At any rate, I enjoy having my flock.  Yes, they can be a lot of work, but they make up for it on so very many different levels!  And after much discussion with some members of our local food co-op, I have taken the next step to start selling my eggs through them.  I’ve formed this “Limited Liability Corporation” (LLC) and have now officially acquired my egg handlers license through the state!!  YIPPEE!!!!!  

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