The Pleasure of Poultry
We now have small acreage (more than 5 acres, less than 10) in the country, which is an absolute dream come true for me. I've always been a farm girl at heart, and I feel so much more at home out here in the country, surrounded by fields and animals, and good-hearted farm people. Our nearest neighbor is a quarter of a mile away, but the neighbors here are a comfortable little community that finds the balance between having each others backs and "live and let live" in a way that suburban neighborhood politics can't reach.
I've always wanted poultry. Last summer we chicken-sat for a friend, which gave us a chance to try out having chickens. These weren't just any chickens--they were a small flock of Barred Plymouth Rocks that have been bred for generations by a hobbyist breeder who was working on getting show-quality characteristics and homestead production characteristics in the same flock. These birds are from lines carefully selected for good health, temperament, size, production, hardiness and longevity, foraging ability, and general gorgeous ideal chicken-ness. :)
We ended up purchasing a rooster and 4 hens from that flock, and also with the breeder's permission last fall we hatched out a couple of batches of BPR eggs.
Just for variety, we also ended up with a couple of Easter Eggers/"Americaunas" and a handful of bantam chickens. I had fallen in love with the midget white turkeys at my friend's house also, and I bought four turkey poults which turned out to be a tom and three hens. Midget white turkeys are a rare breed that are at adulthood only slightly larger than a chicken, and they are very friendly and full of personality. And, I obtained a few coturnix quail that were sort of thrown in with the turkeys. :)
I'm enjoying the poultry *so* much, and am finding them to be a fairly easy-maintenance type of livestock to own. Not only are the eggs beautiful and delicious, but the birds themselves are so enjoyable to have around.
I'd heard that turkeys were supposed to be stupid, but I think my midget white turkeys are actually smarter than the chickens. And they are *so* curious! It's hilarious to see them all running to go look at whatever is happening. They are also highly expressive. I love all the noises they make. They gobble, but they also purr, trill, and make a "put, put" noise when they are interested in something. And they hiss just like a cat when they are frightened or angry.
The young roosters from the batch of chicks we hatched out in September are posturing and challenging each other, but no serious fights so far. They puff up their neck feathers at each other, jump in the air once or twice, and then each go their own way. It is getting to be time to eat some, though, I think. I'm looking forward to seeing how some of the extra roosters will taste.
The younger chickens seem to be getting along fine with Elmer and his ladies (the older established flock). They mostly ignore each other, and I haven't seen any showdowns between them. They all enjoy free-ranging and then put themselves to bed at night (although I have a few night birds that want to stay out and play in the dark just outside the door, that I usually have to shoo inside before I close things up).
One of my favorite things about the chickens is how solicitous the roosters are of the hens--calling them over for the best bits of food, and making sure they take cover if a hawk or other predator comes around. They also have a variety of vocalizations, and I'm learning to understand chicken language too. There are different calls for, "Hmm, what's this?" "Come on, girls, I found something yummy for you!" "Danger! Take cover!" "I'm laying an egg." and so forth. They particularly like to pick through the rabbitry and the manure pile, eating any dropped food, worms or insects they can find. The poultry are especially useful as fly control.
Eventually I'd also like to add a handful of muscovy ducks, both because of their meat and eggs, and also because of their reputation for eating massive quantities of mosquitos, flies and even mice.
I'm sick with one of those winter viruses, so stayed home from church today. But even sitting here feeling miserable, watching my birds puttering around outside the window makes me smile.