Back in February, I made the irrational, irresponsible, and spontaneous decision that Dave and I needed to get chickens immediately.
We have always talked about having our own little backyard flock, but it was a distant-future sort of desire. Sketched plans for a coop adorned our refrigerator since last October. I leisurely researched chicken breeds, space requirements, and care for months. I thought that once I really had this backyard beekeeping hobby down, some egg layers would be a nice addition to our little ecosystem.
On Valentine's Day, after my creepy pillow creation went viral, I was feeling weird. February 14th was spent in a daze of interviews and emails, and everyone wanted to know all about my whimsical novelty craft. My brain doesn't deal with that kind of attention well. It felt like a big whirlwind of horror craziness that I couldn't control. So, after talking poultry dreams with fellow chicken-desirer Rox at a baby shower (which are big whirlwinds of horror craziness unto themselves), I drove to the nearest farm shop.
I told myself that I was only stopping in the store to learn more about what I needed to start a backyard egg factory, but the large metal trough full of week-old chicks standing at the entrance of the shop demanded that I leave with some new friends. "I want some chickens and all the things I will need to take care of them," I declared to a feed store employee. She asked if I already had a coop, and I lied and said yes, I had one. She walked around the store with a cart, filling the basket with all sorts of supplies. I didn't even care what she was choosing for me, as gimme chickens gimme chickens gimme chickens was the only thing whirling around my brain. After five minutes of feed-gathering, she led me back to the trough of featherballs. "One of each, please," and the babies were mine.
I sat in my car in the feed store parking lot, chicks chirping at my feet, furiously googling how to take care of my new livestock. I sent a text to Dave to let him know that, oops surprise, I got three chickens, and, because Dave is the best ever, he wasn't even mad. What a great husbie!
Dave quickly declared that the black chick was his favorite, and we named her Fernandina. Little Fern is a Black Jersey Giant--she will grow up to be about 10lbs, which is more than Nemo weighs. The other chickens (Vidalia, a Rhode Island Red, and Savannah, a Brown Leghorn) are expected to reach 6lbs.
We are still a few months away from having the egg factory begin production, but in the meantime the hens are already giving me some truly gorgeous feathers. Vidalia drops deep red and brown variegated plumage, Fern gives black feathers coated with blue and green iridescence in the sunlight, and Savannah's brown feathers are dappled with tan along the edges.
I love letting the chickens out of the coop in the morning and watching as they scratch the ground for bugs, chase each other around, and flap about the yard. Savannah had a tragic run-in with StarFox when she was five weeks old and suffered a broken wing, but she has recovered fully and is the sneakiest of all the birds. Each chicken is a wonderful entertainer--each has her own unique personality, and they get very upset when one of the sisters is separated from the group.
The BEST thing is that as soon as I showed one of the baby chicks to our lovely next-door neighbors, they started bringing us eggs from their backyard flock. What a friendly giving of goods--avocados and eggs and honey and plants, all being grown and shared between homes in our community. That's the dream!
After moving the bees that Linden and I extracted from a tree to my backyard in January, I was worried that the hive wouldn't last too long. Moving bees from their home and stuffing them into a wooden box is a traumatic experience, and winter is a tough season for the honeybee. I was certain that the colony would not survive this doubled-up hardship, and even if it did, the bees would have to deal with me, an inexperienced bee mom (not to mention the array of other turmoils that the honeybee currently faces. The odds are not ever in their favor).
To my surprise, the hive was bursting with bees as soon as our first hot day hit last week. There is constant activity from the little buggers zipping in and out, toting huge loads of pollen into the box. I have never seen such enormo golden bulges on bee legs!
I have yet to do an inspection of the hive since the bees moved in--my intention was to allow the bees to settle into the new home and intervene as little as possible through winter. The hive will be checked thoroughly next week, and I hope to put another level on the hive to expand the bee's living space. More space means more bees, more honey for gifting, and more wax for arting.
We don't have a garden space established in our backyard yet, but I couldn't resist starting some heirloom tomato seeds anyway. Seeing those little leaves poke up through the dirt brings a smile to my face every single time.
There are few things in life that are sweeter to share with your neighbors than homegrown vegetables.