Monday, August 24, 2009

The Girls in My Backyard

Fair Warning:  This is a long post . . . grab a cuppa; a glassa; a bowla; and hopefully you're in the mood for a read . . .

Due to this past weekend's hatchings . . . er, happenings, I thought it might be time to formally introduce you to the girls.  We got four chicks this past spring.  They came in the mail.  Well?  What's a city girl to do when her family decides to keep chickens as pets and one of us -- okay, me -- just HAS to have a cochin (You'll see why in a minute.)?  Order them online, of course!  Reason #714 why I love the internet.

So it was a late winter Sunday afternoon when the family grabbed a mug of hot chocolate and gathered 'round the ole laptop.  We clicked through pictures and descriptions of numerous chicken breeds.  After a few minutes, the 5 year old wandered off, finding her storybooks more interesting than selecting a chicken, so she lost her vote.  It made complete sense to me that I get her vote, so I chose two.  My husband chose one, and my son chose one.  That makes four precious little chicks, handpicked by us.

My husband, being the ever-practical male, chose a very plain, reliable, utilitarian chicken:  a hybrid black star.  My son, seduced by the name, selected an Easter egger -- he remains in utter suspense to find out what color eggs she will lay . . . it could be anything, he's hoping for pink.  I chose a cochin.  Cochins are the types with the feathers all the way down their legs, even covering their feet.  She is like a walking, clucking teddy bear.  And I used the forfeited vote to choose a little bantam (mini) chicken, a seabright, just for fun.  I thought the big chickens would like to have a little chicken of their own -- sort of a pet for the chickens themselves.

In anticipation of spring, we named them all after spring flowers:  Daisy, Daffodil, Violet, and Crocus.  We chose "Crocus" for my husband's chicken because she promised to be not quite as decorative as the others and we thought the word "Crocus" was much the same way, less pretty sounding.  My son claimed "Daffodil" for his chicken, and "Violet" seemed to fit the tiniest one.  Daisy, I'm afraid, got her name by default, but it turns out to fit her perfectly.

They arrived right on time -- the Monday after Easter -- and have been a large part of our family ever since.  They are only 4 months old, but they look almost like full-grown chickens now and they have quite distinct personalities.




Crocus is the typical "plain girl with a nice personality."  She is the most social and most tolerant (as tested by our ever-enthusiastic children).  She is the first one to volunteer to be picked up and is always willing to go for a ride in the wagon.  She seems to speak for the others -- letting us know when the food is low (or just not what they're in the mood for that day), when it's morning (I think she has rooster aspirations), and when there is simply a noise to be made.  The next complaint to the City will probably be about her noises.  She'll hand over her entire kingdom for a strand of spaghetti.
 ***




Daffodil was the naughty chick.  She was the bad influence.  The others were content to roam around the playpen; Daffodil was the one who realized they could hop out -- and nothing was ever the same for them (or us) after that.  Her comb is still growing in, but she has fluffy cheeks that make her unique.  Nowadays, she is the most "go about her business" of the chickens, never too keen to play or visit, but amiable.  She gets into trouble, but, fortunately, gets herself right back out.
***



Violet is the "fancy girl."  My son mocks her and remarks that "she's the pretty girl who secretly eats worms."  And she is.  She's the most likely to eat disgusting things.  She relishes a good worm and is the first one to try the latest insect they come upon.  However, she refuses to eat strawberries or anything pleasant like that.  She runs like the Road Runner, and she is the only one able to fly more than one hop -- she thinks nothing of hopping up onto the coop roof to escape our grasp.  Luckily, she is very much a follower and the key to getting her to do something is to get Daisy to do it first.  She views herself as the baby of the group and uses that to her full advantage in justifying why she should sleep under Daisy.  And she does.
***



Daisy is my favorite.  She always looks like she's dressed in her warmest jammies -- with feet.  She runs like she has pockets full of potatoes.  She is the biggest, yet the most timid.  And she's not the brightest -- it took her weeks to figure out how to get into the coop at night (must use ladder) after the others had it down pat.  But she is very maternal and tends to Violet as if she were her own chick.  She is the least likely to cause trouble, and on the occasion that she is in the mood to cuddle, you are in for a treat, because her feathers are soft as heaven.

So those are the girls who live in our backyard.

It's been a bit of a trial, so far, having these chickens.  It's taken my husband months to build the complicated coop and run -- but it will be magnificent when it is finished.  It has aggravated one of our neighbors to no end.  (On the bright side, I never liked those neighbors, anyway . . . and we've gained some great friends in the City's animal control and zoning departments.)  It takes time and effort to care for them properly.

Is it worth it?  Well, to date, I would have to admit, it's been a wash in my mind.  But I'm the only one.  Of course, my children would tell you it is totally worth it -- their responsibilities are light.  My husband, surprisingly, would tell you it's already worth it, too.  He has bonded with the chickens during his hours working on their coop -- they supervise and share their ideas (less pounding, more food dishes).  I think I will bond with them more once the coop is finished and the kids are back in school.  Then I'll be the one interacting with them more and by then they'll be producing eggs regularly.  I'm looking forward to it.

So that there you have it.  Thanks for bearing through this diatribe.  They are becoming a large part of our life, and I thought it would do us all well to know them a little better. 

Oh, and they have two neighbors who live in an aviary right next door.  They are pigeons.  They are bright white, they are rescues, they are beautiful, and they are my true loves.  I'll have to tell you about them someday.

And, when I know you better, maybe I'll tell you about Lester.

10 comments:

Di in Indiana said...

Thanks for another enjoyable post!! I've shared your blog with Bill & Brooke. I hope they have time to stop in some day!!

Renee' said...

Thanks, Di. Your loyal support means more than you know.

Anonymous said...

You have definitely noticed their personality differences. People who don't have chickens don't know they are all different. We have some that are really sneaky, as I discovered this morning when I went to check on my newly planted lettuce. My daughter tried to hide the evidence, but I recognized the beds looked different than they did 2 days ago.

Keep enjoying! They are worth it.

Gayla

Patti said...

WOW-thanks for sharing the girls with us. I loved learning about them. We enjoy our pets so much too. J and I laugh all the time about Denton being a vegan-I seriously have never met a dog who is so crazy over veggies and fruit. He is WILD about carrots, raspberries, and today he discovered MELON-he was in 7th Vegan heaven this morning-I was making a spinach salad with carrots for lunch while eating a wonderful COLORADO grown melon.

Will the "girls" ever have any chicks

Renee' said...

Gayla -- So funny that your daughters tried to cover for the chickens. I have a brood of tattletales. ;) I'm sorry your chickens are very sorry for destroying your lettuce without a moment's though. Yeah, right.

Renee' said...

Patti -- No more chicks around here. My girls are, ahem, innocent and they will stay that way. LOL Actually, roosters aren't allowed in our city. Our dog loves all those things, too. The only things he won't eat are lettuce (unlike Gayla's chickens!) and celery leaves. Someday I'll have to tell you about the time I was filling the peppermill with peppercorns and spilled them all! Good luck with your puppy.

Pixie said...

aren't chooks the best?Ours are better entertainment than television!

mutteringsfromthemoor said...

Beautiful birds! You have captured their personalities so well. All mine are very different too and they provide such entertainment to watch them!

Anonymous said...

I first loved your story about the rescued baby mourning dove. I just read this post about the chickens, getting into it backwards from the Chicken Fight post. I support your efforts absolutely to have pet chickens. Why the heck not? And there's nothing better than laundry flapping in the breeze and drying in the sun.

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