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ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY: Should I or shouldn't I?

© Another Day in the Country

For the past several months, I’ve been debating the idea of getting another batch of baby chicks.

“Should I or shouldn’t I?” I kept asking myself, with all kinds of qualifiers.

Ramona hasn’t been the healthiest environment for chickens, in my experience. I don’t own a dog, so guess where any loose dog comes? Right! To my yard! And, if by chance I’m not out in the yard, and sometimes even if I am, if said dogs are bored, destructive, or doing what dogs are prone to do, my chickens are goners. They’ve killed my chicks in the yard, in the chicken pen, and even inside the closed up chicken house, tearing the screen and knocking in the door. Experience would be on the side of not getting any more chickens.

Mark one up for “Should Not.”

What’s left of the original flock of 24 consists of one tailless but still elegant rooster named Earl Gray, who lost all his tail feathers, and almost his life, to the neighbor’s dog on the south, and eight hens, the remnant after the neighbor’s dog to the east raised hell in my yard. These hens are getting up in years. I figure they are almost 5 years old, which is a ripe old age for egg-layers.

Mark one for “Should.”

This winter the girls all went on vacation for a month and then I turned on the lights while it snowed outside, simulating a warm beach in the tropics. The “sisters,” two brown leghorns, fired up their engines and began laying lovely white eggs. The so-called “Easter Egg girls” were on strike for still another month. It was an exciting day in March when I finally found a blue egg in the nest boxes. Now I’m getting three to four eggs a day, which makes me extremely pleased and we have extra eggs again, where for a month or two my sister has been buying expensive, fancy, vege-pro eggs at the store.

During this time of slowed production, I contemplated whether to get more chicks.

I love having our own eggs. I love having chickens around, most especially when I can let them free-range in my yard. If we are to continue the luxury of having our own eggs, I need to get more chicks — it takes five months before they even start to lay. That is quite a commitment to the future.

Mark one for “Should” and be quick about it.

You probably have guessed that in the best of circumstances, raising your own egg layers is not a cost-effective enterprise. Jess tells me that we eat the most expensive eggs around.

Mark another one for “$houldn’t.”

I’m sure there are ways that I could cut cost by eliminating scratch grain for instance; but I love scattering grain to my chickens, sometimes just their simple excitement at some treat just makes my day.

So last week I called around to find chicks locally and then went searching on the Internet. By and large, the chicks you find at the feed store are “straight run,” and I learned my lesson years ago about too many roosters — didn’t want that.

There’s always this tug-o-war between practicality and fun, too, when I order chicks. I need the good egg layers. I must have blue eggs. I want to try something exotic, some new breed. The trick is finding all those wishes met during the same hatching time. If I can find them, it’s a sign to go for it.

I came away with an order for 6 Aracauna-americanas (Easter egg chicks), 6 Polish Top Knots (the exotic breed) and 4 Lakenvelders (an old breed that I’d never tried) supposedly all pullets — a female tribe — with just enough room for one gender error,

They arrived today, 16 little tiny chicks in a cardboard box at the post office. It’s pure magic!

The small chicken coop behind my house was all ready with a heat lamp, fresh bedding, food, and water. I gave them each a drink of water and turned them loose in a little walled cardboard circle in the middle of the house, and sat watching them. I’m always amazed at the miracle of new life when I watch baby chicks — their resilience to survive, newly hatched, without food or water for two days, their inherent adaptability to this new and strange environment, as they huddle together for warmth.

I’m reminded that if the chicks can do it, we can all do it, too, adapting to our changing world, coming together in community, sharing our resources, on another day in the country.

Last modified March 23, 2016

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