A by-product of the pandemic lockdown, we grew our little flock from fertilised eggs acquired through the post and hatched in a smart incubator. We now have a breeding pair of Buff Orpingtons, two White Cochin hens, and a harem of three Barnvelder egg-layers watched over by a handsome cockerel.
It’s taken a considerable investment of time, energy and finances to achieve an equilibrium of good husbandry and egg production, but I dare to presume that I’ve sussed things out at last. A description of my strategies to deal with the challenges, of which appropriate housing, fighting cockerels, red mite, snow dumps, feed losses (rats, pheasants, jackdaws), avian flu, and morning crowing, are significant components, would take a dedicated backyard chicken blog, and there’s already plenty of those about.
No, I want only to chat about the feeling of figuring things out and finally delighting in a healthy flock. Frankly, the eggs are incidental, except as little fillips of fulfilment now that laying has resumed with increasing daylight. Oh, and beauty, I’d like to consider that too. Because our chickens really are beauties.
Amelia and Amelio are the shining stars of our flock. I do hope we might be able to admire a clutch of Orpie chicks sometime this spring, but at the same time the pretty double-laced Barnvelders could well become broody too. So when I venture outside through the wind and rain to top up their treadle feeders, check the water supply, pass along some bread crusts and have a little chat with them under the bio-security netting, I’m delighted to clock their robust good health.
We have persevered, the chickens and I, and their cheerfulness is my reward. That’s probably an egregious anthropomorphism, but I find that I really don’t care about that. I just want them to be happy chickens, as comfortable and as fulfilled as chickens can be.
And as soon as the wind dies down, this Storm Malik, I shall clean their houses out, spread fresh Natural Flake bedding with a bit of clean straw, bid them a pleasant good morning, and add their accumulated droppings onto the coming season’s potato patch.
If that feels like a delightfully realised rural idyll, well, that’s probably because in so many ways, it is.