Why Top 45?

These are the things that float to the top of my list of activities that I want to do for the year 2012 when I am 45 years old. The list is comprised of things that I have either never tried or have wanted to try and just didn't have the courage or time to do it. Follow along and watch my progress and feel free to comment or add words of encouragement to help keep me going for the next 365 days!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Which Came First

     We all know the line, "Which came first, the chicken or the egg," and of course, this post relates to my desire to get at least 1 egg from a chicken that lived in my backyard.  Many people have conjectured why I have this urge.  My friend, Alison, says that I am obsessed with the idea because of my impending menopause and that I want the egg from a chicken because I won't be producing my own sometime in the near future.  Thanks Alison.
     I believe that I have placed this on my list because of remnants of childhood.  I remember spending time on my cousins' farm as a child and also remember having a large garden at one of the houses we lived in when I was younger.  We didn't have chickens there, but at one point we did have rabbits, 52 at one time to be exact.   I had forgotten how many we had until I was watching one of those old home movies and in video from that time, there was a homemade "Vacancy" sign attached to the rabbit pen and I asked my mom how many we had and was amazed at the response.  I hadn't remembered that number but do remember that the fried "chicken" legs I ate from time to time looked a little different than I had remembered from KFC.
     Last year was a trial run with the chickens.  At Nicole's school, the 1st graders get eggs in the spring and place them in incubators while studying the life cycle of chickens and to observe the chicks pecking out of the shell and then get to have the chicks in the classroom for a bit.  My friend Susan had arranged for us to get some of the chicks and raise them in a pen in my backyard.  Since I was not a professional chick sexer a la Dirty Jobs and Mike Rowe (see the video below) it was going to be luck of the draw on hens vs. roosters.

     It takes about 5 months before you know the sex of a chicken.  Around the 5 month mark, one of the two white chickens started to crow.  Upon closer inspection, the two white chickens had spurs on their legs just above their feet, identifying them as male.  After a couple of weeks, I had gotten pretty tired of the crowing and also didn't want to annoy my neighbors too much.  I called a local farm store and they said they would take the two white roosters off my hands.  Since I didn't want the remaining, multicolored chicken to be lonely, I bought a hen from Callahan's when I dropped off the two offending roosters.
     The new chicken was multicolored like the 3rd of the original 3.  I could tell it was going to be trouble from the get go.  One morning while Nicole was letting them out of the coop to the chicken run, the new chicken got out and started to climb a tree attempting to escape to the greenbelt behind the pen.  We both tried to capture it and it just kept climbing higher.  I got the brilliant idea to try to use the pool net to snag him out of the tree and put him back into the coop, only the execution was not as smooth.  After using the 3-rung ladder that was close by to climb on top of the shed/coop, I couldn't net the chicken nor could I get down off of the coop.  Nicole had to have my neighbor, Suzy, rescue me with their tall ladder.  Nicole and I decided to take a short, breakfast break and we had to wait for Susan and her husband and son, Jon and Sean, to come and help us.  It took the three adults armed with a rake, long stick and swimming pool net and the two kids to capture the chicken and get him back to the safety of the chicken run.
     About a week after the new chickens arrival, the third of the first set of chickens decided to start crowing too.  As we were leaving on vacation, I didn't have time to take this rooster, disguising as a hen, to Callanhan's for an exchange, so I decided I would do so upon returning.  Unfortunately, last year's heat was brutal.  While in Savannah, I got a call from Susan who was caring for the chickens, that the third of the original batch had died due to the heat, which I have come to find out is pretty normal due to the Texas summers.  I didn't want to tell Nicole because I was worried that she would be upset but when I finally did tell her, her first reaction was, "Aw." then promptly exclaimed, "Friend chicken!"
     While trying to help the last chicken not perish from the heat, during the day I would prop open the door to the coop and attach a huge piece of 4X4 cattle guard to the doorway of the coop to let the air circulate even though the chicken also had a chicken run to the side.  One afternoon I had gone out to check on it and there were multicolored feathers on the outside of the cattle guard.  I felt horrible because I figured another animal like a fox or something had come from the greenbelt, climbed into the coop, and got the chicken.  Then, a day later, I saw the "hen" in the greenbelt just beyond the chicken wire the lines our property and it started to crow.  He tormented us for a couple of days walking back and forth along our property line crowing each morning.  I tried to help it come back by placing the chicken ladder that Jon had constructed over the chicken wire, but the chicken eventually disappeared into the greenbelt.  I did hear it about a week latter crowing deep in the mini-forest then the crowing ended.
     At first I thought I was not meant to have chickens, as did my vegetarian friend, Alison, then I decided I would not give up on this idea and put it on my list to get at least one egg from a hen in the backyard.   We eventually got some hens from a neighbor who was relocating and on the morning of Nicole's birthday...

Ta da!
Thanks to everyone who made this possible including Susan, Sean and Jon for helping build the chicken coop/run, my neighbors who put up with the crowing from last year and to Suzy for going so far as to buy some organic eggs to secretly place one in the coop in case this year was as disastrous as last year and being supportive of my goals.  Also to Kellyn who, as she says, "Does not do chickens" but has helped care for them from time to time.

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