Thursday, October 30, 2008

Chicken Feathers

We moved to Jordan's Croft Valentine's Day 2005. I started thinking about adding chickens to the list of critters even before we moved.

One day when I went to the feed store, the metal tubs of peepers stole my heart. My husband rolled his eyes when I started cooing over them. We picked out six little Rhode Island Reds.

These tiny balls of fluffy cuteness grew into a handsome mahogany rooster and four red-blond hens. Rhodies are big dual-purpose birds. The males are big enough to eat. The hens produced an egg a day faithfully for two years. Our Rooster was a gorgeous bird with long gleaming red hackle feathers and dark green tail feathers. I called him Roo-Fasa because of the mane-like hackle feathers, and his Kingly attitude.

By the end of the summer, he had taken over the barnyard. The dogs didn't mess with him. The drakes didn't mess with him, though they outweighed him by several pounds. The duck hens scrapped with him, but didn't win. He had his run-ins with us humans as well. Roo-Fasa took many a boot-ride when he attacked the wrong person.

He took his flock into the stalls, over the hill, into the neighbors soybean field, then into my flower garden. I started to dream of a time when the chickens would have an enclosed pen.

Rhodes are incredible at foraging. They aren't the bug eaters that the ducks are, but they are pure death on sow bugs, crickets and grasshoppers. They lay big brown eggs and a lot of them. The hens don't want to go broody, and they won't take any guff from a medium size dog.

Year two, Roo-Fasa got to about 8 lbs., his spurs were three inches long and pointed like arrows. He was a walking time bomb. When he started attacking children, he had to go.

The girls and he found a new home with an egg farmer. There were 3o hens for him to lord over. I would imagine that it would be the chicken equivalent of heaven.

We missed fresh eggs. So I started looking for a breed with a better temperament. Heritage breeds are losing ground, many are all but extinct.

I started looking online for a local source.

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