I guess the first real story I should share on here is how we ended up with chickens and how we have come to love them so much. I mean at our place all the chickens have individual names but are usually just called ” the girls”.
It was on a camping trip with our friends the Bresees that we discovered the difference between grocery store and farm fresh eggs. When camping there is nothing better in the morning than good ole bacon and eggs for breakfast. The bacon was fried and then it was time for us to put our eggs on the griddle. Wendy cracked her farm fresh eggs on to the griddle and there they sat in a perfect circle with beautiful deep yellow colored yolks as the crowning glory in the middle( yes these yolks could be referred to as beautiful because they were). Next to go on was our grocery store-bought eggs that when cracked the whites ran with reckless abandonment all over that griddle. They did not maintain a circle like shape nor was the yolk even close in color to theirs actually it was more like the palest yellow you could get. I have to admit that the thought of sneaking their eggs on to my plate did cross my mind. Seriously if you had the choice of eggs that looked like something out of ad for the perfect egg and ours you would have done the same too.
Thankfully they were kind enough to share their eggs and at that point we were hooked. When we got home I vowed that we would start eating free range organic eggs. After a shocking trip to the grocery store and finding out what those eggs cost we ( actually I) decided we need to get a couple of chickens so we to could enjoy wonderful farm fresh eggs when ever we wanted.
After doing my research I knew that the easiest way to go about this was to get a chicken tractor which is a small portable coop that can be moved around the yard. Okay time to find a chicken tractor, well let me tell you that although they are a simple design they are not cheap. My husband Grant who has been sweet enough over the years to build a cat house, 2 bunny hutches and a guinea pig cage was away at work so coming up with one of these was going to be a little tricky. After looking at plans on how to build these I decided that for the safety of all of those involved including the chickens that I not be the one to build it. In later blogs I will explain that although I can picture in my mind what I think the outcome should be it rarely, actually come to think of it, never turns out.
I kept checking a large classified ad site in hope of finding one when I found an ad that not only had a chicken tractor for sale but 2 lovely egg laying chickens to go with it. I contacted the lady right away to say that we would be very interested in them and sadly she replied that there was someone ahead of me that wanted to adopt the girls. Yes she referred to it as adopting and there was an adoption fee to go with them. I told her that if the other adopter fell through we would like them and promised that we could give “the girls” a very loving home. She said that she would let me know and when the phone rang the next morning and she said that the other adoption had fallen through I could hardly contain my excitement. We The Mackenzie’s were going to be chicken farmers.
Grant had gotten home the night before from work which had included a long drive but bless him he was game to get up in the morning to make the 1 1/2 hour drive south to Calgary to pick up the coop and adopt the girls. Along with our daughter Meggie we excitedly made the trip south. Well Meggie and I were excited and I think Grant was just wanting to go and get this done.
Thank goodness for google maps we found the place right by downtown Calgary with out to may wrong turns. These girls were “city girls” and the people who owned them had hoped to have backyard chickens but because the city by law was not in place they had decided to put them up for adoption. When we arrived at their house we were greeted by a nice younger couple and 2 brown and white chickens roaming freely around their back yard. When I say a nice young couple I mean it, they had snacks and juice ready for us and they wanted to get to know us before the adoption was completed.
I have to admit that at this point I wanted these chickens more than anything and that I went about presenting our family in the best possible light. I had to assure them that “the girls” would be going to a very loving home where they would be cared and loved the same as they had with them. They didn’t have any children and these chickens were like their kids to them. To laugh at the fact that they loved them so much would have been wrong in some many ways and I found myself silently vowing to give these chickens the life they felt they deserved. I would cook for them, clean their coop and make their nest the way they liked it and anything thing else they need to live a happy chicken life.
After a long visit she announced that she felt we were in fact the right family for “the girls” to go to and I paid the adoption fee. Her husband helped Grant strap the chicken tractor on to the back of the truck and after email addresses we exchanged so we could keep them posted on how they were adjusting to farm life we were ready to go. I turned to say a final good-bye and noticed that they had tears in their eyes. Okay now I am starting to feel really bad I mean they really loved them. Once again I assured her that they would be very well cared for, I mean at this point I was willing to offer that “the girls” would be living comfortably in our house if that’s what it took to make them feel better. One more hug to them both and we turn to go when out of the mouth of babes Meggie says ” don’t worry we have had a lot of animals at our place and a lot of them have died”, referring to a couple of free range rabbits that didn’t out fox the fox. Before they could compute what she had said we ran Dukes of Hazard style to the truck and started to trip home.
Being that we looked like something out of the Beverly Hillbillies we decided to take the back roads home. I can not tell you how many people do a double when they pass you on the highway when you have a chicken coop strapped to the back of your truck. Que banjo music. I mean seriously how odd could a chicken tractor with 2 chickens peeking out with their feathers blowing in the wind strapped to the back of a truck look?
We made it home safely and “the girls” had survived the trip. Meggie decided that we would call them Marilyn and Greta and I couldn’t wait for them to get to work laying us some farm fresh, eggs. Sadly after doing my research I discovered that if chickens are upset they don’t lay eggs and these girls were up set. Maybe they had heard Meggie’s comment before we left.
For two days we waited impatiently for eggs making sure that we were providing them with the best laying environment we could, fresh straw in their nests, clean water and new food daily. Then one morning Meggie went out to check on “the girls” and she excitedly came running back in to the house with two perfectly shaped farm fresh eggs. We couldn’t wait to eat them and let me tell you we were not disappointed at all. “The girls” were settling in to farm life and a happy hen lays eggs. Check we got this now, we are chicken farmers!
After a few days we decided that Marilyn and Greta knew where their new home was and it was time to let them be free range. Every morning we would let them out to wander freely around the yard and every evening we would lock them in the chicken tractor for the night. You see chickens are mostly creatures of habit and every night they would head back in at about 8;30pm. Life with chicken was going great, everyday we were getting eggs and “the girls” were enjoying their new-found freedom. Well, that was till we went to West Edmonton Mall one day and let them out before we left thinking that we would be home in time to lock them in. We were in the city longer than planned and when we got home it was dark. Using a flashlight we went to lock “the girls” in and sadly there was only Marilyn on the roost. We looked as much as we could in the dark and I called my Dad an old chicken farmer from way back and explained that we were missing a chicken. He told us not to worry that something had most likely scared her and she was hiding out up in a tree or something.
Early the next morning I went out to check on Marilyn and look for Greta again, sadly she didn’t turn up. It was a beautiful day
and the kids and I were doing some yard clean up when we heard it. The unmistakable sounds of a chicken in distress and a basset hound’s baying. I looked up from what I was doing in time to see Greta running across our riding arena in a very like chicken fashion (they are actually quite fast) with our Basset hound Ranger hot on her heels in full hound dog tracking mode. The kids and I dropped everything and joined in one that chase. We got Ranger contained and started trying to persuade Greta that the coast was clear and she could come back. Nope she wasn’t having anything to do with it and if a chicken doesn’t want to be caught well then, good luck. I phoned Grant to tell him that there had been a Greta sighting but that we were unsuccessful in catching her. He suggested that we let Marilyn out too and that she would most likely come back. I went back to my chores and could only hope he was right. Every once in a while I would check in with Marilyn only to see that she was happily scratching around oblivious to her friend dramatic morning to say the least. An hour had gone by and Greta had still not returned and to be quite honest I didn’t think she was going too. We went in for lunch and then headed back out to finish our yard work when much to all of our surprise there next to Marilyn happily scratching away looking for tasty bugs was Greta.
Now remember when stressed chickens don’t lay eggs and Greta was obviously suffering from PTSD in this case because for 2 days she did not lay an egg and on the 3rd day when she did it was almost white in color (normally she lays a nice light brown egg) and had several high-speed wobbles in it. I guess that stress doesn’t only change their laying pattern but the shape of the egg too.
Marilyn and Greta were with us all summer providing us with eggs and we kept their previous family updated with stories of “the girls” adventures. My Dad even build them a coop to rival all coops, “the girls” were moving up in the world. Then sadly one night when I went to lock them in they were gone and all that was left behind was a couple of feathers. I knew that without a doubt that our neighborhood fox had got them. It was a sad night as we had all become attached to them and I could now understand how the couple felt in letting them go because they had become a part of our family too.
We made the decision to get more chickens in the spring instead of trying to set things up so late in the fall for new ones. I admit we suffered through store-bought eggs and could not wait to get the new “girls” in the spring. Which by the way is a whole nother story.
All because of bacon and eggs for breakfast we now have 4 lovely laying hens, to us hatching our own chicks. We don’t have a rooster but our friends Mark and Tina supply Meggie with the fertilized eggs and we hatch them out in her little incubator. I can now see why chickens have become such a fad. They are surprisingly smart and great entertainment, not to mention how nice it is to have a constant supply of our own fresh, free range eggs.
Have a Beautiful Day