Today’s magazine was another loaner from Larry: Organic Gardening, the June/July 2010 copy. I liked it right off because there is a big chicken posing on the front. He is patterned just like a Dalmation and has a huge tuff of feathers on his head. Chickens always make me laugh. They are such funny looking little birds but they take themselves so seriously.
The article I liked best was on how to raise chickens. I really want chickens. But we live on my Grandmother’s land and she hates all animals. Even cute, cuddly ones, like chickens (yeah, sure…). She once called a neighbor to come get a couple kittens out of her front yard because she was afraid to go outside. I can just see her, sitting and staring out the window, fretting about having to walk to the mailbox with those devils out there, wishing a hawk would swoop down and pick them up.
I learned about the different types of chickens: standard (the big ones) and bantam (the little guys). I would go with standard because they give you bigger eggs, which is the reason I want chickens. It was a little ironic that Larry brought me this magazine with a chicken on the front today. I walked into my office not only to the Dalmation Chicken magazine perched on my desk, but a dozen eggs from a co-worker’s “free egg” connection. I have been trying to get in with this “chicken farmer” for awhile (I love anything free) and I was excited to see both chicken paraphernalia waiting on me. Of course, now my office smells all little like a chicken coop, but I guess I better get used to that.
I also learned how to build a coop (hire someone else to do it) and what all it needs, like a heat lamp in the winter, nesting boxes (1 per 2 birds – they share. Isn’t that cute?) and perches. The picture in the magazine of their chicken coop has wall art (yup) and potted plants. And wallpaper. I’m not that dedicated.
Several “experts” interviewed commented on how friendly, social and pet-like chickens are. Honestly, they kind of creep me out. Baby chicks, sure. They are cute and fluffy. But their parents can peck your eyes out at a moment’s notice. I’d rather handle a snake (which I did a couple nights ago, after my dogs found one in the back yard. Snake didn’t make it. 😦 Brutus plays rough.) But maybe if I raise them from babies they would freak me out so much. We used to get baby chicks in at the zoo to feed the snakes and owls. I got all great marks on my performance review except for when it came to gassing the chicks. I refused. Why did we gas them? Well, do you want to explain to your 3 year old why that adorable little chirping was suddenly silenced, and swallowed by a Louisiana Pine Snake? Didn’t think so.
I’ve decided to grow Zinnias this next spring, now that I know how, thanks to Vicki Parker and her write-in question. I learned that raccoons can have a territory of SIX miles in the wild and 1 mile in the city. And to think of the 8 square feet we gave them in the zoo! Maybe I’ll go back and free them. They are so fat from guests feeding them though, they would probably just sit there and look at me like I was stupid. “I’ve got a free ride here, chick. And life is gooood.” (What were their names, Tracie? Rascal and ?)
Something else I learned: the central European blackcap warbler (a bird for all you normal people out there) may be splitting into two different species, because of backyard bird feeders. They are supposed to spend summers in Germany and winters in the Mediterranean, but they are stopping for an extended layover in the U.K. The birds that stay here, instead of heading to the Med. are a different color, with narrower beaks and rounder wings, a change contributed to living off seeds and suet (form humans) instead of warm-climate fruit in the winters. By the time the birds that made the whole trip to the Med. come back, the birds in the U.K. have already shacked up with each other and are making new little U.K. wintering babies. The other group becomes isolated, and this reinforces all those differences we talked about. Kind of sad but kind of cool too.