“Bland Ambition is still in there…but do you think Katherine is also broody?” Victor asked.
“I don’t know. I saw her out earlier today.”
“We only got two eggs!”
“I don’t think Katherine is laying.”
“Do you think Bland Ambition is actually just afraid of Lana Turner or do you think she’s just broody?”
“Broody for sure, though Lana is a real bitch.”
Conversation about chickens has become our version of “Hi Honey, I’m home!” Checking on the five divas is the first thing Victor does when he rolls in on his bike from work and it’s the first thing he does when he hops out of a cab from the airport. It doesn’t matter if how late in the dark night it is, the first thing he does when he gets home is check on the chickens. I never thought my suburban-raised husband would worry about the well-being and production of chickens. Actually, worry is too soft of a word for his interest. It is plainly, love.
Over a year since we went to Lynnwood to pick out chicks, we’ve learned a lot about keeping urban chickens and a few new recipes for eggs.
The most important lesson is that chicken wire is only to keep chickens in and not to keep raccoons out. Vic’s favorite, a very friendly Red Star Sexlink named Lauren, and the feather-footed Bette Davis were snatched from sleep by sly raccoons who ripped though the wire. While safe in their newly improved cage wire run, it does seem that chickens can be frightened enough and stop laying if there are urban predators slinking about, as we found when possums moved into our yard. On the topic of urban wildlife, we’ve seen a rat or two, but it seems that with the proper planning (deeply buried wire and gravel around the run) it is possible to stop the rats from really exploding into a serious infestation or concern. Urban chickens will have urban rats, but we’re hoping it’s a bit more like “Chicken Run” than bubonic plague.
While they might not be the smartest birds, they do have a unique personalities and it is good fun to see them doing chicken things. However, we don’t let them out unless we can keep a close eye on them because it takes no time at all for them to cause havoc in our garden with their scratching for bugs or pecking at plants. It’s unfortunate that the most natural place in our yard for the coop is behind our shed, so we don’t get to watch within the garden-safe confines of their run. While they can’t see us, they certainly hear us when we open the kitchen door and start clucking with anticipation of a bit of chicken scratch or freedom.
How about the eggs you may be wondering? Our eggs are definitely better tasting than what we can get in the store, though comparable to what we’d be able to buy at a farmer’s market. Even at six or seven dollars for a dozen organic farm eggs, it is going to take several generations of hens before we “break even” on this chicken hobby. With our five chickens, we’re averaging three eggs a day— more than enough for the two of us, but given Victor’s new propensity to eat them every morning, we do have to be a bit strategic if I want to bake a chiffon cake, particularly if one of the hens is broody. If any readers have tips on getting a hen to snap out of the fact that she’ll never be a mother, we’d love to know!
As I mentioned, we’ve been learning a few new things to do with eggs (and decreasing our actual meat consumption in the process). I can now flip them! My late-summer goal is to learn to make good tortilla de patatas when our potatoes are ready and I’m setting up an instructional date for Japanese omelettes. Our favorite recipe though remains an old standby: sorrel pie. If you have eggs, there is no reason not to grow some sorrel so you can make this on a regular basis.