Monday, March 3, 2008

Meet Sarah & Samantha

Sarah and Samantha (a bit camera shy) also joined the family this week. They are black and white hens. I'm not sure of the breed, I was aiming for Barred Rock but the lady I got them from wasn't sure what they were, and neither am I. In any event, they are about two and were obtained as Easter chicks for some kids who - no surprise - stopped taking care of them. They are supposed to be two years old.

The dad of the family built a nice chicken coop, small enough for just a few chickens but big enough for 5 or 6. I bought the coop as I didn't want to deal with building one, it was a good size, well-designed, and the one on my property isn't in a convenient location and is big enough for 50 plus chickens.

Sarah and Samantha were with some red hens, but I wanted to start with only two and see how it goes, being new to chicken care. Plus, we hardly ever eat eggs, so I don't want a bunch to deal with. I can use them for baking without guilt if I know the chickens are happy and well cared for.

I am designing some "chicken tractors" at the moment which will enable me to move the chickens around the pastures in a portable cage/coop that is lightweight, so that they can eat bugs, fertilize, have fresh grass to experience, and not get chased by dogs or eaten by the local fox. Also, all the fences around the perimeter of the property are being lined with chicken wire or other wire to keep stray dogs out and chickens (and goats) in. I've been meaning to do that for a couple of years as once in awhile stray dogs get in with the horses, which I hate. So, I can finally cross that huge chore off the to-do list (which seems never-ending).

So far they haven't laid any eggs, but I expect with winter they produce less and also the stress of moving. Callie is super fixated on them so I already had to reinforce the chicken wire, cover the door with a board so she doesn't pop the wire out (which is mounted on the inside of the doorframe for some reason) and I added a little tin on the roof to cover the feed pail so it doesn't get wet if it rains. The coop came with a feeder and a waterer and a heat lamp, and I added a small box of straw so they have something to nest in if they want to. I also put ranch panel down so that hopefully foxes and coyotes and raccoons don't dig under the coop.

As an aside, I was thinking that when I'm in Africa people always ask me how many goats, cows and chickens I have. When I say "none" they always feel really sad for me and express how it must be hard to be so poor. Since animals are like wealth to them, they can't understand how someone too poor to have a single chicken could come around the world to visit their country. I tell them I have horses but they usually don't know what horses are, and they are not valued in the countries I've been to. The dogs and cats mean nothing to them as they are not "productive" or "wealth" animals. Next trip I'll be able to say I have 2 chickens and 2 goats and I won't be pitied as being dirt poor anymore. I have always found this to be an interesting aspect of talking to local people in Africa. It will be interesting to see what they think of the photos I bring. So far when they have seen a picture of a cow unlike theirs (another breed) they seem to disbelieve it is really a cow. I wonder how black and white chickens will go over. Nigerian goats are sure to be recognized as they are everywhere in Africa.

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