Sunday, June 28, 2009

wet hens

There are moments when you realize your life has changed and you are never going back—couldn't if you wanted to. Friday's lunch break contained one of such moments. Walking back to the car in the rain, with two hens under each arm, soaking wet and covered in sweat was just beautiful to me. I stole a smile when no one was looking. I like how the story is going so far.

It all started because my coworker Noreen wanted laying hens. Her husband and her have been talking about it for a while and the decision had been made. The only problem was it was too late in the season to order chicks that would lay before fall and the only mail-order birds available were production reds and leghorns. She wasn't that thrilled with the production gals and New England winters aren't very kind to leghorns.... What she really wanted were some heavy birds: Brahmas, Orpingtons, or hardy Northeast natives of similiar ilk. The hunt was on for healthy, local, laying gals for sale in our hood.

Thanks to Craigslist we came across a backyard chicken keeper who was thinning out her flock. She had an array of such birds for the unbeatable price of a sawbuck a piece. I had lost five birds this winter and Noreen needed a starter set.: So we struck up a deal and pick up time online and I filled the back of my station wagon with wire cages. Come noon we were driving to North Bennington to meet our new livestock. We'd be returning to the office with a car full of hens.

It was pouring all morning. We did not waiver.

Thanks to the directions of some friends who lived in that neighborhood we found our way around backwoods Bennington and drove over the red covered bridge that led us to our destination. I pulled into the driveway and saw two border collies in the window barking a suspicious welcome. Shortly after they started a four-year-old girl with curly long hair popper her head up alongside the dogs in the windows and joined it. "BARK! BARK!" she exclaimed between giggles. I smiled. This was my kind of kid. Surrounded my wolves with a shitfaced grin on her face. Her mom came out from their white farmhouse in wellies and a raincoat to help us. The little girl came out in the rain as well; smiling like a sprite with no umbrella. I liked them instantly.

Her set up was nice. A big fenced-in run and a big walk-in coop with walls of nesting boxes. She explained which birds could go and which would stay, and as the rain picked up outside the coop, I knew we'd have to catch these hens fast or I'd be returning to the office looking like a refugee. (Which was fine by me, but can cause some raised eyebrows from managers...)Noreen was by my side the whole time, but since she wasn't dressed for chicken wrangling (and I had a clean change of clothes in the backseat), I took the responsibility of catching and loading up the birds. It was a riot.

Noreen watched from the front row seat of my car, laughing the whole time as I scurried around the yard in the rain, hunting and trapping our new acquisitions. I must've looked ridiculous. I was soaking wet by now. My hair stuck in my thick black glasses as I scooped up the chickens, cradling one or two in my arms and walking them back to the car. They carried on something fierce while doing this and I kept assuring them my place and Noreen's was a long call from the Purdue factory and they should lighten up.

We handed over the money, shook hands, and drove back to the office. By backseat was a melody of clucking and a harmony of heavy feed sacks and rattling mason jars. This is my life now, and I could not help but smile as I rolled back into the Orvis parking lot. A girl from Pennsylvania who fell in love with homesteading in Tennessee pulling into her Vermont office's driveway aided by an Idaho poultry education... Like I said, I like the story so far.

The birds are all at Cold Antler now. All eight are strutting around the creeks and woods and soon four will find their way to Noreen's and provide her family with a fresh healthy source of eggs. She'll end up with Light Brahmas and Jersey Giants and they'll be great. She seemed excited the whole time, and I could relate. Getting your first chickens is a big step. It's the leap between backyard gardening to homesteader in my eyes. Such simple, easy, animals and such a sense of accomplishment and good food to boot. I hope they do well. I know they will.


Blogger Ann Martin said...

I love living a country life through you! Am such a city girl... don't hens bite with those sharp beaks?! I can't imagine trying to pick them up; you never seem to mention gloves in your animal wrangling escapades.

Thanks so much for your blog; I must get your book!

June 28, 2009 at 9:50 AM  
Blogger djp said...

how lovely! I wish I had chickens too. But I'm a city girl through and through, and until my city legalises urban chickens I will have to live vicariously through you!

June 28, 2009 at 10:36 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

They're a lot more scared of you, and their beaks are tiny things. I didn't leave with so much as a scratch.

June 28, 2009 at 10:45 AM  
Anonymous kandy Gray said...

i want chickens too, and we are allowed to have them in the town where i live. unfortunately my husband nixed the idea; he says that the neighbors already think we are weird enough. i say that there is no such thing as weird enough; there is always room for more weird. i am going to have to wear him down slowly....

Kandy from canada

June 28, 2009 at 10:46 AM  
Blogger Sarah Rachelle said...

Wow. That shows true dedication and sounds like it was a lot of fun! Someday that will be me. :-)

June 28, 2009 at 12:11 PM  
Blogger Kimberly Ann said...

Hopefully when I pick up my three buff orpingtons this week for my new coop I just finished, it will be a sunny day!

June 28, 2009 at 12:37 PM  
Anonymous Carrie said...

Maybe hopefully by next year I will have a yard with some chickens in it. It feels like a pretty big step from gardener to homesteader, hopefully I'll be able to make the transition. By the way I must say that I'm very close to being done with your book and am loving it. So much inspiration there.

June 28, 2009 at 12:45 PM  
Blogger finsandfeathers said...

Maybe it's time for us to start the Cold Antler Farm Truck fund.

"Wet Chicken," "Sheep," "Goat," and "Geese" are not yout typical air fresheners :)

June 28, 2009 at 1:16 PM  
Blogger finsandfeathers said...

Maybe it's time for us to start the Cold Antler Farm Truck fund.

"Wet Chicken," "Sheep," "Goat," and "Geese" are not your typical air fresheners :)

oops.... typo

June 28, 2009 at 1:24 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

As I sit here looking goofy with a big grin on my face, my husband walks by and looks at me like I'm weird. He may not be far off. Thanks for the laugh, Jenna.

June 28, 2009 at 2:04 PM  
Blogger Greentwinsmummy said...

Thats nice to hear they have settled in already,when I need a hen catching I ask the smalls,they are a marvelous pair of chicken catchers :o)

June 28, 2009 at 3:39 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

I love this story, thank you!

June 28, 2009 at 4:10 PM  
Blogger June said...

I love that chickens are your defining factor in making a homestead. I never thought we qualified as homesteaders exactly. But I'll happily take on the designation as we love our hens (and sometimes our rooster) and our garden and our little attempt at making it on our own land.

June 28, 2009 at 8:30 PM  
Blogger Sylvia said...

How well I know this story! I also got my first 4 hens in the rain from a farmer way up in the country on a workday that I took off for 'an hour' and came back 3 hours later with a cardboard box of bantam hens. I have talked about chickens for years! and finally took the plunge last October. I haven't looked back and now I have 2 Orpingtons, 1 Bantam and 11 turkeys growing in suburban Atlanta backyard.
Hey, tell Noreen to subscribe to Grit and Mother Earth news. They have some of the best solutions for first time poultry people. I hope she is on her way to serious chicken love. I know my family has fallen for our 'girls'.
Here is our blog about our life if you are interested.


June 28, 2009 at 8:40 PM  
Blogger smilingcat said...

Always love reading your posts. Even in face of adversity, your attitude never waivers. This time getting your cloth wet in the rain to round up the hens. Wow...

Read the book awhile ago. And that is the way I found this site. Too bad the book had to end :) loved every page every word. Bees, the first set of hens... some funny, some sad yet still uplifiting.

To other readers, if you haven't read the book, DO SO!! It is a wonderful must read book.

Wish you many happy years to come.

from urban homesteader.

June 28, 2009 at 10:23 PM  
Anonymous Annie said...

Chickens are such delightful creatures, aren't they? And generally speaking, so easy to take care of. I wouldn't be without them now. Even if they didn't provide us with lovely eggs, it would be worth it to watch them scratching around the yard.

We have 2 Black Stars who are great layers (one lays us a double-yolked egg at least once a week), 5 Ameraucanas who lay lovely pale green eggs, 2 Welsummers who have yet to start laying, and one poor little banty hen, given us by a neighbor, who gets picked on by all the bigger hens. And two gorgeous roosters to take care of the girls.

June 29, 2009 at 1:08 AM  
Blogger Gerilee said...

I guess I'm a real homesteader then, because I've had my four easter egger hens for over a year. Still haven't figured out the perfect run but we keep experimenting and I know we'll get it right.

And I'm going to look at a goat this week. I'm well on my way to being very, very weird, and I love it.

June 29, 2009 at 8:05 AM  
Blogger Lorri said...

If this is weird, count me in.

By the way Jenna, is there any way you could make that gorgeous pic of your hens desktop-size? You take wonderful pictures, and having them on my work desktop reminds me why I'm working (to save money to buy land & start our cottage farm!)

June 29, 2009 at 8:22 AM  
Anonymous suzyqfarmer said...

Oh my goodness, I was giggling and thinking back on the day we had to put up our young chicks that were foraging in the yard when it started to rain. Not enough big bird feathers in yet to let them stay out - so we got all the rakes and put on our boots and started trying to herd 12 8 week old chicks to the was a comedy of slips through tiny openings next to legs and between fence slats and over the rakes and such. 20 minutes later they were huddled under the lamp and safe and warm.

I made the leap to homesteading...sort of, as we are still in the middle of town!...about 10 weeks ago and haven't looked back. We just bought some sheep and are starting our vineyard mowing service this fall when the flock grows a bit more!

Thanks for the funny stories!

June 29, 2009 at 10:47 AM  
Anonymous kandy said...

do you need a rooster to get eggs from laying heans? my husband finaly gave in!!! i can start to build a hen house!!! but i need info which i cannot seem to find in the "chicken keeper" news letter that i get each week. such as: do you absolutly need a rooster (cannot have a rooster, my neighbours will kill me) ,and do i have to bring them in in the winter (-38c in the worst weather) or can i heat it somehow?. any sugestions on where i can find this out?

i am soooooooo happy that i get to do this!

kandy from canada

June 29, 2009 at 10:49 AM  
Anonymous kandy said...

Ga! now i cant wait untill next spring!

yah!! whoot whoot!

June 29, 2009 at 10:52 AM  
Blogger Conny said...

"Wet Hens" was worth the wait! It reminded me (again) how my first hen was acquired when I was a young girl. I've decided to write about it soon in my blog: it'll have to be titled "Chicken Chase." Good memories.

On Saturday afternoon, I was just telling my husband that having him build me a chicken coop as a birthday present would make me happier than any giant ring. He said, "Really?" "Yep," I told him. Now maybe someday I'll get that chicken coop (before I build one myself).

June 29, 2009 at 3:51 PM  
Blogger Marlee said...


Love your book and your blog! I want to get chickens and 2 fiber rabbits but the ONE THING that is stopping me is, How can you ever travel? We have a hard enough time getting someone to watch our dog and our fish for a few days a couple of times a year. What do you do???

June 29, 2009 at 4:03 PM  
Blogger Turtle said...

lol, love the story! I am one step closer to getting hubby to let me get a few chickens...he hasn't questioned the catalogs that have been filling the mailbox, but by next spring I do hope!!

June 29, 2009 at 4:25 PM  
Blogger mamatronic said...

Hey Jenna, Enjoyed your book, got some bees, want some chicks, too. Just heard that hens slow down on their laying in a couple of years. What do you do with your aging birds? Sell?

June 29, 2009 at 4:33 PM  
Blogger SoapBoxTech said...

I am growing quite fond of the world through the eyes of Jenna.

I thought this might come in handy to many of your readers who are interested in chickens:

Great forums for newbies and the experienced alike.

June 29, 2009 at 5:03 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

No, you don't need a rooster to get eggs. Hens will lay eggs with or without a rooster (just like, uh, women...). Roosters are needed to make baby chicks, and they provide protection for the hens (which you don't necessarily need if you're in the city).

(says Tara, who has spent the whole day playing cat and mouse with a repeat offender raccoon that keeps returning to the chicken camp.)

I think everyone that wants to own chickens should have to catch a few first. ;-)

June 29, 2009 at 6:10 PM  
Blogger Little Terraced House said...

Jenna, you have sent me off to bed giggling, thanks !

Hugs Babs x

June 30, 2009 at 5:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A comment on the "do hens bite" theme - hens are sweeties, but my Mr. Rooster! He used to sneak up on me when my back was turned and go for me with his spurs. Really a mean mofo. He was a gorgeous Rhode Island Red, but I was truly afraid of him and he ended up in the stew pot. (Also, he was supposed to give me chicks, and after 3 years, still had not!)

I love your posts Jenna. and your spirit.


July 1, 2009 at 3:04 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

Hilarious! The hens maybe weren't happy about being caught, but probably not thrilled with the rain either. Remember that old saying "mad as a wet hen?" :)

Just got eggs from a family with some lovely Araucana (not sure if I spelled that correctly) and Buff Orpington hens. What beautiful birds, and so friendly, too.

July 1, 2009 at 5:43 PM  
Anonymous Chicken Coop said...

Oh my goodness, I was giggling and thinking back on the day we had to put up our young chicks that were foraging in the yard when it started to rain.
Thanks For this great story


July 2, 2009 at 10:04 PM  
Blogger Carol G said...

We got our first laying hens this week too! My husband did the running around catching some hens that a friend wanted to thin out too. We've gotten 3 eggs so far. I enjoyed your story.

July 2, 2009 at 10:49 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

I loved hearing about your bird adventures. You were smart to bring an extra set of clothes. I never do. Always a wreck with dirt on my knees and my hair doing its own thing. Oh well. I am very happy to hear about another new chicken owner. We got our first batch from our local Agway June of 08. Now we are over 50 chickens strong. We started hatching our own. Its been great seeing my boys fall in love with each new chick hatching right in front of their eyes. I hope your co-worker has as good of a time with chickens as we have!

July 12, 2009 at 12:23 AM  
Blogger Shopping Blog said...

There is not going to links of london uk happen such a difficulty that you can't find cheap links of london bracelet an identical topaz jewelry according to your costume. cheap links of london charms It is monitored that besides the reality that it's a links of london watch uk great present to gift, it's also preferred by many people just for the links of london ring uk sake of an inclusion to their own jewelry collection. However, links of london necklaces uk if you'd really like to satisfy your partner and guarantee that she adores your present on this special date.

August 16, 2010 at 9:38 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home