Sunday, November 8, 2009

the best laid plans

Meet the new girls! Two Buff Orpingtons, two Barred Rocks and a Buff Brahma. All five birds were introduced to the farm today, and so far seem to be dealing with the new digs just fine. They're in the coop with the birthday pullets, the old gals, Winthrop, John, and my two angry, expectant parents. Cyrus and Saro must be hatching soon because they've recently gone from code yellow to red. You walk within three feet of that nest and it's all hisses and honks. I cut them a wide berth

I left the farm around 9 to meet Noreen at her home in Arlington. Arlington is the town right next to Sandgate, and in comparison it's a thriving metropolis (due to having both a bank and a gas station). Sandgate is too small for commerce and petroleum (which is exactly how us mountainfolk prefer it). I drove down the winding roadsin to town smiling. I have found that ever since I started homesteading, I smile more. The truck was running like a song, the sun was out, and I was wearing a favorite black and white flannel shirt on my way to buy livestock. Already the day was a win.

I loaded up the truck the day before with wire cages filled with straw. I covered the crates in an old quilt and lashed them down with rope, making two straw-filled dens safe from wind and chill. It seemed comfortable to me, so I figured the ten chickens Noreen and I were about to purchase would agree. I hoped they'd be comfortable. We'd be depending on them for eggs all winter.

When I got to Noreen's place I found her sitting on her back steps, waiting patiently. I was a little late due to getting caught up in a conversation over at the gas station. Allan, who owns the Citgo, is also a musher and his five beautiful Siberians down the street from me are playmates of Jazz and Annie's. We got into talking dogs and sleds and between that and the steaming cup of coffee I was preparing, I fell behind schedule. I'm always late for everything. (Sidenote: I have discovered that if you walk in ten minutes late with a pie the universe automatically makes you fifteen minutes early.) Sitting on her steps, Noreen didn't look like the Web Production Manager I knew from the office. Suddenly she was an eleven-year-old girl waiting to get on a carousel. She couldn't help herself. Chickens do this to certain people.

And she should be giddy, because she was about to be the proud owner of five young laying hens she'd been wanting for months. She had her heart set on Orpingtons and had been scanning Craigslist for weeks trying to find some for sale. She'd also fallen in love with the vocal and sassy Light Brahmas she already had. So when she found a farmer selling Orps and Brahms she was beside herself. Arrangements were made and away we'd go.

Her favorite hen, Cluck Cluck, a Light Brahma, used to be one of my birds. Now Cluck Cluck lives in the lap of luxury at the Davis Coop, which is a stunning henhouse made in three weekend's by her husband Dave. I took this picture of the establishment because I think it's a beauty. Big enough for a person to walk inside, electric-wired, and clean as a Bed & Breakfast inside. I don't think Dave realizes his true calling in this world yet...

Noreen was about to double her current flock and I was going to get a few more birds to make up for the losses from the summer. I lost so many to a horrid fox, three to some chicken mystery illness, and one rooster to the axe. Even with the five new gals I'd still have a smaller flock than I had going into last winter. But it all balances out because so many of the new birds are just starting to lay. I'll be up to my elbows in eggs by December. Just in time for Holiday baking.

We drove north the Fair Haven, a small town in Vermont about halfway between us and the chicken-delivering family. The farmers selling us the layers agreed to meet us at a gas station. I let Noreen navigate, I just drove, but I quickly realized the conversation in the car was going to be the best part of the trip no matter how great the new chickens were.

Noreen's family has lived in Arlington for generations. The stories she had about the folklore, characters, crimes, rivalries and ghost stories were wonderful. She told me about haunted houses and people thrown into jail. We talked about the feelings native Vermonters have about the influx of flatlanders, and how the populations changed so much in the state. Opinions and stories like this are what make you feel part of a place. She probably thought she was just making conversation as we rolled past the farms and pastures into Fair Haven. Truth was, she was training me to be a local.

We got to the gas station and weren't waiting long before a big green 6-wheeler pulled up alongside my little Ranger and unloaded with a smiling family. They had a big long box all ready to slide right into the back of my truck. I was silently grateful. I had been worrying I'd lose a bird by the highway in the shuffle between trucks and cages, but the new gals were already loaded in their taxi, ready to shuttle down south. Ever the professionals, they let us see the birds and approve them before we handed over the cash. Together we loaded them into the back of my bed and hands were shook. The deal was done and there would be French toast to prove it. We stood around talking about birds, horses, sheep, and shop talk for a while before we parted ways with thanks and smiles.

The more time I spend around Vermont farmers the more I want to become one.

We drove back to the Noreen's and unloaded the birds into her coop. They seemed a little rattled, but bright and healthy. Considering they were just sold, trafficked around the state, and spent four hours in a cardboard box—they looked freaking amazing. As we got them acclimated to the Davis Poultry Estate Noreen's husband, in-laws, and dog came out to see what all the fuss was about. I watched everyone talking and joking together outside, people I hardly know, but felt somewhat part of. Honestly, it warmed my heart to see a family outside and laughing because of a few birds in a backyard coop. I know they're just chickens, but "just chickens" made two women enjoy a sunny day together, tell stories, and see new parts of the state. They also managed to get two generations outside, away from a television in 2009. All those happy faces, smiling over homestead livestock made my heart melt. There's still hope for this world afterall.

A few months ago Noreen decided to get some birds and she's been in love with them ever since. Like every new chicken owner I've come across since getting into this mess, she's never regretted it for a second. She loves the attention she gives them, the eggs they give her, and the life and warmth they give to her backyard. Like me, Noreen's hooked and will never go henless again. Why would you not do something that makes you so happy?

Chickens do this to certain people.

27 Comments:

Blogger finsandfeathers said...

Jenna,

That's one of your best posts ever! If there's any such thing as a Vermont Tourisim Association or whatever, they OWE YOU BIG TIME!!!

Thank you so much!

November 8, 2009 at 8:16 PM  
Blogger Dog Hair in my Coffee said...

I must be "one of those people." Thank God! :) I am in love with my chickens! They make me happy. I laugh to watch them run up the driveway (chickens running is a pretty funny sight to watch any day)and cluster around my car door to greet me every day after work. They are fun, kind, pretty, useful, and I am in love with chickens. I even love Thor, my rooster. He's a good guy. I'm glad you were able to spend your day that way.

Coffeedog

November 8, 2009 at 9:00 PM  
Blogger bookjunky said...

Chickens rock. I have an incubator full of green, tan and dark brown eggs - some from mine and some boughten - and I am so hoping I get some hatches. We'll find out in the next two or three days.

Congratulations on your new layers. Big smiles. And good wishes with your geese. I can hardly wait to hear.

November 8, 2009 at 9:19 PM  
Blogger sueguzman said...

Chickens are the BEST. I've loved chickens since I was a kid and am lucky to have 4 great grrlz. They are sweet, friendly and great layers. Better than I could ever have imagined!

November 8, 2009 at 9:25 PM  
Blogger Penny said...

What a great day you had today!
You just keep confirming that doing this homestead thing is possible. Your posts keep my dreams for my tiny urban homestead stoked and I thank you from the bottom of my heart!

November 8, 2009 at 9:30 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

I hope that chickens affect me that way someday

November 8, 2009 at 10:29 PM  
Blogger Carrie said...

I love my chickens too! I've never seen chickens in their natural state until I got mine and it's so relaxing to watch them.
Although I do wish I knew why they're molting now that it's getting cold? Well, one is molting, the other is still enormous.

November 8, 2009 at 10:36 PM  
Blogger Robj98168 said...

I agree with finsandfeathers- you should be on the Vermont Toursim Association- Great post!

November 8, 2009 at 11:20 PM  
Blogger bookjunky said...

Carrie - mine are molting too. Doesn't that seem counterproductive to lose all your feathers just when the weather gets under 32 degrees? Sheesh. Poor chicks.

November 8, 2009 at 11:54 PM  
Blogger lauraslife said...

Still patiently waiting for my first eggs, my pullets are full grown hens now so it is only a matter of time. Great post, I felt like I was right there in the moment with you. My happiest times are days just like you described. More please :).

November 9, 2009 at 4:43 AM  
Blogger farmwifetwo said...

Her coop is so tiny. Mine's - the run section - huge and before I can get chicken's next spring it needs serious repair.

Last time FIL bought a mixed batch of chicks and the rooster's did in the hens. This time there will be no boys at first.... maybe later.

November 9, 2009 at 8:45 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

Driving to the next town to exchange livestock in a gas station parking lot is one of the greatest amusements of country living, and the that most frequently confounds the city folk ("you did what??"). :D

And Dog Hair is right - the sight of running chickens NEVER stops being funny. I love it when they're hauling butt so fast that I can actually hear their little feet pounding the dirt. Kills me.

November 9, 2009 at 9:22 AM  
Blogger Eleanor said...

Jenna, that coop is AMAZING!! I take it that the smaller box jutting out is the laying box, so all one has to do is lift the lid (maybe move a bird) and collect eggs?)
Also, the window above- is it screened, glassed, or somehow enclosed to keep predators out? Please elaborate in a future post. Thanks!

November 9, 2009 at 11:49 AM  
Blogger KC said...

Hi Jenna,

Any chance your friend's husband will share the plans for that coop? I'm excited to be getting my first chickens next spring and we need to get cracking on a place for them to live.

Thanks!

Krista

November 9, 2009 at 12:50 PM  
Blogger Heidi said...

I bought some replacement chickens yesterday too! (Lost 6 of 7 to Marek's. Bought from a crappy breeder)It must have been the day for it.

btw, check out the band Arborea if you haven't already. i have a feeling you might like them. the are a new fav here at our homestead.

Happy New Chickens!!!

November 9, 2009 at 3:02 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

Love this! Thanks so much for the post. We're on the fence about getting chickens (in our current place, not in our future place) and this helps me believe I'm heading in the right direction.

November 9, 2009 at 3:06 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

Great Post - I loved the look of that coop. And I love the pictures of your new hens. Enjoy your new girls!

November 9, 2009 at 4:28 PM  
Blogger ammamcp said...

Great post! I don't always comment, but I look forward to reading your blog every day.

Is your friends husband interesting in selling plans to that coop? Of course, he probably doesn't have them, except in his head!

November 9, 2009 at 7:57 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

he put it together from his head, but I can post more photos?

November 10, 2009 at 6:48 AM  
Blogger Taryn Kae Wilson said...

I've noticed that ever since I started homesteading I smile a lot more too! :) And your blog posts make me smile. Thanks.

November 10, 2009 at 4:20 PM  
Blogger Curtis said...

Nice post Jenna,

One of the first things I want when I migrate to the country is chickens.

November 11, 2009 at 11:18 AM  
Blogger Goobygirl said...

Jenna, do you dig beneath the chicken coop with fencing 18 inches down or use any electric fencing to deter predators? Just wondering how the fox got so many chickens.

November 12, 2009 at 11:09 PM  
Blogger Goobygirl said...

PS I just read your Made from Scratch book and thought it was hilarious in many respects, and I applaud you for your efforts. We are considering raising chickens and re-establishing an apiary at our new place, but are still on the fence about it since we want to rehab and Airstream and hit the road. I'd to invest in chickens and bees and have to turn them over to someone else.

As well, the only people in our family that eat eggs are the dogs....so it might be too big an investment just for them when we can get free range organic eggs locally for $1/doz as it is. But they sound like such fun!! And there are 30 abandoned bee hives at our new place...the honey I could collect!!

November 12, 2009 at 11:15 PM  
Blogger Goobygirl said...

*corrections

rehab an airstream

hate to invest in chickens and bees and turn them over to someone else

November 12, 2009 at 11:19 PM  
Blogger pharmer said...

jenna, please post more pics of the coop. it is incredible!!
pharmer

November 13, 2009 at 3:09 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

We have a new hen and rooster on their way! I hope the girls like her!!

November 14, 2009 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Hi Jenna, I just found your blog about Finn. How is the training going? I have 4 of next years packers and Live in NH. If you and Finn are up for a hike ( once all the chores are done...??.) contact me. I am always up for it. My boys need all the training they can get. With four at one time, They don't get the one on one time they should really get. So instead, I try to take the ALL and at least get them to know some trail manners in their first year. Jess in NH

November 21, 2009 at 4:51 PM  

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