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.