In April, one of our biggest homesteading dreams came true. We drove over the border to Maryland and came back with a cardboard box of fluffy chicks.
After some weeks in a larger cardboard box in the warmth of our bathroom, followed by several weeks in a decidedly creative brooder fashioned from an old shower surround, they were turned out onto pasture, in the safety of our mobile coop (commonly known as a chicken tractor).
Everyone has an awkward stage. Thankfully, the chicken tractor plans Jason used involved hardware cloth and a solid frame to keep even our young, awkward chickens safe from the many predators that roam our land.
The tractor was originally designed more for meat chickens but (as long as you add nesting boxes) can work just fine for layers during the warmer months. We have yet to decide where to put our crazy dinos when it gets colder; the most obvious solution would be to convert a section of the bottom of our barn into a coop.
All spring and summer it’s been so fun to watch the different breeds (Welsummers, Delawares, and Ameraucanas) develop and grow. We ordered a straight run of 18 chicks and ended up coming home with two extras. Of those 20 birds, 11 have turned out to be roosters and my goodness the mornings have been festive. Or alarming. Or just plain loud, depending on how you look at it.
So meet the flock (for now). Because on Saturday, some of the loud variety will be headed for the freezer.
Someone said to me recently, “You have eleven roosters?! You know, you could just get hens, couldn’t you?” Yes, we could have. And I think there are times for just ordering layers. But here’s the thing we should all know: when you’re ordering a laying breed and you only want hens, there are male chicks that have to be dealt with. Often, male chicks are euthanized after hatching. They’re not ideal for the meat industry and there isn’t a market for them. But we felt that we had space and time to pasture the males along with the females, to give them a good life—a short one, I’ll grant you—where they can feel the sunshine, scratch for bugs, and herald the dawn before they grace our table.
And one very fortunate fellow, probably a Welsummer our kids named “King,” will get the permanent job of protecting the ladies, one of whom ran off into the woods tonight. We wish him luck.