Wassail, traveler, and welcome to The Gable Grey -- a place of retreat, of renewal, and of resistance: a tree-shaded refuge in Dark Times. Now pass the threshold, and rest from journeys! For a cold wind is blowing; and here, if you wish, you may hear tidings of the world without...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The 24

I have 24 chickens now.  Really.  Nineteen of them are White-crested Black Polish hens, like the one in the image here:

How I came to possess them is either profoundly entertaining or profoundly boring, depending on your point of view.  Suffice to say, I had what may be called a moment of weakness (I prefer the term "moment of clarity," but it's irrelevant in either case) about a month and a half ago, and ordered 25 White-crested Black Polish pullets from McMurray Hatchery.  I knew the wife would not go for it; but it is (as they say) easier to ask forgiveness than it is to ask permission.  About a week and a half after I informed the wife (some few days after I'd made the initial order), I got a call from the post office, at 4:50 a.m., no less.

"Yeah, you got some birds here.  Ring the bell at the back loading dock."

This was on a Monday, before my regularly scheduled stint at work.  Luckily I'd already gotten the coop and paddock ready for the little ones, and got them safely ensconced in their new home faster than you can say knife.  There was the full order of 25 Black Crested White Polish, plus one (for good measure, I guess), plus one "Mystery Chick," a free Rare and Unusual Breed chick with my order:  27 birds total, added to our four, one-year old Dominickers.

That's a lot of chickens.  A lot of, may I say, illegal chickens. 

I say, "gotten the coop and paddock ready," but it really wasn't, since after an unusually warm March (one of the warmest on record), we had a cold spell in April.  I lost seven birds to cold and exhaustion the first night.  Next afternoon, I installed a heater in the coop, and didn't lose any more chicks.  Now they're over a month old, and a comical sight, filing out the coop door in the mornings, or scratching around their yard, white heads bobbing.

The wife has since come round, as I knew she would.  And they are really cute and fun birds, for chickens, anyway.  I actually plan to sell at least 10 of them, once they mature a bit more and I can be sure that they're really all hens.  I got burned on that kind of deal already one time; hence our Dominicker rooster Juan, King of the Coop and all-around Pompous Bastard.  (I have found that he mellows considerably after being held upside-down for a few minutes.  This might also work on me, though none have tried it yet.)

"Mystery," as I call the Free Rare and Unusual Breed chick, looks like it may actually be a Dominicker, though  it may also be a Barred Plymouth Rock.  I doubt the latter, since that is not considered a rare or unusual breed; we'll see for sure in another couple of months.  Belle calls her "Lilac," which is dumb, but I'm not really in a position currently to dictate some things with the rest of the family.

So my stealth flock has grown, as it was probably destined to do all along.  I am finding it a lot of work and a lot of fun, this keeping of livestock.  But it is a LOT of work.  Nobody who has not raised livestock can really comprehend the amount of work it takes to produce an egg.  I know, now.  And Belle will know.  The latter will be much of the reward, for me.  And for her.

Wassail, friends. -- C.

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Whiles carried o'er the iron road,
We hurry by some fair abode;
The garden bright amidst the hay,
The yellow wain upon the way,
The dining men, the wind that sweeps
Light locks from off the sun-sweet heaps --
The gable grey, the hoary roof,
Here now -- and now so far aloof.
How sorely then we long to stay
And midst its sweetness wear the day,
And 'neath its changing shadows sit,
And feel ourselves a part of it.
Such rest, such stay, I strove to win
With these same leaves that lie herein.

-- William Morris, from
"The Roots of the Mountains"