The Reluctant Farmer has decided that he really likes chickens. They are great fun to watch, poking around the yard and scratching at the dirt to get to the bugs, and as long as we provide them with basic shelter, access to water, and a scoopful of feed now and then, they are perfectly happy.
Our current flock of chickens is made up of hens we acquired from friends who were downsizing for one reason or another, and we really aren't sure how old most of them are. As chickens get older, they lay fewer and fewer eggs ... so although we have around 15 or 20 hens outside, we have only been getting one or two eggs a day. That's nowhere near enough to meet our own needs, never mind the few regular customers we have managed to acquire.
This is what got The Reluctant Farmer looking for chickens: we need more layers. Now, when you start looking for chickens, you are confronted with a huge variety of choices: there are so many different breeds, and they're all good for different purposes. The Reluctant Farmer found all this really interesting, and he's been researching different heritage breeds, and watching for someone in our area with the types he likes.
Last week, he picked up three lovely Isa Brown hens who are in prime egg laying condition, as well as several almost-old-enough-to-lay chickens of a few different breeds: Barred Rocks, an Ameraucana (they lay green eggs), and a couple of cross-breeds. They look so very tiny next to the full grown hens, but in another few weeks they, too, should be big enough to start laying eggs.
The core of the Great Chicken Venture, however, is the batch of nineteen Barred Rock chicks that were picked up on Saturday. These tiny little peeping creatures are presently housed in a large cardboard box under a heat lamp, eating chick starter like there's no tomorrow and making a constant happy racket. The Reluctant Farmer is hoping to raise purebred Barred Rocks, and sell them to other people who want to have chickens of their very own.
The whole Chicken Venture seems to be a 'guy thing' in this house: The Reluctant Farmer is the ringleader, and both of the boys are crazy about chickens too. I think it's just great ... they have so much fun looking for eggs and watching them grow, all the rest is "just jam on toast", as my kid would put it. :)