Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Over the winter I visited several chicken keepers in Chicago while doing research for Homegrown and Handmade. One woman had bantams, which got me thinking. We were erroneously shipped bantams by a hatchery nine years ago when we first moved out here, and they were adorable, spunky little things. In some ways, they were the most sustainable animals on the farm because they just kept reproducing without any human attention for years. Bantams have a reputation for being outstanding mothers. This also means they don't lay a lot, because they get broody so often and want to set. Being small also means they don't make a great chicken dinner -- we're talking about a pound each after plucking and cleaning.
But bantams are beautiful! When my daughters showed chickens in 4-H, someone always showed some Sebright bantams, which look like works of art. It didn't matter how many times I saw them, I was always impressed with their beautiful plumage. So, a few months ago, I decided to order some Sebrights for myself, and today they arrived! Although I had thought about it a few times in the last few months, I had done nothing to get ready. Then when the phone rang at 6:39 this morning, I yelled, "Chicks!" as I pushed my husband towards the ringing phone, which is on his side of the bed. (Yes, we were asleep at 6:39 a.m.)
I ordered ten of each color because I couldn't decide between the silver and gold. The hatchery shipped 23, although one little golden chick didn't survive the trip, so I have ten gold and twelve silver. For now, the chicks are living in the basement, so I can keep an eye on them to make sure they are getting a good start. We'll move them to the barn this weekend.
So, what am I going to do with them? Of course, we'll eat the eggs, but mostly they're going to be my pet chickens, except for the extra roosters, which will become dinner. I'll keep the prettiest and nicest roosters for making more chicks next spring. They'll also be yard ornaments for the front yard. We finally fenced the laying hens away from the front yard because they keep destroying everything I plant, but I've been worried about bugs. We don't have any trouble with mosquitoes and fleas, and I'm pretty sure it's because we have all these chickens who love to eat bugs.