So we grow most of our own food. We eat hunted, self-processed meat. We make dairy products from local, raw milk.
There was only one logical next step.
I can't say I've ever really wanted chickens. Chickens are messy. They're noisy, they don't smell very good, and I don't eat eggs.
On the other hand though, chickens are useful. They eat bugs, they fertilize, they entertain and educate little girls, and while I don't eat eggs, I really like cookies.
So without further adieu, meet Jupiter, Goldilocks, Mrs. Tweet, Matilda, and Grammy*.
Sadly, Van Gogh died in the box on the way home from the feed store. It was a rough lesson to learn, a little earlier than what I'd have liked. My poor Bigger Girl had a very hard time with Van Gogh's death. We had the "baby chicks are very frail, some of them are likely to die" talk right before we picked them out. Obviously, that talk wasn't much preparation for the realities of life. It took drawing pictures of Van Gogh, writing a story about her, talking a lot, asking God to please make sure Van Gogh is very well taken care of in heaven, and a promise to buy a replacement chicken tomorrow to finally get the poor girl off my lap with dry eyes.
But anyway. We'll just be grateful for the five healthy baby chicks we have left, and we'll cross our fingers that the rest of them survive. I have to admit, they are so stinkin' cute. We can already see little "personalities" in each of them, and have entertained ourselves endlessly just watching them and "talking" for them: "Hey! Why'd you step on me? I'm gonna peck you for that! Hmph. Watch where you're going!" "Hey, let's all fight over one piece of grass, since there are only eleventeen million other pieces laying here, too!" It's good for lots of giggles.
These chicks are certainly already very well loved. The girls check on them about every fifteen minutes. So does the dog. Wait, scratch that, the dog hasn't actually stopped checking on them yet. She just lays down there with her nose pressed against the cage, watching them. I don't think she wants to eat them... maybe. I don't imagine these baby chicks smell much different than the ducks and geese she's supposed to fetch. That's gonna take a bit of training. And I can only imagine what these tiny baby chickens must think, having the nose of a 105-pound hairy beast just inches away from them all day.
The cat, on the other hand, is so self-assured that he simply knows he is more important than these silly little birds, and doesn't have the time or desire to bother himself with them. He came in, sniffed, and walked away with his tail in the air and began demanding more food.
The Daddy isn't so sure about this whole 'chicken thing'. Mostly, I think, because he's not so keen on the idea of having to build a coop. I reminded him that he's a Homeschool Daddy, and that Homeschool Daddies have to do things like build chicken coops. He agreed, begrudgingly. Then I reminded him: either he can build the coop... or I can build the coop. And we all know who would do a much better job.
Thus marks the beginning of the Chicken Expedition. If all goes well, we'll have eggs come July or August. I'll keep you posted.
*When you let a three year old name things, she chooses the names of the people she loves the most, hence the name "Grammy". I'm pretty sure that's a compliment, Mom!
And the logistics, for anyone who cares about this stuff.
The breeds are New Hampshire Red, Auracana, Black Sex Link, Golden-something-or-other, and I can't for the life of me remember the last one. Van Gogh was a Polish. They're all egg laying breeds (or dual-purpose), and they're all (hopefully) female. (Because it would be devastating to have to eat one. For heaven's sake, we've already named them. You can't eat an animal once you've named it. But we also can't legally keep roosters.)
We're keeping them in the basement for now, right below the seedling table, in a wire cage lined with newspaper that's covered in dried grass clippings. There's a heating lamp on them, and we're feeding them standard baby chicken food (grower/starter.) They seem far more interested in the dried grass clippings than in the food, though. (I have no idea if dried grass clippings is an acceptable bedding for baby chicks, but we had some, so I decided to go for it.)
And that's that. Here's hoping this turns out to be a successful venture!