In September, as the last of the summer’s grain crops were being winnowed and we began to take stock of what the season had yielded, my father and I placed an order for 100 mixed heavy breed cockerel chicks. As one project always begets another, growing grain begets keeping chickens. When the grain comes out of the field it must be run through a seed cleaner to remove chaff, bugs, weed seeds, and undersized grains. Waste not want not, the best utilizers of such a resource are chickens. So 100 chicks arrived. Rhys built us a portable chicken house out of what was a wagon that was built out of what was a manure spreader that once spread manure on the farm of my great Uncles Lyman.
The cockerels led a life of liberty for three months. Perhaps too much liberty, as the foxes and hawks got their share before we slaughtered them in December. In those three months I became re-acquainted with the chicken personality. The Araucanas were easiest to distinguish from one another due to their diversity of colorings. They got names such as Rocky, Road, Big Gray, Little Gray, Tilly, Eagle, Vulture, Theodore, and Black Beard. Four lucky birds were spared the axe. The two finest Araucana cockerels, Big Gray and Theodore, for breeding, and two cockerels that were not cockerels at all but hens, Little Gray and Tilly. Thanks to hatchery error I am enjoying an egg a day from one of my Araucana hens, Tilly. Little Gray, always the runt of the flock, has yet to lay her first egg – every day I go out to the coop I hope to find small blue egg waiting for me. I acquired a few more old hens by happenstance and now I have a flock of 20 producing about a dozen a day. Big Gray has gone to a friend’s farm and become rooster to his own flock. Theodore remains with me, though he has been dubbed “Randy”, more fitting with his grown-up personality. In the spring we will see what sort of chicks he fathers from my best layers. – Sorrel