Sunday, November 15, 2009

every day is a mixed bag

I'm learning that there's no such thing as a good day or a bad day on the farm. Well, they're rare, in any case. Every day seems to bring with it a (mostly) balanced mix of little successes and failures, catastrophes and strokes of brilliance, pleasures and annoyances.

We've started letting the Margenes out to free range. They're about four months old now, and nearly as big as the big girls. It was time for them to taste freedom, to make their own way in the world. Time to kick them out of the nest, as it were. When I opened the door for them for the first time, it was quite a show. A couple of them tentatively stuck their heads out to peck at the green grass just across the threshold. Suddenly there was a rumbling from the back of the house...a few over-eager girls started flapping their wings madly, annoyed by the slow progression forward. Finally their pent-up enthusiasm could no longer be contained, and they all came bursting out through the door in twos and threes, semi-airborne, wings fluttering, as if shot from a cannon. They looked like Fourth of July artilery shells with feathers and beaks.

When you first let young pullets out to free range, you can expect some losses early on. They're novices at this, you see. No street smarts. It takes some time and a few misfortunes for them to get the hang of things. We lost one overnight last night*. It seems she didn't make it back in before we closed the door, and went unnoticed behind the house in the waning daylight. I discovered a sad pile of feathers up against the back wall, where she must have tried to settle for the night. This is what I mean. You can expect some of this in the beginning. At least one or two will unwittingly venture into the dogs' yard and not make it out. Another will wander off alone, never to be seen again. As badly as I feel for these poor early casualties, they serve as a warning to the others. Chickens aren't stupid. They learn what to do and what not to do.

My dismay over this finding was tempered by another. This:

I swear I looked at these plants yesterday, and...nothing. But we have broccoli! Well, we have itty bitty broccoli, but...still. Broccoli seeds are incredibly tiny. Broccoli plants are enormous. This never ceases to amaze me. It's just incredible that something so small can contain so much. I've never attempted to grow broccoli before, so this discovery thrills me. Such are the endless tiny dramas of farm life.

See? Mixed bag.

* Tara's Law of Poultry Attrition : Whichever breed of chicken you own the fewest of, or whichever is most rare will be the first to perish, virtually without exception. If you have 50 Barred Rocks and ONE Silver Spangled Hamburg, guess which one will be the first to meet an untimely end? This rule also applies to whichever particular bird is your favorite. The one I lost last night was a Buff Orpington, and while they are not rare, I had only two (out of 50-some-odd total chickens). Now I have one.


  1. I like the look of the Buff Orpington chickens here... just admire everyone else's.

  2. You should never name an individual hen either. That is like putting a big neon sign that says eat me on them. On the other hand you can name all the roosters you want since nothing ever seems to eat them.

    This is Brenda by the way, my man hates it when I use his account, but that just happens some times.

  3. You are exactly right, the ones I like the best have been the first to go. Murphy's law or something......