Tuesday, May 26, 2009

HOW do we get chicks around here? HOW?

by June

Okay, we do have two Rhode Island Red chicks and are babysitting four more little puffballs. But we cannot, for love or money or begging or crying or stomping our feet, get our order of six Silver-Laced Wyandottes. We are now three weeks overdue, and the list of baby names is just hanging there on the refrigerator with no babies to attach them to.

But the bigger question is WHY are we ordering chicks when we have one fine randy rooster out there with four obliging lady friends? Daisy Roo is always doing what roosters do (besides crowing). "There he goes again," Blossom says, to which Fern adds, "Marmalade." Or "Dottie." Or "fill-in-the-blank" for whichever hen is currently getting loved up by Daisy Roo.

So it's not as if nature isn't working in our barnyard -- but only up to a point. It's the hens who lack the instinct. They don't get broody for more than ten minutes, then they are up and about and fluffing in the dust as though the continuation of the species does not depend on them. Which luckily it does not.

We were amazed this weekend when Grandpa Hickory told us that when he was little and master of his own coop, all he had to do was toss a hen over the fence to Johnny Hill's rooster. She'd come home in a family way, lay her eggs, and sit on them until they hatched.

Anybody who's read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle knows that natural instinct has all but been bred out of fowl here in corporate-farm America. Daisy and his ladies came from an incubator. And I guess they suppose we should just resort to a machine too.

But we fancy a more natural way. We like to think of dear Marmalade out there sitting cozily on her eggs.

There has to be a better way than waiting for the U.S. mail to be delivered to the farm store. We're desperate for little peeps around here. So if anybody out there with more chicken experience knows how to teach a hen to brood, please let us know. Please.

Because we are not going to try what Gramma Sunny's little brother did when he wanted more: He planted his chicks in the garden, feet up. That didn't work either.

Best we can hope from the garden is the likes of our favorite garden sculpture from last summer. At least he was good eating...