Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dead Birds Walkin'

The last of our rotten roos have flown the coop today. They took an early morning ride with Bill to the same place that their brothers went, to a very grateful fellow who was glad to have them for his table. I am especially sad to see Mr. Jeffries go, as he was my little honey, but that jolt of testosterone that came at maturity turned him into a great big meanie, who, along with his brothers, all of a sudden simply lived to harass our hennies. Sorry, my boy, this here farm is partial to the women-folk and that sort of shenanigan doesn't fly.

The parting of these boys means that the last of the bantams that we hatched out in the incubator last spring are all gone, and we didn't get an egg from or get to eat a single one of them ourselves. What a bust that little trial turned out to be.

If you'll forgive a little gallows humor in my moment of reflection, let us review the trials, tribulations and eventual fates of the bantam eggs, formerly known as the dirty dozen.

May 2010- 9 out of 12 eggs hatch within 24 hours after having been fawned over and candled daily for three weeks. A few of the babies had early difficulties, trouble pipping, pasted vent, etc., but all pulled through.

July 2010- Near catastrophe as the brooder's heat lamp gets knocked into the brooder and the pine litter very nearly catches fire, filling the garage with smoke and giving us a good scare.

Multiple foiled escape attempts.

August 2010- The big move. All critters are initially traumatized.

October 2010- Our first baby is lost. Eglantine is hit by a car. The terror twins, Scout and Harold are sent to "freezer camp".

November 2010- Molly disappears one day, during the day. We suspect the neighbor's cat after a pile of feathers are found under the rhododendrons.

December 2010- Bird pox hits us just as the remaining five "babies" are reaching sexual maturity. We're down to one hen and four roosters at this point. Sky the rooster and Charlotte, our last bantam hen, die of the pox. The other three boys are isolated from the laying flock until it is clear that they are healthy.

After being cut loose from quarantine, the boys go completely nuts and start pestering/chasing/injuring our hens non-stop. WAY beyond boys will be boys, more like a hostile takeover. A coop coup, if you will.

Back into separate housing the boys go until today, when they went on their final journey.

What a hot mess this whole experience has been. Wasted time, wasted effort and plenty of wasted money.

Here's a look at the ugly financial aspects of this experiment -

Incubator set up - $100
Dozen Fertile eggs - $5
Brooder pen, lights, bedding, etc. - $60
Food for 6 months- ???
Vet bill for Sky (including having him put to sleep)- $70
Grave stone for Eglantine, our first ever critter to die- $30
Horrifying Total =$265+ for jack squat in terms of food for us.

Besides the monetary dings, we've also had the unfortunate experience of having one of our chickens die practically every way imaginable short of the electric chair - car "accident", predator attack, pox, lethal injection and "guillotine" (if ya know what I mean).

We are by no means desensitized to the tragedy, but seriously, if you can't find something funny somewhere in this mess, then you'll just end up kicking yourself to death over the ridiculous waste of time and money that this whole project was. I know I've learned from it, but still. Mostly I've learned about what NOT to do. Don't mix bantams and standard breeds, don't forgo vaccinations, don't bother with roosters unless they are angels because they're more trouble than they're worth, etcetera, etcetera. Anyway, this chapter is now closed and we're down to six hens that I will be guarding with my life from now on.

I knew that the life of a farm girl wasn't an easy one, but some days it can feel like fighting the tide just isn't worth it. Wild animals, strangers and farm supply stores are all benefiting from my grow-your-own approach, alas I am still buying my eggs and meat from other farmers. I'm going to have to buckle down and turn this mess around come Spring, otherwise I'm going to lose my marbles.


  1. Wow, Michelle. My latest hatching experience wasn't so filled with drama, but I can say it was a bad hatch - 4 boys out of 4 hatchlings. My last batch (out of my first flock, killed last May by coyotes) resulted in 11 of 19 chicks being roosters. I didn't have the guts to kill 'em myself, so took them to auction and made some money. This time, we're putting our four boys in our own freezer...good times for New Year's weekend!

  2. The dirty dozen have been drama filled and I will miss their tales :)

  3. My friend had similar problems with her chooks so she decided to do away with it and just focus her attention on meat hens. İ thought she was a bit greusome at first but her chooks are very nice and delicous and organic. She makes them sit in thier little home until they are ready and feeds and feeds them. She also does enough to sell so the ones she eats are free. Maybe that is a direction you go look at :)