May 10, 2017

Two (or more) more reasons why I'll never be a real farmer

One of my goals in life is to have my own little farm. A plot of land, somewhere in east or north Georgia probably, with some chickens, goats, horses, dogs, and maybe a few other creatures. More animals than neighbors. This is a fairly new item on the old bucket list, but it's a lifestyle I've fallen in love with just dabbling in gardening and chicken rearing on my parents' property.

I'm just not sure I'd be all that good at it. 

Meet the new gals in town (and Sadie's baby doll).

If you'll recall, I spent much of March and April babying and spending hundreds of dollars on a chicken who will probably never lay eggs again. If I had a dollar for every person who told me a real farmer would have eaten her by now, I could have paid for her vet visit twice. Even the vet casually mentioned that it was chick season across the street at Tractor Supply. When she was healthy, I began the process of reintroducing her into the flock, but it was ugly. Apparently, my mistake was not letting them battle it out for the pecking order, but when I see three hens piled on top of Marigold, clawing at her, my only reaction is to scream and flail my arms and put everyone in timeout.  

Just as I started working on the process, two stray roosters showed up in the yard, and a few days later, two hens. At first, it was cute. Maybe some of my gals could have babies. But then it became stressful trying to keep three sets of chickens separated. Chicken drama consumed my life. Then the roosters disappeared out of the blue one night. I searched the neighborhood to find the hens' original home, but I came to the conclusion someone dumped them. I moved on to trying to find them any home any all. Lots of takers and lots of dead ends.

In the meantime, I got sick. Some sort of flu or cold, but I failed to rest or medicate during the first few days and it turned into a nasty case of bronchitis. I had the worst sore throat I've ever had in my life. I was dizzy. I got winded walking down the stairs. I still can't breathe properly or eat or talk without coughing. My voice is just coming back, and it's been almost three weeks. Playing keep away with three sets of chickens every day just made me sicker and more annoyed. Throw in the fact that the two strays have been sleeping in the garage, which now smells like a barnyard. That's pretty much all I remember about the end of April/first of May.

When it became obvious that the last person who wanted the hens wasn't going to get them, I took to Facebook. I may have begged for someone to take them shortly after breaking up a fight that involved all seven chickens, my dad, me, and a few garden tools. Thank God someone who I knew would give them a good home stepped up. As I made arrangements with their new mom, I was elated. All I had to do was catch and drive the chickens into the city — yes, these poor little country strays were moving ITP — and I could go back to trying to get my five to live peacefully together again.

But Monday night rolled around, and I was in bed and all I could think about was those two poor little chickens who someone dumped on side of the road. They like it here. They think they are home. My heart ached for them.

I also thought about my poor Marigold who lives alone in her little cage, and how my other four are so mean to her, but these little strays just love her to death. They let her peck all over them, but she also tries to protect them when the others go after them. They're kind of like her own little flock. Not only was I sad to say goodbye to them after all this time, but I thought this could be the answer to Marigold's solitary confinement.

Marigold has been living alone in a small cage next to the big coop.

The next morning I had to drive my mom to a medical appointment, and without prompting, she suggested that she would be sad to see the chickens go. My dad later texted the same thing. I weighed my options. I'd have to build a separate coop for now. I'd have to get Marigold and the two strays to live together peacefully and eventually, try to get them all to live together. It's easier to introduce three hens into a flock than it is one, I'd read. And now that I'm finally recovering from my illness, it might be a little easier on me.

Good Lord, I'm keeping these chickens.  

Hoping I didn't sound like a lunatic, I contacted the strays' new mom and asked if it'd cause her any trouble if I decided to keep them. Not only was she gracious, but she offered me some wonderful advice about chicken integration.

So, now I have to build a second coop. My mom and I built the first coop together, and I'm pretty sure we went days without speaking to each other after the fact. And I've decided I need to build a fenced-in yard between the two coops. And the current coop was supposed to be temporary, and is falling apart, but that was before all the hell that last year brought, so I need to make some repairs. And when I move back into my own place, I'm going to have to move all the chickens into one or two completely new coops there. But the strays will have a permanent home and Marigold will have some companionship, and my other four can get more than a few minutes of free-time a day because I no longer have to keep everyone separated.

So, yeah, it's going to be a bit of work for something most people would have fried up for Sunday dinner by now, but it's worth it.

I guess.

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