Thursday, December 30, 2010

Chicken update

Forgive me for failing to provide an update on our family's newest member. Now that Christmas and its attendant stampede of merriment has passed, we can remedy the situation. We named her Genevieve, and she's staying.

On the night of her arrival in our lives, we struggled a bit with how to provide for her. What sort of set up might two city-dwellers construct for a lone hen in the middle of winter? Wouldn't she freeze, in a pen in the garage, without the communal body heat of her feathered comrades? Then one of my Facebook friends sagely noted: "Basement + light on a timer + layer pellets = eggs." And that's exactly what we did.

I modified a potato crate I'd built a few years ago, adding a wire fencing wrap and a lid. It's far from ideal, but for now, it serves. New digs, courtesy of my father the cabinet-maker, are on their way. We have the light on 14 hours a day, from 6am to 8pm, and so far, so good. We don't really know what we're going for. I've read that keeping a light on constantly is bad for a chicken's endocrine system, and our basement never gets so cold that it'd be an issue of warmth, either. Chickens are hardy.

She was living on rolled oats for a few days (and LOVING it), before we headed to Central Tractor (!) and bought a 50 lb bag of feed. They didn't have anything smaller. We were hoping, you know, for a nice reasonable cat-food-sized bag, that'd last a few months. Nope. We still give her some oats, because she has a clear preference for them over the feed, as well as scraps from whatever's cooking. Shredded cabbage that fell on the floor. Carrot peels. Last night she ate a baked sweet potato skin with aplomb. If she'd had lips, I'm pretty sure she would've smacked them.

So the experiment seems to be going well. No eggs, yet, but she's not yet full-grown (we think), and also, after something as stressful as being pursued and trapped by a bare-handed human, she's going to take a little while to settle in. By and large she seems content to hold us in wary, skeptical regard, and fully engage her mental facilities (and I use the term loosely) with gobbling up whatever we feed her.

If she knew what she has coming to her, that someday she'll roam a grassy yard full of bugs and tasty weeds to sample, she might change her skeptical ways. If she knew of the untold delicacies, of the melon rinds and corn cobs and behemoth zucchini she will be gifted with, come summer, she might chortle with feathery joy. She's going to have a good life with us.

We're off to the Great White North tomorrow, for a New Years Eve gig and a hotel room and all the HGTV we can watch. Saranac Lake, here we come!


Becky said...

I used to have 3 hens in the yard. Loved it! In winter they do slow down on egg production so I wouldn't worry about that. If she's eating then she is probably happy.

BeckyinVT said...

I agree she looks too young to lay, but old enough to start come early spring. And I'm sure she's loving the table scraps - my birds always do, espeically in winter! Lucky chicken :-)

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