To read Part 1, Click Here
"Farmer John" lived fairly close. He said he'd be happy to help us get started in this chicken adventure with three laying hens. No charge. You can't beat that, right?! I'd find out...
So, I loaded up my kids in the van and tried, in my eager anticipation of making this new found dream a reality, not to speed.
I desperately wanted multiple breeds of chicken, just like the three well-mannered, albeit spoiled, chickens in The Book. The difference in colors of feather appealed to me. I also wanted free range chickens so they would be healthy - eating bugs and fresh grass out in the open fields just as the Lord intended.
Farmer John, decked out in grubby pants and boots, came to meet us as we drove up his long, steep driveway. He led me to the rustic coop where thirty-ish Isa Brown chickens were skittishly jolting about in one large mass. This was definitely not the picture perfect image I had in mind. Instead of being a variety of beautiful colors, these chickens were a dirty brown. Their feathers were not "shining in the sunlight" like I had imagined. Their eyes, round and beady, unnerved me. Their frantic clucking unsettled me.
Farmer John stepped in the coop and roughly grabbed three squawking, flapping chickens and put them in a metal cage for me to inspect. Instead of having beautiful plumes, all three had red, raw spots on their backs and necks. This is a fairly common occurrence, I was to find out, in raising chickens, especially if there is a rooster in the mix, but I was not prepared for this. That Book never mentioned such revolting atrocities.
I walked around the cage, examining the cowering, abused, ravaged beasts. This was NOT what I had in mind, but I did want to try raising chickens. I was convinced that under my watchful, loving protection these birds would flourish. So, after asking a few basic care questions, I had Farmer John load them (still in the cage) into the Tupperware container that was in the trunk of my van.
As we drove away, the kids and I excitedly talked about how it would be to have fresh eggs and to be able to watch the hens as they delicately pecked around our yard. This was going to be just wonderful, we were sure. There was a pause in our conversation. We listened for the chickens. Not a cluck was coming from the back of the van. Then, ever so slowly, I started to smell the most foul stench. The stressed out chickens were pooping over and over again in the container. Once again, That Book never mentioned chicken poop. For all I knew, chicken poop smelled like roses!
The 10 minute drive felt like forever. Finally, after suppressing the desire to throw up, we arrived home. I was sure that once these poor, abused chickens got out of the car, they would behave in a similar fashion to the model chickens in That Book. I would treat them well. They wouldn't be locked up in a cage with 30 other birds. They would be free to eat the nutrient filled grass and roam around the yard in civility.
With new vigor, I cautiously opened the door to get the chickens out. Once I was sure they wouldn't jump out of the cage, I picked up the container and carried it to the back yard. I crooned to the birds because that's what The Lady in That Book said she did. She'd talk in a sing-songy, sweet way and those chickens would just purr...I mean, cluck, right back at her.
I was proud of the freshly painted chicken tractor. I had set their table with clean water and tasty food. I'd even fluffed their pillows. Now, I just had to get them inside their new home. I was tempted to make my 4 year old daughter pick them up and put them in. Instead I did what every responsible adult would do. I stared at the cage for a long time.
My kids were asking, "What are you doing mommy?" and "When will you put them in their home?"
Finally, I had a brilliant idea. I put the entire cage into the chicken tractor and hastily opened the door of the cage. They'd eventually find their way out, I hoped. Even though That Lady loved to have her chickens perch on her shoulder, I couldn't bring myself to touch a feather.
To be continued...(Part 3)