Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Meet our Chickens

About a month ago, Dana and I, buoyed by countless facebook albums of other peoples' newly-purchased tiny chicks strutting in deep green grass, broke down and made arrangements to adopt some of our own.

We picked out two, a black one and a brown one, an Ostralorp and an Americauna respectively, and set them up in a big cardboard box in our garage with a heatlamp (repurposed from my photo lighting equipment, actually), a feeder, and water dish.  We named the black one Lily and the brown Violet.  They were just little peepers when we brought them home, small enough for both to make the move from the feed store in the sort of brown paper bag you send your kids' lunch in, and not yet heavy enough to even crinkle the bag's bottom.

But, as you're probably aware if you've ever raised any sort of animal, they grow so fast.  Provided food, water, heat, and space, they've probably quadrupled in size in the last month.  Since we've raised them and thereby handled them presumably every day of their short lives, they're essentially pets.  Pets as likely to poop on you as perch, sure, but pets nonetheless.  The cardboard box they'd been swimming in in late March is much too tight a fit now, Lily can look over the side and meet our eyes when she cranes her neck.  Unsurprisingly, she manages this as often as she can.

The soft fuzz they were covered in their first week has slowly given way to glossy feathers, leaving only their heads patchy and balding where the fuzz has ebbed.  Then last night, when I went to check on them, Violet's head had suddenly bloomed with a strong coat of ginger feathers, seemingly from nowhere.  It's just so startling to see something grow before your eyes.  I feel like I'm caught in a time lapse video somehow, the world spinning like a child's globe, flowers blooming from seed.

Since they'll have far outgrown their box by the end of this week, we've been working on setting up a coop for them to transfer to.  It's down to only finishing touches at this point: the wire is on and stretched taut, but the door is still missing, they've got a box to roost in but no roosts.
This is to say that while I haven't been writing about food on the blog--a whole month has slipped away, somehow--we've still been busily approaching this idea of homestead which brought us out here in the first place.  I feel with our transition into gardening and raising our own birds this year--expect egg recipes galore when the girls start laying around September--we've crossed some line in food that I hadn't really conceptualized.  We're going from consumers, perpetual supermarket shoppers, and amateur gourmets (props) to cultivators of earth.
We've built the chicken coop in a sheltered cement island nestled under the apple tree in our backyard, bordered on one side by riotously growing tomato plants, tangles of berry vines, and a solitary jalapeno bush.  Our apricot tree a little further away is dense with underripe green fruit, its branches drooping like a willow's nearly to the lawn.

Along one the side of the house, tulips are dancing a slow masquerade, and the waxen leaves of strawberry plants shelter small red fruits as vibrant as songs, on the other side grape vines bolstered by the suddenly torrential spring rains wind like a breeze through the slats of a fence.  Nearby our little lemon sapling pushes up, up toward the sunlight pushing back.

It is April here, and the air is hot or cold day to day with little pattern.  We let the chickens perch on our fingers while we lay in the grass, we sow wildflower seeds in the good earth, the sky builds--fraying white along the edges--toward the inexorable heat of the summer to come.


The Hayward House said...

Congrats on the chicks! You are truly setting down roots and I look forward to hearing all about it. I've got a savory breakfast custard recipe to send your way!

Alisa said...

What a lovely colorful post! I love how you described the strawberries, tulips and the chicks :)

justin said...

Michele: Thanks! Since I posted this we've moved them into their coop and our berry bushes have started to develop fruit. The roots seem to just set down all on their own! I look forward to many breakfast custards to come!

Alisa: Thank you for the compliments! It's hard not to wax poetic with so much happening all around us. It's really quite miraculous.