Circle of life in the chicken flock

The big news around here this week is the arrival of our new day-old chicks. I have fifty baby chicks to keep warm and look after, much like a mother hen except I use a heat lamp instead of cuddling up with them.

They were shipped from the hatchery by the United States Postal Service to our local Post Office. The Post Master called me to let me know they were ready for me to pick up. This is a unique service that the Post Office provides. UPS, FedEx and other shipping companies don’t ship chicks. It’s one more reason, in my opinion, to support our Postal Service and not let it be disassembled by outside competitors.

New arrivals.
New arrivals.

This latest group of new arrivals will be replacing our flock of old hens. The old gals are not laying enough eggs to pay for the feed they eat, even when they are able to forage out in the yard. So, it’s time for them to move on to the next stage of chicken farming — meat.

Old hens don’t make very good fried or roasted chicken, they are just too tough and scrawny. They do however,  make the most delicious chicken broth you have ever tasted.

My old joke is: “I have discovered a fast and easier way to make homemade chicken soup. Instead of butchering one chicken at a time when you start your soup, butcher several at a time and put them in the freezer. Then, take one out of the freezer the next time you make soup.”

I tell that joke every time I pull a hen out of the freezer and it always gets the same response from whoever hears it — silence followed by a quizzical look.

I’ll keep the  old hens around until the newcomers begin laying, about 18 weeks from now.


Chickens or Not?

I’ve debated on whether or not chickens should be included in discussions about gardening. Judy and I are into our 4th year of keeping  chickens and have a current flock of  88 including laying hens and young pullets as well as cockerels for meat.

Judy holding one of our new chicks.

Back when I was an Agriculture Agent decades ago, the answer to the chicken/garden question was pretty simple: no, chickens are classified as small livestock, not garden produce.  This is the assumption I have been working under with this blog and so, have not discussed poultry at all.

Times have changed and so many people have asked me about chickens that I have decided on a compromise.  I will discuss raising backyard chickens in another forum and not try to do so at length here in “All things green”.

I plan to post a short blurb here when there is something of interest on our other site regarding poultry related issues.

So if you are intrigued by poultry at all, you may want to check out Yellow Farmhouse Garden.

You can follow the development of our 50 baby chicks as they grow, sort of like Jim Carry’s movie “The Truman Show“.  Right now you can see episode #1.