Our five chicks have taken up residence in the master bathroom, which this time of year is the Siberia of our house. It's as far away as you can get from the woodstove, and neither of the kids are willing to brave the arctic conditions of the porcelain bowl in that room. But the bathroom is a lot warmer now that we have a heat lamp on 24/7. The red light which emanates from the bathroom windows all night long makes me think we should name one of the chicks Roxanne.
Where's chick number 5, you might be wondering? Up on the window sill, pecking at my bottle of hand lotion. Perhaps her feet were feeling a little scaly and she needed some moisturizer. Yeah, she's the one we should call Roxanne. When the chicks started getting out of their box one at a time, I didn't mind cleaning up the little messes they left behind, but one evening while we were out, all five chicks got out of the box and collectively forgot how to get back in. Oy, the mess they made.
I'm all about personal freedom, so it greatly pained me to put chicken wire over the top of their box, but there is no way I'm going to let them defile my bathroom floor again. Hopefully this weekend, in between figuring out how our washing machine is leaking, why our dishwasher is whining, and reassembling a pulley assembly that fell off one of our vehicles, we'll also figure out a temporarily segregated and safe location for the chicks inside the chicken run.
There's much to learn about keeping chickens, and while I've learned so many things just from the experience of having chickens, I've also learned quite a bit from the experience of other chicken keepers. Ashley English has written a beautiful book, Keeping Chickens, and Lark Books was kind enough to send me a copy. We've all taken turns reading it and loving it. Had it not been for the recipes in the last chapter, I never would have tried hard boiled eggs with chimichurri sauce (which is my new favorite lunch).
We were inspired to experiment dying eggs with natural dyes using Ashley's instructions. Frozen berries hiding in the back of my freezer became our purple dye; coffee and ground up oak galls (inspired by The Spun Monkey's Squirrel Party Handspun yarn) were used for brown dye; turmeric for yellow dye and onion skins for copper dye. For the first time in months, I bought eggs from the store so that we could experiment with the dye on white eggs. Our chickens lay such beautifully colored eggs already, we couldn't possibly improve them with dye.
Keeping Chickens also has a wonderful set of plans for building a chicken tractor. I'm working on my in-laws to build one and take a few chickens off our hands. Thirteen chickens is starting to feel like a few too many. If we had more property, I'd have thirteen times three chickens, plus a rooster, but I worry that on our small parcel, surrounded by neighbors, we might upset a few with thirteen daily jubilant proclamations of an egg well laid.
If you are thinking about keeping chickens, I highly recommend the book Keeping Chickens by Ashley English. It is one book in a series of Homemade Living books from Lark. I'll definitely be buying Canning and Preserving, and I look forward to the release of Ashley's beekeeping book.
Keeping bees is definitely my next pet project.