Today is February 8th, 2009 and according to Murray McMurray Hatchery, my order of chicks will arrive at the post office “sometime during the week of February 9th.” So, while the title of my blog isn’t exactly accurate yet, I am hoping it will be within a few days.
In the meantime, I will give you some background. We moved up here to the northern part of the Willamette Valley (famous for pinot noir the world over) in Southern Washington, just north of Portland, Oregon about eight months ago. We bought our first house on 2.5 acres with the hopes of starting all sorts of fun agricultural projects that will also aid us in becoming more self-sufficient and living greener. This blog is just going to focus on the chicken project, though I have plans to write about our gardening endeavors on another blog. We’ll see if I can keep up with both of them.
I’m not exactly sure when I really first started to get the “chicken itch,” but we can blame the how largely on my family. My dad, grandfather, brother, and I all share a gene which seems to make us want to have everything for a pet and to “raise things.” From the day we’re born, it seems, we want nothing more than to pick up and befriend every living thing (sometimes this works out better than others). Between all of us over the years, we have had dogs, cats, fish, rabbits, chickens, guinea fowl, horses, cows, snakes, lizards, pigeons, rats, mice… even a deskunked skunk and earthworms… and that’s just to name a few. My brother, when he was a baby, even used to catch houseflies in his fingers and hold them and stroke their wings and say, “he is my pet!” I swear they wouldn’t even fly away. It was like they liked him. Anyway, my mom is no innocent here either; though she is not as enamored with having everything living thing for a pet (“those snakes are NOT living in my house.”), she sure does like chickens. My parents kept chickens when I was very young (I remember them but just barely) but haven’t had them now for over twenty years. Despite this, my mom has a “fancy chickens” calendar in her house most years and subscribes to “Backyard Poultry” magazine. She constantly dreams of the day when she will have the opportunity to have them again. So, it is safe to say that I generally like pets.
Things only got worse when a few years ago, I moved to my family’s ranch property in northern California. A little ways down the dirt road lives Todd, the local boutique chicken and hay farmer. He used to be a “bigwig in the corporate world” (his words) and one day called it quits, took off on a few adventures, and then settled on the family walnut farm to live in a modular home and raise hay and chickens. Who knows. All I know is that, though he sells most of his eggs to fancy restaurants in the area, he also keeps an old refrigerator on his front porch that he keeps stocked with eggs, a sign that says “$4/dozen,” and a bowl of cash so that you can make change. Once I discovered this, it is where I got all my eggs, and I can tell you now that they are the best eggs I’ve ever eaten. Hands down. They are all different shapes, sizes, and colors because he periodically buys chicks of various rare breeds in both large and bantam sizes and then lets nature take its course as the birds free range in his garden and yard and his family’s walnut orchards.
The other day, I was down for a visit and we stopped to get some eggs from Todd. In one of the dozens, there was a huge, oval, very pink egg. I asked him what kind of chicken laid the pink eggs (I want some of those at my house!), and he said, “ooohhh…. that’s probably… uh…. Ameraucana crossed with a New Jersey Giant. That’s Ameraucana, not Araucana – there’s a difference you know! Anyway, my chickens get all mixed up after a while because I don’t try to keep them purebred so you never know what you’re gonna get.” How cool is that?
Anyway, point is, my love of growing my own food, keeping all kinds of animals, and my experience with eating Todd’s eggs have all added up to my own obsession with getting a few chickens. And now we finally have the space and the opportunity.