Going through this real foods plan has really bolstered my opinions about the foods we eat. For the past two years I’ve been working toward being less reliant on ready-made foods and eating out of our garden or avoiding plain and simple: junk. Part of my goal towards a more self-sustainable life has been to raise chickens. My first batch of chicks will be arriving in a matter of days. I feel like an expectant mother again with all the preparations: Do I have the right kind of food; can I take good care of them; will they have all their digits; what if they don’t like me; what if I fail at being Mama?
Hubby’s good at reminding me I’ve got nothing to worry about regarding most of those concerns. You see, he used to raise chickens way back when he was a kid. He was a member of the Future Farmers of America and even judged chickens. He had upwards around 50 chickens at one point in time – and he grew some of the feed himself. Quite impressive for a little punk in high school.
So as I worry if two heat lamps will be enough, he rolls his eyes and tells me one will be plenty. As I fret over having the right size of pine litter he tells me we could get some cheaper in the future. As I show off the starter feed, feed trays, and watering dishes, he snickers at me. “Hon, why did you buy two feeders?”
“No, I didn’t. Look here, these two pieces fit together … and … well, they were supposed to. They were next to each other on the shelf,” I proclaim.
“Look here, Jen. You got the base of a feeder and the top of a watering dish.” He puts the two pieces together. “All the water will dump out – and they don’t even screw together and if….”
“Okay, okay. I guess I’ll replace that one.” I feel like a big dork, to borrow one of Kim’s phrases.
“So, what are you going to keep them in?” he asks.
“Well, I thought I’d go try to find one of those plastic swimming pools and,” I start.
“Don’t do that. Just get a storage box to start with. They’ll be okay. They’ll be in the coop before too long.”
I continue to debate whether the box will be large enough for eight birds and question if two boxes of four birds would be better. He assures me they’ll be better as a group because they’ll stay warmer.
Then I figure it out – our coldframe! We found a winner!
There have been several discussions where my research has paid off, however. Back when Hubby raised birds it was commonplace to clip their beaks. I’ve successfully talked him out of that one. He’s changed my mind about the coop several times. I’m determined to build a portable tractor out of scrap material. We’ve met in the middle about 100 percent free-ranging versus bagged feed.
A week! Panic strikes.
Mama again. And this time with Octuplets. Oh my, I’m the Octomom of chickens!
I have to remind myself just why I’m getting birds. Fresh eggs. Manure. Tick control. Yes! Yes! Yes!
Most of my birds are heritage breeds. I felt it was a no-brainer. They’ll be shipped as one day old birds, already sexed and vaccinated. Our daughter is excited about our bundles of cuteness (I am too). She’s even prepared for the off chance that we get a rooster. She has been playing her make-believe games with roosters named “Dinner”, “Lunch”, “Fried”, and “Chicken Fried”. I don’t know at this point if I could do the deed – I apologize to earthworms if I sever them while digging. I about cried when I found our wild honeybee hive was dead.
Perhaps the outcome of my first year with chickens will determine whether we produce chicken as food in the future, instead of just for eggs. The idea of real farm fresh, free-range chicken by true definition excites me. I’d love to have confidence knowing that my food has actually been out in the open air, in the pasture, eating what they’re supposed to. I would never have to doubt the integrity or quality of our chicken dinners. If we decide that’s the route to take then perhaps we’ll keep one rooster around and call him “Papa.”
Do you have any ideas about food that have changed since starting the Real Food Challenge?