Monday, November 9, 2009

I Love the Ladies

My parents were in town this weekend visiting from Nebraska, but that didn't stop me from pursuing Mission Pick Up Chicks. Nothing was going to stand between me and some new cluckers, not even family obligations.

On Sunday, we packed ourselves into two vehicles for a gorgeous drive up to Petaluma. The air had the crispness of fall, yet a skin tingling warmth from the sun's rays. I was excited to bring my parents along for this adventure; I wanted them to catch a glimpse of some of the more exciting moments of my urban farm life. My mother had grown up on a dairy in Southern California and clearly remembers her mother, Gertrude, raising the farm's chickens while harboring a seething disgust for the creatures. I suppose they are not for everyone. Though I am quite enamored with them, which was evident to my mother by my more than jubilant mood on the hour plus journey.

I had made an appointment to pick up four ladies from Split Rail Farms, which is nestled just outside of Petaluma in a town called Penngrove. In a rare moment of promptness, we arrived exactly when I said we would. Those who know me well will know that this is nothing short of miraculous. The farm headmistress, Jane, had our birds in cages, all ready to go to their new home. Everything seemed so efficient and neat. My mom made some offhand comment that hopefully these chickens would... you know... live. I told Jane that we had lost 6 out of 7 birds. Shocked, she asked if we had lost them to predators. I explained that the birds died of Marek's because of having purchased unvaccinated birds from a lady in - "Cotati", she abruptly answered for me. It seems Jane fell prey to the same swindle I had. Our stories were similar except that she chose to make the trip in person to UC Davis with a live bird. She said a dead bird in the refrigerator made her squeamish. I assured her that I double bagged mine in the fridge before I sent via Fedex.

Split Rail also has a herd of Nigerian Dwarfs. We asked a load of goat questions, which the folks on the farm were more than happy to answer. They were so young for farmers, at least a decade younger than me and my DF. And so incredibly... sweet. I hate to sound so sappy, but they were really really nice folks who kindly took the time to show us around a little and answer any weird query we threw out. We spent a good 15 minutes watching the chickens roam freely through the garden, the goats trot about with one of the farm's dogs, and the flock of wild turkeys frolicking in the background as if they too belonged to the farm.

After a bit of chit chatting we found out that the Split Rail farmers both had jobs off the grange. And then it dawned on me why that magazine, which I always thought should be called "Small Farms", is called Hobby Farms - you can't really make a living as a small farmer. Some folks might be able to scrape by, but they are probably more of a rarity in this day and age. I'm glad to see the younger kids giving it a try. I wish them the best of luck. And if these chickens live and actually lay eggs for me, I will recommend them to all my friends in search of poultry partnerships.

I know, I know, enough with the rambling. You're thinking, "Get to the chickens lady!".

This is Cocoa Puff, the Disgruntled Farmhand's bird. She is a Cuckoo Maran, like Pearl, and will give us those dark chocolate brown eggs.

Here is Ute's lady Fruit Loop, a Welsummer like Miss Lorraine, who will also lay dark brown eggs. She is loud, feisty as all get out, and can take to flight more gracefully than any of the other chickens I have owned. I can only catch her if I corner her under the goat deck stairs.

This white beauty also belongs to Ute and is named Eggo, an Ameracauna who will hopefully give us green eggs. She is the same breed as Petunia, "the Asshole", just a different color.

And finally here is my baby, Pop Tart. She is a Silver Laced Wyandotte and so far seems to be the tamest of the birds. I'm not surprised. Check out her tail feathers. It definitely looks as though she's met with some hen honcho who has been at her like a bully on an elementary school playground.

Speaking of bullying, Sweet Pea is not taking to her new flock mates as well as I had expected. I witnessed her deliver some seriously severe pecks to Eggo, and she chomped down on Pop Tart's behind, holding onto that one scraggly feather she has sticking up back there. I guess the ladies are establishing their pecking order and that's never pretty. Sweet Pea is being territorial, puffing up her chest feathers whenever she gets the chance, and uttering her low, kind of spooky, squawky noises. She appears to want the others to know that she was here first.


  1. Your new girls are beautiful, and I am very envious of your dark brown eggs. We are still waiting for our girls to lay their first eggs.

    Do you have room for goats? They certainly sound like fun!

  2. The Nigerian Dwarf only requires 130 square feet of space each. We've got about 1000 in the back, so they've got plenty of room. once more veggie beds and trees go in, they will probably be a little more restricted, but i've been on farms where the goats were kept in smaller spaces than we have. They are totally fun!

    And we are still waiting for our first eggs! These new girls should lay any second. They're HUGE!

  3. Yay a new cast of chicken characters. Best wishes to you and your livestock.

  4. Excited to meet the new girls. I've seen how bitchy chickens can be. the idea that they are peaceful little egg layers: NOT! Hopefully Sweet Pea will settle down.

    I'm also glad to hear about a good place to get chickens. I'm planning to get some when I finish grad school (in another year), so I'll bookmark this post for future reference.

  5. Flock integration is always difficult. I only have three and it's taken two efforts to introduce an new hen to the existing party of two. I think that's why, as much as I'd like more chickens, I will just keep to the three (, as they've settled into a groove. It's nice to find another hen herder.