Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Chickens From A Former Life

When we got rid of the cattle, I needed some sort of livestock to fill the agricultural void.  While I loved the cattle, they were a tremendous amount of work, and worry.  Although I felt I had the best fences in the district, at least once or twice a year, someone, or all of them would be outside our property.  This was never a good thing, as we lived on a very busy highway -- transport trailers every few minutes.  The Mad Cow Disease scare, here in Canada, also just took the heart out of the cattle industry.  Alas years later, the countryside is basically devoid of cattle, where once a herd roamed on every family farm.

I'd always liked chickens, when I was younger, so I went and bought ten pullets and a cockerel -- a miscellaneous selection of rare breeds.  Those first few eggs that fall were just as fun to find, as an Easter egg hunt in the spring.

Blueboy, the original rooster - I don't remember what breed. If you look you can see his little crooked foot, but it never held him back.
Then an acquaintance called us up and wondered if we would take her five Sex-link hens off her hands.  Not one to turn down a freebie, I quickly took the transporting cage and nabbed the five big black ladies.  Of course they were a couple of years old, so their egg production was beginning to drop off.  However fifteen hens do produce a lot more eggs than a family of four can consume.  Next on the list: garner some egg customers, to offset the cost of feed.  Well then it quickly became a vicious cycle.  More and more people loved our farm fresh (almost free-range) eggs.  I had to keep adding to my stock to keep up with the demand.  Not that I minded, I had lots of available space.  I also build several large isolation cages for new birds and to keep duos and trios separate for breeding.

We did this for a few years.  It got so the flock was pretty much self replenishing.  One year I had five setters, two that did it twice.  I soon had a nice flock of Blue Andalusians, as well as trios of Silver Grey Dorkings, Dark Brown Leghorns, White Wyandottes, to name but a few.

Some of the hatch from a school project.
A few weeks later.
Gold and Silver Lakenvelders.
My daughter's bantam trio - they were a teeny, tiny bunch
Mr Silver Grey Dorking - he was magnificent, but old when I bought him at an auction.

And then we started to examine the dotted line.  Feed costs jumped by thirty percent, overnight, and suddenly a break-even proposition was beginning to cost me.  Sure we were producing a superior product, and we could hardly keep up with the demand.  But in reality it was costing me to provide this wonderful product for our friends and neighbours.

One of my repeat setters.
Then came the decision to sell the farm.  Our new location did not have the facilities to run chickens.  So I bundled all my girls up and took them to the biannual Bird Auction.

Every once in a while I get the urge to have a few chooks around, but the truth is, that we can get fresh Omega 3 eggs from a producer a scant mile's walk away for $2.00/dozen.  I just can't justify owning my own at this time. That, plus the fact that I do not have enough acreage at the new place to legally have any livestock (I would have thought 16 acres was enough for a few chickens, but council deems I must have fifty, before I can farm).

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Who is the author of this gardening quote: 

Gardens are not made by singing “Oh how beautiful”
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         a) William Shakespeare

        b) Thomas Hardy
        c)  Rudyard Kipling
        d) Gregor Mendel

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And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.


  1. Same situation here.Where once every other farm had a small herd of milkers or fattened a few bullocks, now they are almost all arable. But now cattle are making a comeback, not on farms but on nature reserves where they are trying to re-establish the old flower meadows; this can only be done by grazing cattle. The big, heavy modern breeds are no good for this task as they simply trample everything in their path, so there are small herds of Red Poll,Belted Galloways or Dexters, owned by farmers but then lent to various nature conservancy bodies. Of course the beef from such animals is in high demand and fetches a good price.
    Enjoyed reading of your agricultural exploits.

  2. My daughter (Greens and Jeans) has 4 hens and is just getting eggs from three of them. Her last post on Monday showed a dozen with the three different colors.

    I didn't realize you had had a big farm before. Why the move?

  3. John: Great to hear that some of these rarer breeds are finding a niche in our modern world. I'm sure free-range beef like that would command a premium.

    Marcia: I must check our your grandblog! We had a 68 acre hobby farm for many years - beef cattle. The Mad Cow thing really made it a losing proposition. The old farm house was a constant money pit, and I had just finished my teaching degree. Also my girls were just starting high school and we were running the 12 mile run two and three times a day, so we decided to move closer to town, with a much newer home. While I miss some aspects of the farm, I do not miss the constant upkeep. I am also much more central for supply teaching within the district. Long story, in a small box!

  4. You had a tremendous amount of fun with those chickens. My Dad had a large flock for a few years and sold eggs.It fit in with his other farming acivities.
    In Red Deer people are allowed to keep a few chickens in their back yard.

  5. I can't believe 16 acres is insufficient for farm status!! Anyway your chickens were beautiful. I'm sure we make no money off ours (although we sell the organic/free-range eggs for $4 a dozen) but we can't keep up with demand.

  6. Being an old farm boy I sure enjoyed seeing all the chickens. I would love to live somewhere in which we could have chickens.


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