September 13, 2007

Peep, Peep!

At last, my new chicks have arrived from Murray McMurray Hatchery in Iowa. Here they are:


I'll have to wait, of course, before I have fresh eggs for breakfast: The hens need to be between 21 and 23 weeks old to lay. In the meantime, the chicks are feasting on organic starter feed and plenty of water, growing bigger every day.

It's wonderful to see the four chicken coops put to use after the months my builders and I spent getting them ready. The houses' design was a special project of mine. Since I've kept chickens for decades, I’m familiar with basic coop construction and wanted to improve on it. Among the new features I added were two doors on the ends of each house that slide from side to side, rather than opening out. We also used wood from the property’s fallen trees to build the frames, which measure 8 feet by 12 feet, and the slate roof tiles are recycled from an old Vermont house. Inside, we’ve installed special waterers that won’t freeze in wintertime and some nice egg-laying boxes. We even have a little house with heat lamps for future chicks.

When I placed my order with McMurray early this summer, I chose a sampling of 22 breeds, rather than just one or two. The differences, though hard to distinguish at this early age, will be much more apparent as they mature into pullets (young hens) and roosters. Speckled Sussex, Mille Fleur Bantam, and of course Araucana are just a few of the varieties. There will be white eggs, brown eggs, and green and blue pastel eggs, many of which I won’t be able to consume myself. With the extras, I’ll do as I’ve always done: I'll take a big bowl into the office or the television studio, with a sign that says “Take as you please.” No matter how many eggs I bring in, they’re gone in a minute and a half. Fresh eggs are just that good.