Our hens are one year old this month! After years of dreaming about backyard chickens, nervously placing an order for day old chicks before a shovel was even sunk into the ground, then anxiously awaiting their arrival, my chicks have now gone from peeping fluff balls to clucking hens, proudly announcing eggs laid and squawking and chattering to us as if we understood one another.
These girls are so much fun to interact with, at times feeling more like pets than farm animals as they follow me around the yard, come when I call them and anxiously chatter at the very sound of my voice. With six to eight fresh eggs per day now, we appreciate where this nutritious protein source comes from and we’re able to share the benefits of fresh eggs with friends and neighbors. This year of being a chicken mama has been fantastic!
To mark the occasion, I dug out some lingering party decorations, doled out some treats and a chose a suitable gift, not that unlike any other birthday celebration. In lieu of a cake, my girls enjoyed pecking at a head of cabbage and delighting in several handfuls of mealworms. Their gift: a brand new xylophone for their musical enjoyment.
Given how long it took these girls to appreciate the fun a head of cabbage hanging on a rope could bring, I suspect it will be weeks before they peck away at the xylophone. When I initially hung a cabbage months ago, I tied it to a rope, resulting in the cabbage falling out upon first peck and instilling complete fear of future cabbages. Even when my husband rigged up a way to hang them properly, they walked around it, feathers ruffled and wings spread if accidentally bumped into, until one day, a brave girl pecked at it and let the fun begin. Now they demolish cabbages in a few short days.
I’m hoping the xylophone has a smoother initiation and also that it becomes a pecking option as someone is quite unkind in this brood. I have three suspects, pretty much the ones with pristine feathers. I have seen some unkind behavior but not always from the same hen so I think there may be more than one culprit. I’ve debated pulling the presumed ring leader out for a few days or trying peepers, but I haven’t committed to either option just yet.
My spring chores including edging, weeding and spreading five yards of mulch. This has instilled madness in the girls who love scratching away at the new mulch to unearth worms and bugs. I have dumped pieces of sod from the edging into the coop and the girls will actually leave foraging when they see the wheel barrow head to the run where I dump these chunks of earthen goodness into their run. Once they’ve pecked away the grasses and weeds, fresh soil is left behind, perfect for impromptu dust bathing which has greatly escalated as a result.
I personally celebrated the girl’s first birthday with a lovely breakfast of two freshly laid eggs, still warm when I collected them, along with some freshly harvested spinach from the awakened garden. As I sat and enjoyed this backyard offering, I cherished the joy and education these backyard chickens have brought into my family’s life. We’re all smitten with these spoiled chickens, from their silly antics to their delicious fresh, organic eggs.
The warmer days call to the girls just as they do to us humans, beckoning us outdoors to revel in the sun and warm weather, feasting our eyes on all that is new again, and recognizing the blessings of the earth in which we live. I’m giving them as much outdoor time as I can right now, thankful for their presence and thoroughly enjoying their company when I work outside, except when I turn my back and realize they’ve undone what I just did, but that comes with the territory. My garden isn’t so pristine anyhow. Like any good mama, I take lots of pictures. Here are a slew of pictures of them- the big one year olds!
Happy Birthday Girls!
Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul…
– Emily Dickinson