Thursday, June 26, 2014

Passing the Test

 The time has FINALLY come on the Shawhan farm that we begin to weed out our old non-laying hens. I have been dreading this day because I will never ever forget bringing home Flock 1 and not sleeping that first night imagining all kinds of meat-eating beasts breaking into the garage and massacring my cute new babies. I will never forget the days we let them roam freely around the yard, giggling as they ran towards us when we pulled into the driveway and sweeping the chicken poo off the porch every night.
 Flock 1 was trained early on to come running across the property when they saw and heard the shake of a bread bag. Those same hens, the ones who are left anyway, still come running to the kennel door when you approach with something yummy to share.

 However, we have to come to the realization that Flock 1 is 4 years old now. That is getting old for a chicken, at least an egg laying one. Personally I've never researched how long a hen can and will lay eggs...I've heard their prime time lasts a year and half to two years. After they finish laying eggs, there isn't anything wrong with them and they are great for pets and entertainment, but if you keep adding to your flock every year like we do, you run into spacing issues. And unfortunately, there isn't any room for freeloaders when space is needed for the working girls.

 Dan and I have decided to test almost every single chicken we have. Now that the brooder is empty, it's the perfect space for a testing facility. We are now testing our 5th chicken in the brooder. We started out by placing one of our Light Brahmas into the brooder with food, oyster shells, water and artificial lighting. (She was a bit camera shy...)

 We started out with five of these birds four years ago, and sadly we are only down to two.

 I was both happy and extremely surprised when this old biddy laid an egg after about three days within the testing facilities walls!! I'm not 100% sure the egg was actually hers or not...I wouldn't put it past another chicken to have snuck over there and given her egg to make it look like she laid it, but since I have proof of this and no one has confessed, I have to just assume it was hers.

 Because she still produced the goods, this hen gets to stay at the Shawhan farm. Her twin, however, did not pass the test and received a failing grade and a black zip tie leg band so we can distinguish the slacker.

 I was under the impression all our hens from Flock 1 had dried up long ago and were no longer part of the Shawhan farm work force, but so far they have proved me wrong!! So far the only Golden Girl who hasn't produced is the one pictured above! I'm pretty proud these girls are still giving an egg every three to four days. Dan is harder on them than I am...he would rather send them along their way and have hens who produce more than just once every few days. My attitude on it is that they are still producing and contributing to my egg fund, so they get to stay!!!

 Thankfully, all the hens who receive a black leg band will go to my cousin's house and live there until the month of October, where they will be on display for school children and the thousands of families who visit the pumpkin farm. I'm happy with this arrangement since that means no one has to die! I couldn't bare that thought, though I know they can't stay forever as we are reaching a record amount of chickens...I believe we are in the 30s to 40s now.

 Those chickens who get to stay are marked with a white leg band and continue to click their long talons together to the beat of a typewriter every morning and sing a wonderful rendition of Dolly Parton's "Nine to Five".

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