Monday, August 05, 2013

Oh, Bother

Most people who get a whole batch of hens by accident are happy. Not me!

When I ordered the layers this year I wanted some boys. I didn't want more than 15 hens going into winter. I don't want to feed them, and I don't have an egg market without a 40 minute drive, and I don't want to commit to driving 40 minutes once a week. I love my old customers, but the cost of gas and time just didn't level out against the number of eggs I could sell and the cost of grain. I needed to either get bigger, or get smaller. I choose smaller. But now here I am, and here's what I've got...girls. Lots and lots of girls.

I ordered 25 birds, straight run (which means boys and girls mixed), from Meyer Hatchery. I planned to keep one or two full sized roosters. I like having roosters around - they keep the hens happy and they provide valuable defense.  I ordered their "rare breed" assortment. When the birds started to grow I was a little surprised to discover that they considered Easter Eggers to be "rare". In fact, a closer look at their "rare" list indicates that I got, well, taken frankly. A lot of the birds on their "rare" list aren't particularly rare, and of course I got mostly common birds that I could get anywhere. But that's my fault - I didn't really read closely when I ordered.

What I did very closely note was the gender of the birds I ordered. I do know that I ordered straight run, and that straight run generally means about half roosters. But...unless something changes VERY soon it looks like I have maybe 3 roosters. How do I know? Two of the birds are crowing - a White Crested Black Polish, and this Buttercup - which is a horrible breed for New England's harsh winters with their eventually big floppy cup-shaped comb, so he's got to go. That's his "wife" behind him for comparison. By 16 weeks, there should be some clear differences between the boys and the girls, as you can see.

Not a peep from anyone else. One white bird, all snowy white with a big tall tail that appears to be a Leghorn (rare? White Leghorns? Really??) occasionally stretches it's head up like it's considering a crow, but it doesn't make a peep. Saddle feathers? None. Big red combs? Nada. Cape? Sickle tail? Color differences? Zip and zilch and nuttin'.

This messes me up. It messes with my plan. It damages my program. I am less than amused. Even if I could get some boys at this late date, I have to grow them out - which means I have to feed them AND all these blessed hens! I could cull - and probably will - all of the cute, charming, pretty birds, which is exactly what I did not want to do. I wanted some color. Now I will have to choose between the cuties and the actual producers - and faced with that choice, the farmer that lives in my brain kicks in and screams "KILL THE USELESS ONES!". I could re-home them - but having spent all that time, effort and MONEY rearing them, I at least want dinner out of the deal!

So, a hard lesson learned. Although we have had decent luck with Meyer until now, unless they can find a way to make me feel better about this, I'll have to find a new place to shop for baby birds come spring. Someone with Buff Brahams and Delwares, since apparently I have a TON of them - all girls! Most disappointing - I have recommended Meyer to a lot of people, and now I need to eat my words. Between the big losses of the meat birds, and this gender debacle, I can't recommend them now.

In other news, we've been working hard on our DIY kitchen makeover. The decision to paint all of the knotty pine cabinets was made rather abruptly one evening. Within a day or so I had convinced Gene, and forward we went with the project.

A lot of those young whippersnapper bloggers seem to think this is a "weekend project" Well, more power to them. Me, I am an old DIY-er from way back. I know that preparation is critical. I know that every extra minute spent sanding will reward me ten fold when the project is done. I know that every fume I inhale from a couple of coats of creepy chemical primer is well worth it.

And so I take my time, as much as I can. The hardest thing so far was covering up this guy or girl. I think girl. Vixen, I think, really.

 At first I actually outlined her with primer, giving her ears and a pointy nose. But in the end I did the grown up thing and primed right over her beautiful face. I'll always have the picture, right?


I don't think I introduced him here, although Yoshi mentioned him a while back.

Bradley is a 5 year old Golden Retriever, and we are thoroughly smitten - even Yoshi. He likes this brother. They get into trouble together, and raise all sorts of Cain. Observe:

They rough house just like normal dogs, and they eat raw food. Bradley came to us on a raw diet, and Yoshi decided it was only fair if he converted to raw so Bradley would not be disrupted.

Chicken, duck, beef, lamb and vegetables, with some eggs and yogurt now and then - they love it all.

And I love all of them. I am not sure what we were doing before Bradley came to us, but it wasn't as cool as this is!

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