Last week we adopted two more chickens from Path to Freedom. We've had backyard chickens for almost three years now. It's been a rewarding experience. They are easy, entertaining and inexpensive to keep. Like home-grown vegetables, home-raised chickens connect our family to the cycles of the earth, make us more self-sufficient, and provide delicious healthy eggs for the table. As homeschoolers, we've found many learning opportunities arising from these feathery friends running around the yard.
We got our original chickens from Path to Freedom too. Those two were in need of a home after being raised by the school next door as a science project. Now the Dervaes are hatching and raising chicks themselves to sell as part of their Peddler's Wagon. Our new girls came from the first batch they raised successfully. Twenty-three people have ordered chickens since February. Jordanne Dervaes says by the time she's done this year, she will have raised about 140 birds. Their blog journal has kept us abreast of their progress, from egg to pullet, including a couple of rocky spots along the way.
Jordanne has a special knack with animals and she does a lot of the care of the family flock, which includes "three ducks, one pygmy goat, one Nigerian dwarf goat, two cats and thousands of red wriggler worms!" She says: "I'll be retaining six or seven chickens from the chicks I currently have, to replenish my flock and keep my lonely chicken Clementine company."
She and her sister Anais have enjoyed this foray into raising chicks, finding it akin to raising children -- all-consuming, including the sleepless nights. Most of the chicks arrived at the homestead at one-day old, via the US mail. They ordered thirteen different kinds, including bantams, exotics, and heritage breeds from McMurray Hatchery. They also incubated a batch of eggs themselves but only one lived from that experiment. She is called "Miracle." They are going to try again with eggs in a few weeks.
Because it's difficult to correctly sex tiny chicks, some of the chickens they are raising will turn out to be roosters. Jordanne will take any unwanted roosters back and is looking for alternate, safe homes for them. They also have a few extra exotic and heritage breeds for sale, including Sussex and Polish hens. Ducks will soon be available as well, according to Jordanne:
In June, I will be launching my duck business. I need to add two more ducks to my flock because my own ducks are aging, so I'm also letting other people have the opportunity to enjoy some ducks in their family. I'm hoping to get some hatching eggs from my two females and the male I brought in for that purpose.
Our new chickens have been dubbed Cackletta (from "Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga") and Bubbles. They are part of the family so we would never eat them. Our older girls are named Meg (from "A Wrinkle in Time") and Hermione (from you know where). We also had Sunny and Mrs. Which, may they rest in peace, and Mrs. Whatsit, who turned out to be a Mr. He had to move to the country. Chickens certainly give you lots of stories to tell. Jordanne says:
I believe everyone should have the joy of getting to learn about these misunderstood birds. It is such an amazing experience to share in their lives and to see their intense depth of emotion. I have witnessed everything from jealousy, to mischief, to extreme joy, to sadness and even deceptiveness.
As well as live birds, the Peddlers Wagon will soon offer a holistic health kit for poultry. Jordanne is researching natural remedies, medicines, and wormers, trying to make it easier for new owners to take good care of their birds. She is also looking into carrying farm animal equipment that works for urban homesteaders. These products are usually geared for big animal breeders. She says "I have had to learn the different lingo. I am a bit tired of finding all this stuff so oriented to the big farms ... we need to bring it to the backyard farms!"
If you are interested in getting some egg laying buddies, I recommend ordering them from the Dervaes because the birds are treated with so much care and respect -- all organic feed, lots of human interaction, fresh air and sunshine. Because I get a lot of questions about our birds I compiled a list of links and info about starting out with backyard chickens here.
Bok bok bok....