Photo: greenkozi, Flickr Creative Commons
I'm thinking about getting more chickens. I had decided that I was going to let my flock dwindle down to nothing after a series of attacks last year wiped out most of the birds I had remaining that weren't killed during a respiratory infection that swept through my flock about three years ago. I'm currently down to one hen, but she's learned from the follies of the others and sleeps in the dense cover and high branches of the cedar tree in the back yard instead of in the relative open of my son's swing set like the chickens used to do. I stuck them in the back yard to stop the respiratory infection. More space, more foraging, less confinement in places where their germs would linger. Their health drastically improved, but they lost some of the protection from predators. The end result was an improvement in the quality of life but no real change in their life expectancy. I think I'd be willing to make that trade off. The birds don't really have much of a choice.
The chicken pens exploded with weeds in the two years they haven't been used. The first year the sheer toxicity of chicken crap in excess kept all but the hardiest grasses in check, but over the course of this summer, time and microbial action has turned that soil from toxic to enriched and there are all sorts of herbaceous weeds poking through the top of the six-foot-tall pens.
That lone hen has started acting a little strangely though. She's healthy, but she suddenly seems needy. I'd like to buy her a couple of companions, but unfortunately the adult birds they sell at one of the local feed and seed stores run $10 a bird, which is a little more than I want to pay for companions for a stupid chicken. It wouldn't really save any money on buying chicks, though. At this time of year, they'd have to be mail order and that means a minimum order of 25. Small number times big number still equals bigger number.
Part of this, I guess, is part of a restructuring in how I live my life. My wife and I have really taken a conscious effort in the last month and half to change our lifestyle so we can put away more into savings. Part of that means staying home more and our wanderings were part of what led me to decide to let the birds die off naturally without replenishing the flock. It was a pain to find someone to take care of the birds while we were gone and I hated the feeling of being anchored to one place, but let's face it. I am anchored to one place. I have a job. I have a family. I have a limited income.
Maybe I should just get guineas.