Thursday, May 31, 2012


BIRDLAND IS SUNNY AND GREEN. The rain barrel is full and the little pond is fresh. A few weeks ago I dropped in a plastic bag with 12 feeder fish. You let the temperature equalize before you open the bag. That way the shock of cold water won't kill them. Later, when I tore open the plastic, the fish swam promptly under the leaves of the water lilies and now hang out in the roots of the cattails. They swim up to sun themselves, but they're shy yet. Soon they will learn to come out when I sprinkle fish food on the surface of the little pond, their mouths opening to nibble the flakes. On the edges the Day Lilies are bushy, and sending up stalks with little buds like the pods of squat green beans. The flat leaves of Ghost Lilies are drooping, yellowing. Soon they will fade back into the ground and we'll forget all about them. I almost did forget them in the hustle of new blossoms in the yard. 

Sunny Daisies bounce in the wind. My grandmother's peonies open their generous blossoms, each almost a bouquet in itself, perfuming the yard. A few of my new Irises are blooming for the first time—big, showy blooms in a dark Eggplant, a soft, buttery yellow and white, another the deep, golden color of the yolks of eggs. The eggs I won't taste again until December. The yard is quiet now, after last week's coyote attack. Well, quiet of chickens, though we still hear the musical trills of frogs, and the chirpings of the parakeets in the aviary, and the singing of all kinds of wild birds. But the house, on the other hand, is another story. Listen carefully! In the back, closed in behind a sliding door, can you hear the soft peeping of new chicks? We'd been searching for a solution to our problem. I didn't want to order a flock of 25 that most hatcheries require, when a dozen would do. We looked online and found a few local possibilities, but the competition is fierce. Local broods seem to go fast and only one person with day old chicks answered my queries. These were the rare Lavender Orpingtons, and I was sorely tempted to order a few, but $9 each was too rich for my blood. There was a picture, and they are just lovely! Not really lavender, but a soft grey with rosy overtones. I don't have to use too much imagination to see Lavender. I thought about getting a breeding trio—a cockerel and 2 pullets—but these were straight run day olds. I only had a chance of getting one of each sex. We kept looking, kept emailing, prowled the farm stores in town for chicks.


Finally, after I had just about decided to order 25 from a hatchery, I came up lucky at the farm store. They were selling not just day old chicks, but day old pullets and I bought an even dozen—4 Buff Orpingtons, the soft, fluffy, good-natured chickens who make gentle, reasonable mothers and lay big tan eggs; 4 Rhode Island Reds, more businesslike, who lay brown eggs; and 4 silly Auracanas—rumpless, bearded ladies who lay eggs in a greenish, bluish tint. They're still under lights in the house, but we've been allowing them playtime out in the chick creeper. They are content scratching in the grass, running back to the warmth of the light when they get chilly. Soon they'll begin feathering out and will graduate to more and more time away from the lights until they can stay in the yard all day and just come in the house at night.

they are content scratching
in the grass
The chicks will feather out, grow gangly and awkward, and finally take the matronly shape of a hen and begin to lay eggs around the winter Solstice, when I turn on the lights for warmth. Perhaps a few of these pullets will turn out to be cockerels after all. It's happened. It's hard to tell the difference in a day old chick. One way or another, we'll need to get a rooster or two to protect the flock as best they can. Maybe in a few weeks I'll email the woman with the Lavender Orps. Maybe she'll have a few left. Maybe she'll sell me a breeding trio or at least a pair, on the cheep.


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