Monday, September 17, 2012

Remember the chickens, in the study?

This week I’m thinking about eggs and urban farm animals. Remember when I hatched chickens--in our study? Of course you do. Well, it seemed like a good idea... The local extension agency (bless them!) provides educators with incubators and eggs from one of those mega chicken conglomerates, they which shall not be named (see any resemblance to Lord Voldemort?). 
There was me with fifteen eggs and an incubator exuberantly ready to do what I had always wanted but never gotten to do. We plugged it in and dutifully added water for 21 days. Every day I anxiously checked the window. Were they turning alright? Would they have enough moisture? Would any live or would I have to break it to my children and all their friends that I was in fact a mass chicken killer? (Stop chuckling).  
The first day of cracks I sat immovably for hours. (I was equally transfixed only  at the New Orleans aquarium watching a father seahorse, belly heaving, wondering if I was about to witness birth). Birth is a crazy, slow and exhausting process. Slowly a beak; an eye; a pulse through a hole; a wing. Then, wonder of wonders, twelve little damp feathered peeping (and pooping) hatchlings.

Interestingly, all named Cristopher after our very humble son. Placing the peeping puffs in the children’s hands and hearing them gasp and giggle with excitement was pretty amazing, even to you, (and maybe made the whole mess worth it?).  
They grew indoors in a Rubbermaid tub until they left deposits around. Lovely. Their over industrialized breasts made them the Pamela Anderson of the Poultry world. They were top heavy but bird brained. and had a tragic ending. Turns out, hog mesh is not poultry proof.  Wiley Coyote style, one by one each of them walked straight into the mouths of our delighted dogs.  And then there were the children and the visiting company…Sigh.
So does that conclude our attempts at urban livestock?
I’m hoping for a no. Recently I had the awesome chance to go and hear Novella Carpenter, author of Farm City: An Urban Farmer's Education speak. Made me buzzing to someday get some bees…

Love Hannah


I hope you're thinking of frying them, or scrambling them, or making one of those cool science projects where you throw them off the roof without breaking… those are fun… but I really hope you're not thinking about hatching them…again. Wow that was rough. I mean if you had said "hey honey, I'm thinking of hatching some chickens in a month" I could have bought some sort of (dog-proof) container or housing structure for said venture. Maybe this is the lesson of our tale: Grand projects involving living things take planning!

This make me think of the story my Grandmother used to tell about my Grandpa. He was a Baptist preacher. After health problems his doctor suggested changing professions to avoid stress. And he had the perfect solution: farming. Any farmer would be, of course, laughing their heads off right now. Grandpa knew nothing about raising crops or livestock and had a terrible time of it,  for years. Feeding/milking/grooming/etc. any number of animals, tilling & planting soil, keeping up with watering and pruning…and that's just before breakfast... is not work that is either physically or mentally relaxing.  Rewarding, maybe, but not easy by any stretch.

That being said it is fascinating how productive a practiced hand can be, even in an urban setting. I've been fascinated by some of the roof-top green spaces, backyardpoultry, and windowsill gardens that we've seen. Can you have livestock again? Maybe. But they can’t live in the study!   

Bees could be good… as I understand it, they don't poop on the floor.


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