Sometimes I read my mail.

January 19, 2017
2 mins read

No, not my email; does anybody read that? I mean the letters and stuff that come in the box out at the end of the driveway. Oh, I don’t read all of it. Most of it goes in the trash, especially if it looks like a bill or if it is from the IRS.
Yesterday, I got a couple of catalogs. Those are kinda fun, especially if they are from Hornady or Midway USA. These were from a hatchery, and also a gardening catalog.
My wife had already looked through the hatchery book. I was mildly surprised, because my chickens raise heck in the flower beds and she doesn’t like having to take care of them when I go on my too frequent (according to her) hunting trips. She said, “I want that one” pointing to a picture of a Polish breed with feathers pointing every which way off the top of its head. She might get it too.
Last year the neighbor’s dog killed my entire flock, and while I was unsuccessful in exacting my revenge, the neighbors at least got a glimmer of a clue and the dog doesn’t come over here anymore.
chickensI like chickens. I couldn’t explain why. They are a disaster waiting happen, with dogs or more natural predators picking them off one by one or all at once. Oh, yes there are eggs. But while I eat lots of eggs, I don’t particularly love them.
I like to let them free range. There’s just something about a chicken running around the yard and being happy to see you because you feed it. The free ranging makes me and the chickens happy, even though it isn’t too safe for them. They need almost no feed, which is an important factor. During the summer, they get what they need from free ranging, with a few table scraps and a little feed to supplement.
Last year, I needed to replace my lost hens, and I wanted to get white rocks. My dad had told me they had them on the farm when he was a kid, and they lay well through the winter. That’s an important factor here on the planet Hoth. On the other hand, what do you do with frozen eggs? The white rocks weren’t available, so I got barred rocks. The roosters didn’t make it, so my dream of a self sustaining flock didn’t come true. I picked up a few more from an egg seller that had heath issues. A couple of California whites, a couple Rhode Island reds, and a couple Black sex links. Lots of people were selling out of their laying hens last summer on craigslist and facebook.
So after some of the usual disappearances and one of the white ones getting hit on the road, I have 13 left, which is plenty for now, but no roosters. I’d like to get a rooster that is the same breed as the hens, so I can put eggs in the incubator.
Then they send me this catalog. The white rocks are in there, as well as a whole bunch of other breeds that are fascinating, including the silly looking one my wife likes. She might get it too.
The other catalog was full of goodies too. There were several species of nut trees, which sound like a good thing to have. I’ve got a few fruit trees started but I need more. The biggest shock was that kiwi fruit grow as far north as zone 4. I had always thought they were tropical fruit or something. Two plants can yield 10 gallons of fruit. I can’t resist that.
There were strawberries that are white and taste like pineapples. There were blackberries, and raspberries, and many kinds of fruit that I don’t have yet.
That’s the thing about catalogs. You find a lot of things you didn’t know you needed.


  1. We have a couple of Leghorns and one mixed breed. During the spring, summer, and fall, they lay like crazy, but as soon as winter hits, not a single egg. They hunker down in the coop and rarely leave it.
    I keep my three in a good sized chicken run, otherwise I would have none. Everything in nature loves chicken, especially the killing them part.

    • I can let them free range all summer and do OK. I bought an incubator and I figured I could replace them faster than I lose them. It’s just not working out in the real world like it did in my head. I had raised a batch in the incubator, and then the raccoons showed up and killed over half. I trapped the coons and then the dog killed the rest. I ordered a new batch and both of the roosters died as chicks. Eggs are hard to hatch without roosters.
      I suppose I’ll have to break down and build a run but I really like not buying any feed all summer and getting lots of eggs.
      A second problem with free ranging them is they hide their eggs all over the place.

      • You need a coop,, and a run. The birds can be let out early in the morning and free range as appropriate, and then they will return to their coop to lay and at sundown. You just have to lock up at night and open up in the morning. The dog issue(or fox, et al.) is best solved by kinetic means, and early on. That’s what the run is for. The birds can be let out into the run until the threat is neutralized, and also act as bait while in protective custody. I have trapped and killed cats, coons, possums, skunks and more by leaving a baited box trap inside an open run at night while the coop is locked up. Sardines(or,if you want to be sadistic, a chicken thigh leg quarter) make good bait.

    • I have had chickens and gotten rid of my chickens about a dozen times. Never really had an opinion on raccoons until I had chickens. Now my opinion is that my grandpa’s old 22 is a pretty accurate rifle.

      • Short range, the venerable .22 is a great round.
        A coop could be worth it. I have a friend that trained his to go back to the coop at night. It’s part instinct, so it wasn’t hard. They lay in the coop, mostly, too.

  2. Yes, you get them a nice nest box in the coop and they get used to it, they will come back to lay their eggs there. But if you let the bedding run out or there are too many trying to use one box they go find somewhere else.

  3. I agree with your wife. The Polish chicken is so odd looking and yet it is awesome. There is just something about the feathers on its head. Its like Foghorn Leghorn got together with a rocker and made this chicken. If you want to diminish her upset with the chickens in her flowerbeds, this should do it.

    • I worry that it may be prone to predation from a hawk. Can it see up through all those feathers? I’ll get one anyway if I put in the order.

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