Monday, May 2, 2016

The great chicken experiment-- revised.

My husband and I moved onto five acres of dirt in western Oklahoma, with  great expectations of it being a nice little farm, but all it ever could be was five acres of dirt with a high maintenance house. I never worked so hard in my whole life with so little results. There were so many things that had to be cleared out and repaired that I worked myself to exhaustion

We planted a huge garden but it was wrecked by drought and a grasshopper plague  Green beans and tomatoes bloomed and bloomed but never produced fruit, I think the grass hoppers either ate the undeveloped fruit or scared away the bees needed to pollinate the plants. The only thing that produced was okra. We ate it stewed, fried and pickled. Hub was out of work that summer and the only meat available to us was what we could find my in-law's freezer which consisted mostly of frog legs.  Frog legs, okra and pinto beans was our diet. I despised eating amphibians but I did because I was hungry and I haven't touched the stuff since. Not fond of okra either.
We also launched what I will forever refer to as the Great Chicken Experiment.  We decided we were going to raise chickens to butcher and sell to raise some extra cash.  Actually my husband decided, and as always I said, "Oh, OK"--I was such an obedient wife.  There was a sudden cold snap so we started out with the garage full of baby chicks under heat lamps, which immediately fell prey to raccoons.  Raccoons may look cute but they can be mean when you try to take away their dinner and I recall Hub driving one off one night and the raccoon actually fought back. We put the young pullets in the chicken house with a sturdy fence to keep the coons out and kept the light going all night to help them grow fast.
Ginger was a wired-haired terrier--a wonderful dog. She considered that little farm her personal responsibility and she watched out for the kids, the cats and Ahab the goat. When the goat got into stuff he shouldn't or started pulling clothes off the line, Ginger would alert me with her barking.  Ahab couldn't get away with anything.  
We ran low on chicken feed and  let the chickens out to scratch; at first they didn't know they were free and stayed huddled in the pen.  But when a hen started to venture out, Ginger chased her back in, then another would leave the pen, or two or three, only to be pushed back in by the dog.  Ginger spent a whole day herding chickens until she wore herself out and had to be satisfied with lying on a rise watching over the hens pecking around outside the pen.

Before long we started mysteriously loosing hens and one night I discovered that owls were flying in and stealing our birds, in spite of the the light remaining on all night. I had to install wire over the chicken yard.

We did sell some pullets, but they had to be butchered and that work fell to the women folk and the kids. It is not easy work because chickens like to hang onto their feathers even though they no longer need them. Because coons, owls and other mishaps ate into our profits we didn't make any cash and I was happy to go out of business. 

In fact, I was happy when we left that place because it truly was a hard luck farm. I have to say that it was an unforgettable time and I could write a book on our experiences there-- good, bad and horrible or sell the screen rights. But today I am remembering the chickens.

#chickens #hardluck #