Thursday, March 6, 2008

Bock, Bock, Bock...

I've always loved chickens, and thought it would be fun to have them as pets. So, on April 11, 1997 I got 9 one-day-old chickies from a hatchery not far from where I live. They were all hens. Four Rhode Island Reds, two Barred Plymouth Rocks and three Black Sex Links. Yes, that was what they were called. How unimaginative--don't you think they could have come up with a better name for the breed rather than "sex links"? Geesh!

Anyway, I loved those little chickies, and they all had names. Julie, Becky, Joanie, Emma, Ducky, Lizzie, Peanut, Yellow Foot, and Blackie. As they grew older, it became harder and harder to tell them apart. Except for Julie, that is. Julie turned out to be a rooster. Her "cock-a-doodle-doo" made her stand out from the rest of the chickens. The black sex links were especially hard to tell apart, so I ended up calling them all "Black One", or sometimes "Mean Black One" because they were by far the most aggressive of the flock. As a side note, if I ever think about getting more chickens, someone please hit me over the head with a frying pan, would you? They can be mean little beasties. Now I know where the term "pecking order" comes from, and let me tell you, there is a definite pecking order among chickens. Heaven help whoever is at the bottom of the order. But I digress.

When we got the chickens, I had no idea how long a chicken was supposed to live. When I asked at the hatchery or at a feed store, I would get some vague answer about how they were sent "to market" after their first good laying season. Needless to say, my precious girls would never go to market as long as I had anything to say about it! (How long could a chicken live, anyway?)

Well, the first of the flock met her maker about 6 years ago, and I remember calling my mom first thing in the morning before I left for work. I was crying, and said "What do I do with a dead chicken?" Mom suggested chicken pot pie. Not funny! Then she said to leave her in a trash bag outside of the garage and dad would pick it up and take her to the dump. Kind of heartless, don't you think? I ended up calling work (still crying) and telling them I would be late because I had to bury a chicken. Hey - a pet is a pet, and no way could she go to the dump.

Over the years, the flock had dwindled down to two chickens. Black One and Ducky. Then this past weekend, Black One went to the big chicken coop in the sky. It wasn't too much of a surprise, since she has been partially paralyzed since about the middle of December. She was still eating and drinking and pooing, and didn't appear to be in any pain, so I guess it was some kind of a stroke that left her partially disabled. On nice weekend days, my sister would make a nest for her out of straw in a sunny part of the yard and put her out there with her own water bowl and a can of cat food. Yes, she loved cat food. Oddly enough, chicken flavor was her favorite. (Do you see why I don't want any more chickens?)

Black One, 1997-2008

Ducky, loyal chicken that she is, would stick right by Black One's side. The very same Ducky who was always at the bottom of the pecking order. There were times when we had to separate her from the rest of the flock because we were afraid they would kill her. This kind little Ducky has been sleeping on the floor of the coop in a nest of straw with Black One instead of flying up to the roosts at night. Sweet little Ducky!

Ducky (with Joseph in the background)

Now, the whole time I've been typing this, I've been trying to think of a way to (sensitively, of course) segue into this week's Dogs on Thursday topic, but, you see, well... there is no good way.

Long-time readers may remember that I've been making Emma and Tara's food since last April. The recipe is based on Mable's Meat Loaf. After about six months on this food, I had blood work done on Emma and Tara to make sure that they were getting all of the nutrients they need. My vet said everything looked good and to keep them on the food. Yay!

Anyway, each batch uses 5 to 6 pounds of ground beef, but recently there have been some recalls on ground beef. Ugh! What is a girl to do? Do you see the insensitive part now? Yes, this week, we bought 6 pounds of ground chicken and made...what should I call it? Chicken-loaf? I know some of you were thinking "Black One Loaf". Shocking - how could you?

Chicken loaf is much more pale that the beef version, but still chock-full of goodies like veggies, oats, beans, rice, eggs, etc. The true test will be in the tasting. Will Emma and Tara like it?

They dove into their food bowls and fairly inhaled the chicken-loaf.

Look at those empty bowls!

Emma says "I don't care where that food came from, I want some more!"


Tsuki said...

Aww, I'd love to have chickens too, for their eggs. And angora bunnies...

A pet is a pet though, once it has a name it's a pet!

Sorry about the black one, I hope Ducky (which is a cooo-el name for a chicken) lives long and prospers!

Nichole said...

It looks yummy enough for people the humans to enjoy as well!

CynicalGal said...

roflmao about the black one, err...chicken loaf! i have a couple of books on order to start cooking for miss gracie.

but seriously, so sorry about black one. who knew that chickens lived so long!

Jennifer said...

I am also surprised about the life span of chickens! What a nice home they had with you, and what a great story. You are a funny lady - and the queen of segue, I'd say ;)

Donna Lee said...

I had to laugh at the response of the chicken folks "they go to market after their first laying season". So, chickens have a life span of what, a few months? I guess chickens in the "wild" live much longer (as long as they stay away from the market). And fish eat fish food made from fish so I guess it's not too weird for chickens to eat chicken flavored food.....

Criquette said...

Now that I've picked myself up from the floor laughing, I am not convinced that you shouldn't get another batch of chickies. Look at the stories you can tell! And Easter is coming up...Besides, joseph looks like he'll be lonely without some chickens around.

Mrs. H (aka MrsAych) said...

You had me worried there for a minute... LOL

silfert said...

Our family has run a retirement home for chickens for years. Do think of getting more! They can be as sweet as they are entertaining, and can be beloved pets as you've discovered. Hugs for you.
And as far as the chicken loaf goes, my male budgie eats eggs! How warped is that?

Jennifer Lori said...

I am LAUGHING that Black One's favorite flavor was chicken!!! What a sense of humor, that chicken had.