I am ‘mom’ to a flock of 95 beautiful birds in upstate New York. My Columbia County coop is a joyful and crazy place. The chickens arrived by mail (yes, people ship chicks via USPS) in late July; tiny, fuzzy, cheeping chicks. Heat lamps kept them warm and hay “bumpers” confined them. The flock is comprised of Black Australorps, Red Stars, Pearl-White Leghorns, Araucanas, Buff Orpingtons, Speckled Sussex’s and Cuckoo Marans.
As the months passed, they grew, fluff turning into feathers. The first eggs finally arrived in November. I felt like a proud parent. The flock has been laying about 6 dozen eggs a day in the winter season. The eggs are multi-colored, different breeds laying different eggs. I love collecting them. The first batch are ready late morning and by 4 PM, the other half is waiting for me. Sometimes the cubbies are vacant and hold anywhere from 1 to 8 eggs. Other times, a hen might be sitting inside on a nest full. Gently, I reach under her and start gathering eggs, at time as many as a dozen!
The girls get non-GMO organic grain feed twice daily and fresh water. They get cracked corn as a little treat as well. In the summer, they peck the ground for bugs and relish the farm compost. In the winter time, I drive 80 lbs of vegetable compost up from the Great Performances kitchen and they have a catered feast! It is rewarding to see they recognize me and associate my arrival with the delivery of tasty greens and veggie/fruit scraps.
Chickens are mesmerizing to watch. They have the oddest movements – sometimes doing their crazy chicken dance, heads and legs bobbing up and down – other moments, they just freeze motion. They have a wide range of sounds. The more time I spend with them, the more I associate different voices with varying activities. The best moment is coming back into the coop after nightfall. There they will be, perched side by side, all puffed up, like a shelf of stuffed animals. The blend of breeds makes them even more beautiful in this almost zen state.
And my Passover feast will owe a debt of gratitude to the girls and their eggs in the gefilte fish, matzoh balls, hard boiled eggs and of course, dessert. I never thought I would be a crazy chicken lady, but I am!