September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
A chicken problem
I've thought about getting chickens for years, but have always told myself it's hard enough getting away with just the cows. I didn't want to add any more impediments to an occasional break from the farm.
In the last month, though, my thinking has flipped. It's hard to get away. We are always here. Why not get chickens?
I've never had chickens, but chickens are nothing new to Steinke farms. It seems that every old farm has a chicken coop. When Kurt was a kid,ours was filled with 200-300 chickens. Kurt's dad had an egg route in Minneapolis until Kurt's mom got tired of cleaning eggs.
What changed my thinking and gave me the urge to bring chickens back to the farm? Well, the delicious taste of farm-fresh eggs, for one. The fact that some of my city friends raise chickens and claim it is so easy, for another. Plus, we have plenty of room, so why not?
Once I got the notion in my head to raise chickens, I wanted them now. Raising chicks kind of sounded like a pain in the rear, and I didn't want to have to wait six months to get my first yummy eggs. I needed to find some hens that were already laying. One friend offered me some of her old hens, if I wanted to try to get some eggs out of them. As generous as her offer was, having absolutely no experience with chickens, I didn't want to shoot myself in the foot before I even started, so I consulted another friend.
"Why? Are you thinking about raising chickens?," she asked.
I told her yes, maybe just five or six.
"Chickens are so easy. If you're going to raise them, get at least twenty-five."
Twenty-five. That's a lot of chickens. And eggs. Before I could protest, another gal we were with said, "I would buy eggs from you." "So would I" said another. I paused. This could be the makings of a nice little side business. The city where Lily's school is located, Maple Grove, doesn't allow chickens. I would have a ready-made market for my farm-fresh eggs.
That didn't solve my need for the immediate egg gratification. I searched Craig's List and found four cuckoo maran pullets (females) for sale that were ready to lay. I researched the breed and discovered that cuckoo marans were hens that originated in France. French hens. Well, didn't that sound sophisticated. I contacted the seller. I knew nothing about chickens and had never even been close to a chicken in my life. Kurt told me we didn't need fancy chickens, but I had to have these French hens. All I could talk about were French hens. I even considered ordering cuckoo maran chicks but they weren't available until July. I obsessively checked my email, waiting for the seller to get back to me. She never did.
I reluctantly decided that plain old American chickens were just as good. The kids and I drove to Lakeville after school to buy some from a girl who raises chicks and sells them when they start to lay (so smart). I was nervous on the drive. Would I have to catch the chickens myself? What if I was afraid of them? Would they fit in the two cat carriers I had brought with me?
Everything went smoothly, and we installed our ladies into our new chicken coop that had formerly been a corner of Kurt's shop. Since Kurt's shop had formerly been a chicken coop, it's a fitting place for our hens.
It turns out that I'm not afraid of chickens. In fact, I find myself standing in their coop, watching them eating and interacting. It's a problem, really. There are many other things around the house that need my attention while I'm wasting time staring at chickens. Dishes, laundry, my children.
We now have eggs, but I haven't necessarily dismissed the idea of raising chicks. Just recently, we were at the new Runnings in Monticello and they had baby chicks for sale. Americaunas no less. Americaunas are known as the Easter egg chickens because they lay blue or green eggs.
I made Kurt stop in the chicken aisle. "Should I get some baby chicks?"
"No," he said, "it's too cold outside," (This was at the end of April when the sky was spitting rain and snow).
"But we could have blue eggs" I said.
"We already have yummy brown ones," he said.
"Oh, but surely blue eggs taste better than brown ones" I said. Oh dear, I might have a chicken problem...[[In-content Ad]]