September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Johnsons' flock doing fine, fresh eggs eagerly awaited

By Ron Johnson- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Egg cartons are starting to stack up in our kitchen. In a month or two, we should enjoy the first fresh egg straight from the latest additions to our "family."
All spring we debated whether to raise chickens again. Finally, in early July, we bit the bullet, so to speak, and decided we needed some livestock. Chickens are a good fit: They're on the smallish side; they don't need much space; I have a bit of a background with the birds; and - very important - they do not need to be milked.
We scoured the Internet for chicken house ideas. But we turned thumbs down to those that looked more like doll houses than real, sturdy coops that can keep the chickens comfortably inside, and those who enjoy chicken dinners outside.
When you live where the coyotes howl close by nearly every night, security becomes paramount. Just a couple of days ago, in the wee hours of the morning, a great-horned owl hooted close to my office window. He, too, would enjoy a Colonel Sanders-style snack.
Finally, we found a plan we liked and asked a gent near Rising Sun to modify it. We bought a storage shed (Fred the shed) from him last year, and like it very much.
Several years ago, I ordered chicks from a hatchery in Iowa and was quite pleased with the way they turned out. So I got onto the Internet on July 6 and placed our order for 15 chicks.
The hatchery tossed in an extra chick, gratis, so we ended up with 16. That bonus chick is supposed to be of an exotic breed, but for the life of me, I have not figured out which bird that one is, or what breed it might be.
We opted for day-old chicks partly because they're so darned cute, and partly because my daughter, son-in-law and our grandchildren would be visiting us in southwest Wisconsin in a few days. The grandkids, we figured, would get a kick out of seeing the peeping balls of fluff.
This time around, we chose full-size birds, rather than the bantams we had in the past. As for breeds, we stayed away from the fancy, feather-footed ones. Jessica doesn't particularly care for the looks of those, but I do.
Anyway, it was a case of wife wins. We picked out several kinds, partly based on what would be available when we wanted them to arrive.
Our handsome, red-and-white coop arrived none too soon, just a day before the chicks. The coop, nicknamed Chick Inn, is 10 feet long and six feet wide. It has a full-sized, people door and a small door for the birds to exit and enter.
We included two windows, a metal roof with a plastic skylight, vents on the ends and in the roof, six nest boxes, and a lid that will let us gather eggs from the outside. The whole thing is up on posts that rest on concrete piers.
On July 17, the fellow at the Wauzeka post office telephoned, saying the chicks had arrived. I immediately picked them up, and, sure enough, there they were - a small, peeping box full of new, warm life.
Back home, I dipped each chick's beak into water fortified with sugar and placed each chick by the feed. Their temporary home in the coop was a circle made of cardboard, to keep drafts at bay. A heat lamp with a red, 250-watt bulb overhead completed their new living arrangements.
I'm happy to report that more than 12 weeks later, we still have 16 chickens alive, well - and, presumably - happy. Jessica and I built a nine-by-eight-foot run attached to Chick Inn, and the birds can't wait to clamber down the gangplank and into the fresh, Crawford County air each morning.
It seems so long ago that our fowl stopped looking like billiard balls with legs. Now I can easily distinguish the breeds - except for that one exotic bird.
We have three New Hampshire Reds, three Buff Orpingtons, two silver-spangled Hamburgs, two White Orpingtons, two Buff Rocks and two Partridge Rocks. The jewel of our flock is a Silver-Speckled Wyandotte rooster. We chose that breed because it looked so stately in the catalog.
Our rooster has yet to utter his first welcome-the-sunrise crow. Nevertheless, we named him Foghorn, after the Foghorn Leghorn cartoon rooster I once watched on TV many a Saturday morning.
I have a few chicken stories I wanted to weave into this column, but it's already running a tad long. I'll write more about our fledgling flock when we crack open that first brown-shelled, golden-yolked egg.
Until then, I'll pose this question to you: Why does a chicken coop have two doors?
Simple: If it had four doors, it would be a chicken sedan.
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