Sunday, January 27, 2008

Kismet: The Story of Hazel & Myrtle

About mid December my husband said randomly, "Hey, wouldn't it be cool to have chickens?" My seven year-old daughter, “R,” and I agreed. We fantasized about the delicious fresh eggs and that was the end of the discussion. Fast forward to the first week of January. R and I went to the local organic Boggy Creek Farm for some fresh winter greens, sweet potatoes and turnips. We were also looking for fresh eggs, but we arrived way too late in the morning to get our hands on those.

We spent about an hour at the farm with Ruby wandering the grounds, digging in the dirt and talking to their coop full of beautiful and charismatic hens. I spent time chatting with Larry the farmer and then we headed home to cook lunch.

That evening, the family was sitting around our patio table (yes, in January, Texans can still enjoy dining outside), when the subject of chickens came up again. We discussed it more fully and decided that it could be a fun project. We discussed the pros and cons of one, two or three chickens, where the coop could go and who would be in charge of cleaning up the poop.

Usually these discussions end with the same feeling you have after shopping in a great catalog. You circle all the items you want, go back through and covet the really special and more affordable options, and then you drop the catalog into the recycle bin, never to be thought of again.

The next morning, R and I were playing in the backyard when she stuck out her arm with a long pointed finger and said, "Oh! My God! Mom, look at that!" I turned to look through our fence into the neighbor’s yard and saw two red hens pecking along the ground in search of bugs. Well, this is NOT a normal sight in our neighborhood. I have lived four blocks off I-35 for 17 years and I've seen lots of things in our yards, but never chickens.

My daughter ran from house to neighbor’s house asking if they knew who had lost their girls. We had no luck, so I scooped them up one by one (I had never touched a chicken and was a little afraid of getting pecked to death, but I didn't want them hit by a car either) and put them in our backyard. So, I posted a note on our neighborhood yahoo group, but the only responses I got were folks that wanted to help clean up their coop in exchange for eggs in we ended up keeping them.

We played with them and watched them eat up bugs in our yard for hours when a neighbor, who saw my e-mail posting, said she knew the owners a block over. I knocked on their door and a 25ish year-old man with a long black beard answered the door. Country/Folk music blared outside as the door opened and I asked in a loud voice, "Do you have some chickens?" He said, "Yes." And I replied, "You don't right now; they're at my house."

He came over and saw they were safe and having fun with R and her playmate. He offered to let the girls play with them until sunset and then he'd come retrieve them.

Over the course of the day, before we knew where their home was, we names them with what only seemed fitting, the names a grandmother would have (maybe my mom's grandmother), so we decided on Hazel and Myrtle.

Casey came to the house shortly after dark, just after we figured out that they were looking for a coop to settle down in. The made the cutest little noises that I mistook for home sickness and R and I each picked up a bird and nestled them at the same time into a wine crate R had lovingly filled with hay. They loved it and snuggled in until Casey arrived (The photo to the right above the links is from that evening).

He carried off his hens with a thank you and the promise of eggs. We visited the chickens for a week or two at his house and even visited the feed store near the airport to see about getting some birds of our own. We bought a "How to make a Coop" book and that was the end of that. Again, the catalog was put in the recycle bin and we only occasionally thought about getting hens. It was one of those, "maybe someday" things at this point.

We really did want to get some, but I am no carpenter and frankly, neither is my husband. We certainly could build one, but who has the time?

Well, last Friday there was a knock at our door and I saw Casey's tall head through the window in the door. He came bearing six fresh brown eggs. We chatted a bit and I thanked him gratefully for the eggs, when he mentioned that he was headed out of state and wanted to see if we were interested in adopting the birds.

It seems their hen mother Laura found a new place to live, but the owners were not to happy about chickens in the yard. I was so surprised and delighted, but I had to check in with my hubby about this when he returned home from work.

He was thrilled with the idea and we had fried eggs for breakfast Saturday morning before we called and said yes.

Today, Laura and Casey brought the hens over to hang out and this evening they will bring us the coop and supplies. We built a fence using a gate and wire fencing a neighbor had in his yard and my daughter hung up a welcome sign on their area of the yard. They have pecked around there all day happily and I threw out some fruit and greens I had ready for the compost.

They seem happy and the dog seems anxious to get into their yard, but as of right now we have some happy chickens and I am a happy chicken mom.