Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I wasn't gonna do it

In previous years I have gotten baby chicks, but this year I decided to take a break.  Late last year, the lid on the pep house caved in.  Our peep house, which is perfect (except for the lid), is made from an old window air conditioner housing.  The whole thing is metal, which keeps heat/reflects the heat lamp nicely.  The back wall is solid, the two side walls have vents which let air in, but not baby birds out.  At the front A framed tight mesh in a wooden frame that fasten to the inside brackets.  It comes out for easy cleaning (YAY).  The only flaw in the design is that broken & now absent lid. 

Also, there are the kittens.  They are almost-probably-year old cats now but whatever.  They have run of the garage, the building best suited to holding a large, hollowed out air conditioner & heat lamp that requires electricity.  So, a peep house with no roof in a kitten/cat hang-out was just the best of many reasons to skip chicks this year, not to mention the fire hazard (cats like heat lamps, too). 

Then I got word that one of the feed stores had waaaaaaaay over ordered & now had 6+ week old pullets going for bargain basement prices.  Let me back up a bit.  For a few years now, people around here (& around the country) have been having a back-to-the-land or where-the-hell-does-my-food-come-from-exactly sort of epiphany.  It coincided with many people needing to save money & thinking they would save a lot of money if they raised their own food.  I am all for both of those things, but I had too many conversations with people who clearly believed food would all just magically happen.  After all, once you get those seeds in the ground, they just grow, right?  Sure you have to water them, but you can do that while you talk on the cell-phone.  Like driving.  I think the fantasies of easy money at the famers market are my favorite; "have you seen how $$$ those eggs are?  & the chicken does all the work!"  Turns out, here is a reason small farmers live hard lives.  There are days of exquisite repetitive boredom & days of back breaking work with almost nothing in between. 

Some people have fallen in love with the process (food glorious home-grown food).  Others would rather pull weeds or scrape chicken shit off of, well, anything & everything than spend one more afternoon blocking out the sound of their kids bickering.  I will say you can do both of those things with a glass of wine & baseball on the radio.  If that's what you're in to.  I would put the wine in a sippy cup though, especially if you scrape with vigor. 

Many more people have said enough is enough.  & after a few years of through-the-roof seed & newly hatched poultry orders, these are dropping back to more or less pre-fiscal crisis numbers.  You can use job stats or housing purchases or whatever you want, but for me I know the economy is improving when given the choice between saving a few bucks & spending their ALL free time working for what works out to be well below minimum wage, many people would rather pay the cable bill, the a/c bill & sit inside all summer. 

So what to do with those bargain baby birds?  They were big enough they didn't need a heat lamp, if it was warm enough.  Naturally, we had overnight freezes starting the day I brought them home.  So for two nights we had a dozen pullets in a dog crate in the bathtub overnight.  By day, they are happy in the old rabbit hutch in the henhouse but by night, they were stinking up my bathroom.  I am guessing this is the point when a lot of people begin to wonder if maybe, just maybe it is just not worth it. 

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