If one were to judge by the activity of this blog, it would appear that gardening has been completely eliminated from our lives over the last couple years. That is not quite the case. But is has been slow and has taken on a whole new style - more fitting for our new climate, occupation and living situation.
We now live in the central coast of California in a rural wine and horse valley. Agriculture is all around us. To our west is a large commercial farm that is planted in commercial vegetable crops all year long. Not far down the road are lama, sheep and chickens and just a bit beyond that is a lavender farm. We feed horses on our nightly walks and are never out of sight of a grapes and fruit trees.
So how have we been fitting in to this new rural environment? Chickens! We bought four 10 week old chicks back in May 2011 to celebrate Sarah's 39th and Marian and Carter's 2nd and 9th respectively. We bought the coop on-line and the chicks in Lompoc, CA from a place call Dare to Dream farms. We have dreamed of owning chickens for a long, long time. Living in urban and suburban Pittsburgh for the last 10+ years, we have been held back from this dream by neighbor and municipal issues. We left those issues behind and have very much enjoyed our first year as chicken owners.
We now have 8 chickens. Four from the fist batch (May 2010) and 4 more purchased from Dare to Dream as 3 week old chicks about 6 weeks ago. Here are our varieties: Easter eggers (2), Wellsummer, Speckled Sussix, Bard Plymouth, White Plymouth, Wyndot, and Brown Plymouth. Our young chicks are not yet laying, but from the older four we get 3.5 eggs per day. They stop laying between Thanksgiving and Mid-February. We got them purely for the eggs and the companionship.
The egg production has exceeded my expectations. We get more than we need (even before the other 4 start laying), and we have increased our egg consumption quite a bit because the eggs are free and just so darn good. They are really fun to hand out to co-workers and friends. Who doesn't appreciate fresh, organic eggs? Sarah has gotten into mixing a special feed, which is just beautiful to look at. The recipe includes split peas, peanuts, corn, and flax seed. We also feed them kitchen scraps, arugula and lots of green weeds. Their diet is really good and the eggs they produce are worthy of that nice diet.
Chickens are also wonderful companions. While they don't cuddle nor offer emotional support, their mere presence in our back yard is much appreciated. They make cute, quiet little sounds. You can pass hours just watching them scratch the dirt for food. They are just very, very relaxing and pleasant to be around. I often find myself choosing my book reading, refreshment drinking location on the back patio, so I can watch them do their thing.
There are things in life that you dream of someday doing. We spend our lives building these things up into some larger than life glory moments. Often the reality misses rising to the level of the dream. Sarah and I have dreamed of owning chickens. I have to say - that the experience is pretty close to the dream. The pessimist could argue that we need to shoot a little larger for our dreams. I am an optimist. I own chickens.