Meet the Flock Roundup—January & February, 2018

Here’s Squawky the Speckled Sussex pullet. Not only is she pretty, but she’s got to be the world’s friendliest chicken. She makes it hard for me to walk through the chicken run because she’s always right there with me – right underfoot!

Coop - A Year of Poultry, Pigs and Parenting – A Book by Michael Perry

I picked up this gem by Michael Perry eight years after its publication.  Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention—I don’t know how I missed this book for so long.  Not only is it a first-rate and compelling book, but I feel like Perry is speaking directly to me.  Needless to say, his other books are now on my reading list. When I first cracked open the cover, I was expecting a story about chickens.  That’s not what it’s about. To be sure, chickens are minor characters in this book, but it’s a memoir—so it’s really about Michael Perry.  Perry tells us the story of his first year in an old house on a Wisconsin acreage with his new wife and daughter, with frequent flashbacks to his childhood on a Wisconsin dairy farm amidst an “obscure fundamentalist Christian sect”.  Along the way he discourses on home birth, milking cows, slaughtering pigs, building a chicken coop, and even blowing one’s nose using a technique he calls the “farmer snort”.  And ultimately, perhaps he offers us his perspective how one should live one’s life.

Are Chickens Dinosaurs?

Composite picture: T. rex courtesy of the ever generous public domain - Emile the rooster courtesy of Emile the rooster

Here are some statements for your consideration:

  •    “Tyrannosaurus rex was really just a big chicken.”
  •    “Chickens are the closest living relative to Tyrannosaurus rex.
  •    “Chickens are directly descended from T. rex.”
  •   "Chickens are dinosaurs"
Lately I’ve been running into declarations like these a lot, and I’ve got to say that I wasn’t buying most of them.  None of these statements, it seemed to me, had the ring of truth.  So, I decided it was time to get to the bottom of the dino/chicken thing and find out if there really is some sort of connection between dinosaurs and chickens and if so, what it is. And, after some research, here we go:

Where Did Chickens Come From? The Domestication of the Chicken

Consider this:  You’re an ancient Egyptian pharaoh, you want to let everybody know about your war exploits and plunder, and social media hasn’t been invented yet—what should you do?  Well, if you’re Thutmose III, the Napoleon of ancient Egypt, you inscribe all of your immodest assertions right onto one of the walls of the great Karnak temple for all people to see.   Fortunately for Thutmose III, inscribing information into stone has given it a bit more permanency than a blog entry or a Facebook post might have.  People have been looking at those inscriptions for over 3000 years, and the “Annals of Thutmose III” are still there on the ancient walls of the ruined Karnak temple in Luxor, Egypt for all to read. 

Meet the Flock—November & December 2017

Here’s a shot of Carmen Maranda the big Cuckoo Marans hen having a meditative moment in the chicken run.

Here’s my photogenic little bantam frizzled Cochin roo, Paul!

Millions of Mistreated Chickens—The Truth About Meat Chickens

“You don’t have to be a vegan to wonder if it is right to put another entire species in perpetual pain in order to satisfy a craving for chicken salad and deviled eggs.” – Andrew Lawler, “Why Did the Chicken Cross the World?”

There have been a few readers who have taken umbrage to my posts about the mistreatment of chickens.  And I get where they’re coming from.  It can be distressing to navigate to my blog looking for pictures of cute Hipster Hens happily pecking and playing in my coop, and instead get hit over the head with stories about millions of chickens being mistreated.

But here’s the deal—if you scroll down to the bottom of this page you’ll find Randy’s Chicken Blog's mission statement.  There you’ll find these declarative sentences: “My chickens are really cool.  All chickens are really cool. The majority of chickens being raised for meat or egg production, in spite of their inherent coolness, are treated cruelly. You can help make changes by your purchasing habits. Educate yourself! Read labels! Check company websites!”  I think it would be unethical to blog about chickens without also discussing the issues surrounding the treatment of commercial chickens. While it’s great that we love our backyard hens, we can’t lose sight of the fact that the majority of the chickens alive in the world right now have miserable lives.  It is important that we chicken appreciators stay informed about the situation because we do appreciate chickens and we recognize them to be intelligent, sentient creatures who have the capacity for joy, but also the capacity to suffer.

A Carton of Eggs - Part 4 - Locally Laid

An egg carton is great for keeping a dozen eggs grouped together, and for providing eggs stability and cushioning in transport.  Beyond that, an egg carton is a very useful marketing tool.  All that blank space can be filled up with information, promotional messages, and art.  This is the fourth in a series of posts about the stuff printed on specific egg cartons. 

Also in this series:

For this post, I went to a nearby supermarket and bought a carton of Locally Laid eggs.  In my own coop, the Hipster Hens were in the midst of their autumnal molt and egg production was incredibly low.  Given that we had some house guests who expected their morning scramble, I really did need to buy some eggs anyway.  And in buying the eggs I also got a carton to blog about. So, I killed two birds with one stone, right?  Please don’t tell the Hipster Hens I was talking about killing birds.

Locally Laid is a Minnesota-based, family owned and run egg company that has recently expanded into Iowa and Indiana.  Jason and Lucie Amundsen started Locally Laid Egg Company in 2012 to provide pasture-raised eggs to local markets and as proponents and practitioners of “Middle Ag”.  My backyard flock of Hipster Hens currently tops out at 26 birds.  Cal-Maine Foodsthe nation's largest egg producer, the last time anybody counted, had around 26 million hens.  Locally Laid has around 1800 laying hens.  Middle Ag.  Get it?