Why Hello There, and welcome to another special edition of Kitchen Catastrophes. Today’s post isn’t going to be much about food at all, but rather, as the title implies, an update on the O’Guin family’s chicken-raising endeavors, developments, and a role call for the new, improved chickens. First, let’s talk about how things have been going since we last talked!
First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: last time I talked, I mentioned it was possible to care for chicks for 2 months for as little as $80. That statement I still hold to be true, but know that it was nowhere near accurate for my family. Sure, we started them in an old dog kennel, but, as they got bigger, we expanded their run. Could this have been done for essentially free with cardboard boxes, or for $20 by cutting sheets of plywood? Possibly, but where’s the middle-class indulgence in that? No, we bought a metal pet corral, and set it up to contain them for the first 10 weeks.
Which looks a little more ominous, devoid of the cheerful peeps of its inhabitants.
After those 10 weeks, they need a coop. Another point where we indulged. I stated before you could build a functional chicken coop for $40 of wood and wire. And, again, I hold that claim to be…mostly true. Looking at wood costs, and living as I do next to a tree with a known raccoon population, I think my family wouldn’t have been happy without at least $60-80 of investment. Latchable door, protected windows, that sort of thing. We ended up buying a pre-made coop from a local craftsman, a phrase that implies EXACTLY as much price hike as you can imagine. Suffice to say we did not walk away from this with an investment of under $500 for these guys.
However, I feel duty-bound to point out, our flock has fared remarkably well: every source we talked to told us to expect at least two deaths among the chicks before they reached maturity. Well, they’re out and about now, and other than the tragic loss of Wynnona, NONE of them have even so much as been notably sick or scratched! Clearly, our increased investment paid some form of dividend. So, let’s check into our little investments, and learn just why we’re still posting so much of a loss.
BENNIE, THE AMERICAUNA
Damn! That's a Huge Chick!
In perhaps an unexpected twist, it’s worth noting right here, at the beginning, that MANY of the personality traits of the chicks shifted over time. Not all of them, as we’ll come to find, but many. When we first checked in, Bennie was the biggest of the chicks, and just loved to dig in the bedding. She was afraid of being picked up, but one of the first to come inspect whatever we tossed into the run.
Bennie never stopped being the biggest chicken, and we found out why: Bennie is a rooster. However, despite his size, he’s not the dominant rooster. Oh no. Bennie is a gentle giant, even getting picked on by the Silkie sometimes. His fear of humans has declined greatly: now, Bennie is among the first chickens to come to us when something scares him, accepting being held and petted to calm him. (Which, I’ve learned is actually something of a bad habit to encourage, but, hey, he’s just so adorable when he does it.)
He’s also potentially our most vocal chicken: he was the first to learn to crow, and in general, if the sounds you hear from the coop SOUND like chickens (More on that in a second) it’s likely Bennie’s the one making them, generally clucking around under his breath, whether worried, irritated, or happy.
COCHIN, THE COCHIN
With a face carved from gnarled oak, Cochin always looks angry.
When I last left you, this chick had no name, as we had only had her for 16 hours. “Blue”, AKA “Cochin” is a…Blue Cochin. Look, I think I’ve made it clear we were pretty damn uncreative with their names. They’re either basic descriptors or alliterative. (In one case, INCORRECTLY alliterative, but there you go.) The one saving grace is our change of the pronunciation: The breed is pronounced “Ko-chin”. We tend to say her name “Ko-sheen”. I also mentioned that the breed is labeled as “the most docile of breeds”. Cochin is…both exactly that, and the opposite.
Cochin, if I had to summarize, is the most cat-like of our chickens. She comes when we toss food, but never as close as the others without first spending lengthy time wandering the edges, watching us. She hates to be picked up or grabbed, but, of all of the chickens, may be the only one I’ve never heard VOICE her complaints: she’ll flap, and nip, but not squawk. And, once picked up, she calms down the fastest, and stays calm the longest. Her heavy brow feathers give her a constant expression of simmering fury, which, combined with her almost-crazy level of soft fluffiness, really reinforces the idea of her being a Persian housecat in a chicken’s body.
COTTON, THE SILKIE
That one extended leg makes this look weird. Like, is that chicken melting?
You haven’t met Cotton before, as we hadn’t actually bought him when I made the initial post. He came a week after the other chickens, basically 2 days after you all got to meet them. Cotton’s breed is the most interesting: Silkies are a bantam breed, meaning Cotton will always be small, growing to around 2 pounds, instead of 8. Their feathers are bred to stay downy and frizzled, making him resemble a little cotton-ball. And EVERYTHING under their feathers, from their skin, to their meat and bones, is black. Like it had been dipped in ink and shaken off. They also have a weird extra toe, and, like the Cochin, grow ‘boot feathers’, where their plumage covers their lower legs and feet.
You may have noticed I kept using male pronouns last paragraph. That’s because Cotton is also a rooster. More aggressive than Bennie, but at a quarter the size, Cotton is notable for starting plenty of fights he can’t hope to finish. I have literally watched him pick a fight with Cochin, only to dart between her legs when she was clearly having none of it. My parents joke he’s the poster boy for “Little Man Syndrome”, but at the same time, we had a multi-day streak where we had to personally intervene, so viciously was he being picked on. So, his attitude has some foundation, at least.
My dad loves Cotton, because of all the chickens, his calls are the most unique, and frequent. Cotton does not cluck, or squawk. He trills, whistles, and screeches. Even his happy calls sound closer to a balloon leaking than your standard barnyard calls. I begrudge him that, thanks to his tiny lungs and weird vocal patterns, at least his crows at the least upsetting.
MARY, THE AUSTRALORP
Looking a chicken dead on is when you're most reminded "These used to be dinosaurs."
Ah, yes. “The Chick That Has No Name”. Our “second Americauna”. We eventually took to calling her “Mary”. And then, as time went on, we realized that she looked nothing like Bennie. Looking up the breeds, it became clear to us that “Mary, the second Americauna” was actually “Mary, the second Australorp”. Somehow, she had been misplaced at the Feed Store, and so we ended up with two of the wrong breed.
Not that we mind too much, as Mary has consistently been one of the better behaved hens, excepting one regard: she doesn’t bite, she’s the first to run over if you bring food, and she’s normally very well behaved when receiving pets and attention. Her only issue is her dedication to the concept of free-range. See, while Mary was not the first chicken to realize she could jump out of the run, she was one of the most passionate adopters of what I call “wall guarding”: Jumping onto the barrier of her enclosure, and just perching there. When we moved them outside, this became more of a “prison break” habit. Now, she’s the single most likely chicken to be out of the run, vastly overshooting early adopters like Red and Paul.
NICK, THE NAKED NECK
Nick doesn't really care that we're picking her up, as she's lifted back into the run at least 8 times a week.
When I wrote about the chickens before, I didn’t write much about Nick. This is because, other than her neck, there’s nothing too remarkable about her, and also, when I fed them, she used to bite me the most.
And what’s worse is, the problem hasn’t really changed: Nick is essentially the half-way point between Mary and Cochin: she doesn’t like to be touched, hangs back when food is being served, but once everyone is bunched up, she dives right in. When Mary started wall guarding, Nick joined her, and is the second most likely chicken to have escaped into the yard. There’s nothing wrong about Nick, but she’s just not unique other than in appearance.
OZZIE, THE SECOND AUSTRALORP
I tried a new Instagram filter for this shot. That's my excuse for why it's so fuzzy.
Ozzie, I was proud to say, was the chill-est of the chicks. Impassive, unflappable, just a cool little dude. He has held onto much of that same style, but some edges of not-chill have been found: Ozzie has a habit of trying to eat the end of my finger when I feed the chickens, just taking the whole end into his beak for a quarter of a second, before realizing it won’t work. He’s also one of the more temperamental ones to hold; he tolerates petting well enough, but he’s one of the first to freak out when carried somewhere.
You may have noticed I kept using male pronouns in that last paragraph. That’s because I have a bad habit of doing that, based on Ozzie’s name. She’s a hen, we just constantly call her “him”. We have a similar problem with Nick, who we are trying to start calling “Nicki” to be better about it.
PAUL, THE POLISH
Seen here impersonating a football.
Oh, man. Paul. When I first wrote about Paul, I was consistent to use female pronouns, and discussed how she was “probably” being an asshole to the other chickens. Both of those stances were wrong. Paul is a boy, and he is DEFINITELY a RAGING asshole. Paul is the dominant rooster of the bunch, and the one to have physically beaten both Benny and Cotton into submission.
He’s also the reason we spent an afternoon building an anti-chicken wall for the top of the brooder, because we found him wandering the downstairs room, having leapt upon the brooder and walked off. That wall worked for about three weeks, and then they learned they could just jump higher.
Paul’s ascension to cock of the walk has exacerbated several of his issues: Paul, more than I think any other chicken, does not like being touched by humans. This is likely our fault, as, well, as the dominant rooster, Paul spent the most time establishing dominance. Which, to human eyes, reads as bullying and potentially hurting the others. So Paul has had the most negative interactions with us. We often grab him in order to stop him from biting the shit out of Cotton, or because he’s boldly walked somewhere he has no idea how to leave, and so on. He knows we’re the only thing that outranks him in the flock, and that does not sit easily in his gut.
In my personal opinion, he is the most beautiful of the chickens, and when he isn’t being a ten-ton bag of dicks, I think he moves the coolest. (He literally bounces like a raptor when running.) I will be sad in many ways when we give him away. But on the other hand, that asshole has ruined my sleep for weeks, and is the only chicken to have actually cut me. So, Fuck Paul.
RED, THE RHODE ISLAND RED
Has already forgotten we picked her up, and is investigating a nearby shiny object.
Red’s the enigma of the coop, really. When we first got her, she was the fearless explorer, escaping twice from the brooder in the first day. After that, she remained the most curious chicken, investigating every new facet of the brooder before her siblings. Since she’s grown to a hen, that curiosity has evolved into something else: Now, Red just plain doesn’t like the other chickens. Seriously, whenever a human is in or around the run, the odds are fairly high that Red is next to them, under them, or, occasionally, on top of them.
Now, normally such behavior would suggest she’s the bottom of the pecking order, the hen every other hen picks on. Except she also sits on the same roost as Paul, another indicator of social order. As near as we can tell, she’s the Ice Queen of the coop: The only thing she answers to are the humans, so she doesn’t give a damn about your opinions. In many ways, she’s now the chill-est of the chickens. When she’s interested in something, she investigates, but she’s not going to squawk a lot or freak out. She’ll walk up, eye it up, and take a couple pecks at it. I know, she’s done it to multiple articles of my clothing.
And that’s the gang. As I alluded to in Paul’s bio, however, the saga of the O’Guin chickens is not yet finished. For, due to county restrictions and personal desires, it is unlikely that we’ll be keeping all of our roosters. We didn’t want ANY roosters, and yet we ended up with almost HALF our chickens being boys. We’re looking into various ways to quiet them, or new homes to find for them, but until we do, Paul, Cotton and Bennie are stuck with us, and we’re stuck with them
Thank you all for indulging some non-food related insight into the growing O’Guin clan. No doubt soon we’ll be having a plethora of egg recipes courtesy of our hard-working girls, but for now, we’ll likely not address them again except as color in broader posts. If you do want more chicken pics and vids, consider supporting us on Patreon and harassing me for them there. If you DON’T want more chicken pictures, also feel free to support us on Patreon and harass me there. What I’m saying is, if you want a bigger voice in how we run the site, get involved by helping to support it, and I assure you, I’ll listen.
MONDAY: JON IS GOING TO MAKE WAY TOO MANY NBA JAM REFERENCES. JOIN US FOR A SOUTH AFRICAN RELISH THAT JON IS GOING TO SAVOR: CHAKALAKA.