What the Flock?

Why hello there, and welcome back to Kitchen Catastrophes! I’m your Huckleberry, Jon O’Guin. Today’s post isn’t actually tied to any real facet of food culture today. Well, I mean, it eventually is. No, today’s post is more of a general announcement, and a chance for the site to add some much-needed cuteness to its fare. We haven’t had a fresh-faced guest post in months, and Jon is in desperate need of his spring shearing, so we clearly can’t rely on mankind for that. No, we must turn to that ever-filled well of easy adorability: Baby animals. Baby Animals used to announce that Jon’s family has started raising chickens!

"We're as surprised as you are."

Yes, as I’ve alluded to in a couple past posts, my family has been in ongoing talks to acquire animals for the house. Honestly, I’m surprised we went without them for so long: By the time I was 14, my family had had literally dozens of pets. And just OVER a dozen if you don’t count each individual fish in the aquarium. Two Hamsters, Five Dogs, TEN cats, the aforementioned fish tank, we had a lot of life in our house. Well, with my mother’s recent birthday, we fully committed and got some chicks!

Why chickens specifically? I dunno. I mean, I have guesses. My mother’s parents and grandparents were all semi-sustainable farmers, with acres of gardens providing fresh fruits and veggies for their houses. So perhaps it was the idea of reclaiming the backyard (mostly unused since the passing of our last dog three years ago) with something that would give the space purpose, and the fringe benefit of foodstuffs. Maybe she just saw an article about it and decided to do it. That’s a disturbingly common inciting incident for our household. We collect hobbies.  Anyway, let’s talk about Chickens


Birds of A Feather Flock Together

Recently, Bill Gates actually released an interesting statement where, when asked if he was poor, what he would do, he stated he’d buy and raise chickens, pointing at their cheapness to raise and their benefits: you get eggs you can eat or sell, and they’re fairly cheap to maintain, and honestly, I have to concur so far. You can buy chicks for as little as a dollar. Their food is less than a dollar a pound. You could make a functional shelter to protect them for roughly $40 of parts. What I’m saying is, if you want a fairly cheap pet and you have a yard, you can do a lot worse than chickens. AND your pet makes FOOD. They’re kind of miraculous.

A dark miracle, born in shadow and flame. 

Of course, starting from Chick size is a little more involved: you need bedding and a heat lamp, and preferably some kind of containment. And that heat lamp, as shown above, can have…ominous effects on your house’s ambience, but still, for a flock of 7 chicks, your initial investment for the first 2 months is roughly $160. ASSUMING you buy an $80 chicken tub. We just zip-tied cardboard to an old pet kennel we owned. So 7 chicks, 2 months, $80. That’s a hell of a deal.

So, let’s introduce our fine full-feathered friends, and all coo over the pictures of their tiny little frames.


Bennie, the Americauna

The Jets not included. 

First things first: for no apparent reason, when it comes to naming the chicks, we defaulted to male names. This is weird, because all our chicks were sexed at the hatchery as female. This process is 90% accurate. So we’re almost certain they’re all girls, but we picked male names for them. Personally, I feel a lot of them are negotiable (“Paul” could be short for Pauline, Bennie is not an unheard of nickname for a woman, etc.) but I don’t know.

The first thing to know about Bennie is: She’s a big ‘un. For some reason, she’s easily the biggest of the chicks, despite some of the others being older than her. She was also the first to figure out the big scary giants bring food: while she doesn’t particularly like being held, and will duck away from hands, she will sprint at anything you toss off your hand, and inspect it thoroughly, to see if it’s something she wants to eat.

The other thing to know about Bennie is she’s a goddamn mess-making-miner. For some reason, she HATES the bedding pellets in the far corner of the cage, and regularly digs through them to the floor, to begin an assault on the ground. About once an hour you’ll hear the sudden flurry of her kicking pellets around in her quest to the center of the earth.


The Chick that Has no Name, the OTHER Americauna

Pronounced like a Starbucks order for squares.

For some reason, this chick hasn’t gotten a name yet. I think part of the problem is the momentary confusion whenever you try and look at it, because it’s the only chick that LOOKS like another chick: as you’ll see, both this chick and the Australorp have really dark coloration. I’m only mostly sure I chose the right pictures for both of them.

It’s also the only ‘double’ we have on a breed: we have 2 Americaunas, and 1 of everything else. This is because a work friend of my father mentioned Americaunas are good starting chickens. They’re docile, good layers, and fairly hardy.  And I can’t say they’re wrong. While Bennie has some trouble with fights (which we’ll talk about in a minute), this one is cool as a cucumber. She’s not the coolest, though. Oh no, that title goes to our next chick.


Ozzie, The Australorp

Ozzie. Or Aussie. It's hard to tell in spoken word. I assure you, the chicken doesn't care.

Ozzie gives the fewest shits of nearly any animal I’ve ever seen. Whenever you check on the chicks, there is a 60% chance Ozzie is asleep. While most of the chicks are very scared when being picked up, running away from hands, trilling in concern for the first 30 seconds or so, Ozzie has never seemed to care. At one point, as we picked up the chicks for their daily health inspection, Ozzie refused to leave my brother’s hand. She had gotten comfortable, and saw no reason to go. My brother sat with his hand open for over a minute before he gently nudged her off his fingers.


In a happy accident of layout,  these first three chickens also mark three of the main “Laying chickens” we have, meaning their breed is noted for high egg production, and the next three are ornamental chickens, meaning they’re bred for aesthetic appeal over meat or eggs. It’s neat it worked out that way, since they’re just organized alphabetically by breed.


??? the Cochin

With that much eyeliner, maybe we should name it Amy Lee. 
Yeah, that's right. Evanescence jokes. I was a nu-metal kid. 

Like the second Americauna, this chick has no name. That’s because it’s actually the newest chick. At the time of this writing, we’ve only owned this one 16 hours or so. We’ll get into why later, but so far, this one’s had the oddest journey. Since we bought it alone, it REALLY didn’t like the box ride in the car home, so it ended up having to be held to be comforted. Hopefully this means it’ll be less scared of us in general than the others, but so far, we’ve had no real experience.

Cochins grow up to be something like the Pekingese of chickens: small and fluffy. Like living duster heads. They’re also known to be very calm. Literally marked by a catalog as “Most docile of all breeds”. So, I guess nothing like a Pekingese, the little hell-mops.


Nick the Naked Neck

Potentially a kidnapped ostrich.

Letting my mother pick the chickens was a bad idea. As you can see, the Naked Neck breed has a real easy to understand name: they don’t grow feathers on their necks. Also called “turkens”, because they look kind of like turkey-chickens, my mother believes they’re “So ugly they’re cute.” Most people think they’re just ugly, a decision not helped by the fact that Naked Neck’s body feathers are less dense than other birds, causing them to frizzle. So as adults, they basically always look like they just lost a fight.

The neck thing is actually to help them stay cool in hot climates, and Nick himself is pretty chill.


Paul the Polish

"You talking to me? I said, are you talking to ME?"

Our next two chicks have varying levels of “Not chill”. Paul here is just an asshole. Probably. See, Paul pretty constantly pecks the beaks of the other chicks, a move that has two possible impulses: either she’s trying to clean them, making her a fasitidious mother figure, or she’s establishing dominance, basically just throwing constant fake-out punches at the other bird’s faces.

This tactic has recently met a challenger, as Bennie is now probably twice Paul’s weight, and has therefore decided to stop taking any of that shit. The two will often end up sprinting at the same thing, only to flare up once they almost run into each other.

Paul also hates being pick up the most, always losing her shit. As a fun fact for the future, that puffball on her face will grow into a frill of feathers kind of like a sideways Mohawk or Triceratops crest that will kind of hide her eyes. That crest is what makes the breed ornamental.


Red, the Rhode Island Red

The criminal of the group, Red was caught on camera shortly after committing arson. 

After the first 4 hours of owning chickens, we were certain the biggest problem we were going to have was this one. Red’s first day was a tour de force: First, we learned we needed to put up cardboard around the kennel because the first time we left them all alone in the room, Red just walked through the bars and started exploring the downstairs. Luckily, she also spent the first 3 or so hours in the house uttering the loudest goddamn peeps I’ve ever heard. Like “Slight echo effect off the walls” loud.

A few hours later, the lower walls cardboarded, my father sat in front of the kennel, wiggling his finger inside it. Red walked up, stared at it, took some inquisitive pecks, and, as my father called my mother to see what was happening, jumped straight up onto his finger, and used the new walkway to walk through the bars AGAIN right up his arm.

Red calmed down considerably after the dual escapes and hours of cheeping, but she remains one of the more curious chicks. The instant you enter the room, she starts watching you. Everything needs to be inspected and tested with her. She’s often right behind Bennie in checking out a new food, or digging the back corner. She’s no longer the ringleader, but she’s definitely no Ozzie.


Winona, the Wyandotte

It's mildly upsetting that this is probably the best shot we got of any chick so far. 

The last chick we’re going to talk about today is something of a sad one. Winona the Wyandotte was almost as chill as Ozzie was, and with her cool coloration, was something of an early favorite in the household. Unfortunately, on Tuesday, we woke to find her dead. No obvious reason, no injuries or crowds to imply it was an issue with space. We were warned this could happen, and we took it in stride. We had intentionally bought 7 chicks, when regulation said we could have 5, assuming we would lose a couple.

Though she was with us onlya brief time, she will be missed.


On the other hand, on Wednesday we learned the law says we can actually have up to TWELVE CHICKENS. So my brother and I are planning another run on Friday to pick up 3-4 more. I don’t think I’ll cover them immediately next week, since we should spend SOME time on the site actually talking about food over the new family pets. I’ll probably give some quick bios for the new guys to all our Patrons, so if you want some more chick pictures, a mere dollar a month keeps the site running, and gets you access to images like these!