Grit Blogs > Cultivating a Dream

Chickens and Puppies and Kittens, Oh My

Cultivating a DreamBefore last year, almost the only time I'd seen a chicken, was on my dinner plate. On August 1, 2013, I ordered 75 chicks.

I should have had my head examined.

After two dying within a day, and my dog Sam playing with one to death and me sobbing, we've pretty much kept the rest. (Although they are difficult to count.) I thought they would pasture and not eat chicken feed. Wrong. If I don't feed them twice a day at a specific time, they will fly in my hair and on my back and out of the fence as I approach them. This morning, we heard a knocking noise on our window. Our house is a quarter mile from the coop.

Feeding the chickens

"You're late. It's probably a chicken," Tom said.

Also, I didn't figure out the fact that we don't have pasture. Now we have mud. And lots of it.

So after three or four catastrophes and about 5,000 hours of man and womanpower, a couple weeks before Christmas, we got our first egg.

You would have thought we had a mid-life-crisis-baby.

So the chicken purchase has cost us close to the national debt and we've retrieved perhaps four dozen eggs so far.

But that's not the end of the story.

You see, we had to store the chicken feed somewhere and not only don't we have pastures, but we don't have any storage buildings so the chicken feed is stored under our house.

Rats found the feed. We needed mousers. 

Enter Reep and Cheep, two male stray kittens.

Cats 

Now I go to Tractor Supply and buy 100 pounds of chicken feed and 20 pounds of kitty food. That's not counting the warm milk the kitties get every night. (I might need a cow next.)

Then there's the safety of the "ladies." We can't have our national debt chickens being eaten by someone other than us. We needed a guardian. A dog. A Great Pyrenees.

Trouble was, I couldn't just get one. She'd be lonely, so I got two girls – Molly and Lacey.

Dogs on the porch 

Not only had I never had chickens, I'd never had an outside dog. 

I picked up "the girls" and they got sick in my car on the way home. Big time. They'd never been on a leash and were afraid of Tom and I. After I put their colorful collars on, I leashed them.

"Come on, Lacey! Come on, Molly!" They sat.

The outside-dog-thing wasn't going well.

"Where do we put them?" Tom asked.

I hadn't thought of that either. So we made a make-shift pen under our porch. Then I had the bright idea of putting them on our porch. They weren't potty trained. That was big time, too.

Tom set up a strand of electric fence next to our chicken "ladies" to hold our puppy "girls."

Immediately, Molly and Lacey ran from zap to zap like a pinball machine until they retreated to a makeshift doghouse we put in for them. 

Lacey didn't come out for over a day.

Then it got rainy and cold. We put them back on the porch and tried potty training them. They ran away.

Tom took off in his truck and I took off in the van. We combed our 60+ acres. I knocked on the doors of a couple of our neighbors. Three hours later we still found no trace of them.

My husband thought of Sam – our inside, couch-loving, potty trained Standard Poodle.

Within five minutes Sam found them. Molly came back with Tom, but Lacey ran off again only to show up four hours later.

They have a proper doghouse now. It's very trendy since it's made of reclaimed oak and a shiny metal roof. They're getting used to the electric fence, and each day I take them in with me to meet the chickens. No recent catastrophes. Although I have no doubt there will be others.

Tomorrow, I'll head to Tractor Supply to get 100 pounds of chicken food, 40 pounds of kitty food, 50 pounds of dog food, with a stop at the local meat market to pick up large dog bones.

And the day after that, I'll probably head to the vet.

I'm eating the most expensive eggs in the world.

And they taste good.