Bonafide Farm

Introducing Lilac and Iris

May 15th, 2011 § 1

I realize that in my last post I mentioned some mysterious pullets without ever giving them a proper introduction. Please meet the newest Bonafide lifestock: Lilac and Iris.

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I got Lilac and Iris Easter weekend at the Xions Crossroads Chicken Swap. I’ve been haunting these informal parking lot gatherings a lot since Tucker arrived, as they’re good places to socialize him among a bunch of animal-loving adults and children…as well as ducks, goats, noisy roosters and all sorts of new-to-him experiences.

I set out that morning determined to add something to my flock that would produce eggs. Little did I know that the very next day, on Easter, my guineas would present me with their first egg! I can still hear the universe laughing at my impatience.

Anyway, the vendors at these swaps are usually a mix of hardscrabble hill folk—die hard poultry fanatics all—and urban yuppies jumping on the pet chicken bandwagon. Just the chance to eavesdrop on the dialogue between the two groups is worth the trip, as the city folk struggle to decipher avian wisdom dispensed in an inscrutable dialect.

The Xions Crossroads swap took place tucked behind a lumber mill in the parking lot of a small hardware store next to the most depressing flea market I’d ever poked about. Old ladies creakily pivoted in chicken wire stalls, setting out second-hand rooster statues and chipped Jesus figurines. Next to the flea market was a gun shop comprised of a few shelves of ammunition and a couple of used shotguns on the wall. The owner hovered behind a counter with a hopeful smile as if the sale of that $249 Mossburg 500 meant the difference between dinner and going without. I almost bought the gun just to give him something to do with his hands, which he kept planted on the counter in front of him as if his weight could keep the whole place from blowing away.

I escaped back into the light and wandered amongst the poultry offerings spread out before me on the tailgates of pickups and in blanket-swaddled plastic tubs. I was looking for the perfect combination of breed, age and temperament. I knew I wanted to collect certain breeds, so that ruled out some offerings. And as much as I love raising baby chicks, with all the other spring farm chores as well as raising a puppy I knew I didn’t have time to monitor brooder temperatures and alleviate pasting up. Plus, I wanted a shot at getting my own eggs this summer instead of having young chicks mature in the fall and winter when they wouldn’t lay. And finally, I was looking for relatively docile birds. After dealing with mostly wild guineas for the past year, I was ready for a nice little bird that came when I called it, ate from my hand, and went in the coop when asked.

I’d almost given up and was ready to head home when a late arrival pulled into the parking lot. A woman got out of her truck and opened the back to reveal a dog crate full of gorgeous, glossy black birds. They clustered near the door of their cage as she spoke to them, and ate from her hand when she offered scratch. I could tell they were well-loved and very tame. And they were gorgeous—bright eyed, clean feathered, with violet and green iridescence to their feathers. I asked the woman what they were and she told me they were a mix of mottled javas and black australorps, two heavy breeds known for their docility. At eight weeks old I figured their size would give them a fighting chance when combined with the guinea flock, and as they were fully feathered and eating adult food, I could skip the nursery stage. I picked out two birds with the smallest combs, hoping they were both pullets, put them into a cat carrier, handed over $14 in cash and was on my way.

Lilac and Iris spent their first night in a cardboard box in the laundry room, much to the amusement of Tucker and the kitty. They stunk to high heaven, so the next day I moved them into the “Annex,” the feed storage area of the guinea coop. It’s fully protected but separate from the guineas—I figured I’d give the pullets a chance to put on some more weight before having to go up against the bigger birds.

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And that’s where they’ve lived for almost a month. I am loving being able to let them out in the evenings to free range while I feed and water all the birds. It’s very cute to see them poke around, and also wonderful to know that I can get them back in the coop whenever I want. With the addition of Lilac and Iris, and the guineas now reliably laying one to two eggs a day and even seeming tamer themselves now that there are fewer, my enjoyment of my birds has exponentially increased.

§ One Response to “Introducing Lilac and Iris”

  • [...] Copper Marans, Lavender Orpingtons, a Barred Olive Egger, and whatever mix Lilac and Iris are (Black AustralorpsĀ and Mottled Java, according to their breeder).* Iris and Lilac are in their second year of lay, and it’s good to have younger pullets [...]

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