Archive for January, 2011


The Art of Raising Chickens, cont.

It came time to kill the capons. They were fatted, juicy, succulent. There was Bruce, the largest; Henry, handsome and spiffy; Jerome and Sabastian… I looked at my husband, then at my sons. They looked at me. We put it off. Two months to the tough later we hired someone to chop their heads off. We, in mournful pain, did the rest.

My husband made an astonishing observation in September when cold weather transformed condensation to icicles in the shed/coop. We could either support the still fruitless (eggless) hens or ourselves. The shed needed insulation, heat; we needed to pay our rising oil bills. I sold them all for one dollar each.

It wasn’t two weeks later, the buyer of my babies stopped me in the post office to tell me that mine were the healthiest layers she’d ever had. An egg a day every day from each of them. I was glad, proud of my babies. What the heck, we did a good job of bringing them up, didn’t we?

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The whole incident would probably have been left buried if I hadn’t mentioned offhandedly the ridiculously cheap price piglets could be bought for that spring of 1976. Everyone stopped eating their supper, all talking at once in exclamation points about the prior spring when mother (that’s me) decided to “raise eggs.”

I had merely wanted twenty-five chicks, but the feed store could only buy in lots of one hundred and had just one other customer that wanted less–sixty to be exact. At three cents apiece forty didn’t seem like such a terrible amount. Think of the eggs! While I was there a friendly neighbor asked me if I wasn’t going to order any large meat birds. He said he did every year and had roast capon throughout winter. These were also three cents apiece. I ordered ten–roosters as it turned out.

We kept our fifty babies in cardboard boxes in our basement while we set about building the wood floor for the tin shed we bought at a bargain price to house them. At the side of this dwelling my husband cut a hole, made ladders to it and out into the wire fenced yard with aluminum awnings and feeders. It was an attractive coop, I must say.

Ah, the wonder of our beautiful birds once we decided they were old enough to withstand late May, Vermont weather.

It took one month of feeding (twice a day), scraping shed floor once a week, and carting sawdust in huge trash cans liners from the lumber mill before I decided to tempt my eldest son with the job by offering to up his allowance. He was thrilled and didn’t complain, but being a lad of amiable absent mindedness, left the shed door open one quiet evening two weeks later. Lucky me was not at home. My teenage girl, fluttering like the forty odd chickens she was trying to capture, was not in the best of spirits when Mom returned with a car full of groceries. However, for more money than my son willingly did it, she took over the job.

Between the feed and paying the help, the chickens, still to young to lay, were costing me over fifteen dollars a month. Remember this is 1975 and we were a family of seven. Besides that my daughter refused to speak to me all of Saturday, as that was the day she cleaned the coop. It seems as the summer wore on and the humidity rose, the tin shed sweat. The poor girl scraped and shoveled for two hours each week while the ceiling rained condensation until she as last emerged, soaking wet.

To be continued…