I have become obsessed with chickens.
I think I've been covering it up well; but at this point, I would like to stand up and say, I am not ashamed.
I have bought an incubator, which takes twelve eggs.
I have, hopefully, (if the guy gets back to me, see the link for pictures of his beautiful birds), lined up four hatching eggs each of French Wheaton Marans, Orpingtons (either splash or silver pencilled) and Cream Legbars. This should give us a mix of hens that will lay us tinted, greeny/blue and very, very dark brown eggs; and cock-birds who we can eat.
We have discussed where to put our poultry pen and I have a spreadsheet working out how much space we have, and therefore how many chickens we can keep, loosely based on the DEFRA guidelines for a free-range system.
We are going to have a pen about thirty feet by eight feet and then also let them out in the rest of the garden for a lot of the time. And another, smaller pen, (or maybe two) to be able to separate off small groups for breeding for some of the time. DEFRA says that a 'free range' bird should have one square foot per bird of space in the house and four square meters per bird of outside space to roam around in.
We are going to convert half of one of the sheds that came with the property to a hen house, in addition to our triumphant Ark of eBay.
In the shed-house, a dozen birds will have 1.5 square feet each; and 2 square meters in their run. And then they will have the garden to roam around in as well, which is a third of an acre*.
We have discussed culling for the pot.
I think I am capable of killing a chicken. Jamie has given me confidence; and I feel that it is a good thing to have a direct connection with the things that we eat. I was a vegan for about eighteen months in my mid-twenties - I was allergic to dairy products and didn't feel that I could eat meat if I wasn't prepared to kill the animals. This is an acid test really - if we end up with a lot of birds I can't bear to despatch, I'll have to give up eating meat.
We reckon we are going to go for the broomhandle method (link is graphic, in that it describes the best way to kill a chicken; but there are no pictures, just very straighforward technical info from a very good forum). And my Pa is prepared to give me a lesson on actual wringing of necks the next time we go down to visit and they have a bird that needs despatching.
I had quite a long chat with Pa about it all last week. It's an odd feeling when you realise that your elderly father respects you because he thinks you are able to kill a chicken to feed yourself. Nice though.
I am going to cull, because B doesn't think he can do it. B is going to do the messy bit and take their insides out, because I don't think I can do that.
We'll see. This is a big deal for me, as you may have noticed. I have always thought of myself as the kind of person who was able to do this kind of thing if necessary - I have helped other people, largely in a coat-holding way. Watch this space to see if I am the person that I think I am.
Tomorrow, I do invoicing. Our new office still isn't ready. Apparently everything is in except the floor. That's quite an essential bit, so I don't think we are going to move in this week. Working from the kitchen table is fine - if Anita Roddick can do it, so can I - but I do like the discipline of actually going to work in a place designated for that purpose. And since most of the business paperwork is actually in the basement of the building that houses the new office, it's all becoming more complicated the longer the builders take.
Bed beckons. And Poultry World.
* I am deliberately throwing in all these different scales of measurement to fox you. Oh yes. Not because I can't cope with the advanced mathematics of conversion. Oh no. Of course not. Ahem.