No such fanciful
moniker was given to this breed. Production Reds were bred strictly
to supply meat and eggs. The dull reddish-brown feathers cover a
bird created for the factory farms. The hatcheries crank them out
by the millions. The overwhelming majority of males are drugged
and fed for a few months and then sent to the butcher. The females
spend a few years in battery cages prodigiously laying large brown
eggs and then it's off to the butcher for them.
raggedy appearance, these girls seem to be in pretty good health.
They're a little scrawny and they've been debeaked, of course, and
carelessly at that. Some of their beaks barely extend past the nostrils.
We'll have to make sure they always have food available in dishes
because the mangled beaks won't be much use for scratching and pecking.
Building a floor
in a room that has a dozen freaked out chooks in it took us all
weekend and was, well, let's say interesting. We called the supply
list in to the lumberyard in town and Jim went to pick it up.
The young man
at the pickup gate took a look at the Ford Escort Jim was driving
and sized up the situation.
guy for the bird bath?"
"Grass seed and nails?"
"Okay, I'll have to check with the manager. The only other
order I have is thirty 12-foot 2x4's and six sheets of 8x4 plywood."
Jim lusts after
a pickup truck. A big extended cab, extended bed model that can
move a 6 room house in two trips. In the meantime, he's done some
pretty impressive hauling in a hatchback. The young man at the pickup
gate is astonished when all the lumber is loaded into and on top
of the car. He wasn't there when we moved a sofa, a loveseat, three
window frames and 5 boxes of assorted gewgaws in one trip.
Back at the
farm, I was sitting in the quarantine room talking to the new hens
as I gave them the treat every chicken we've ever known loves more
than anything else - canned corn. Chickens will do anything for
canned corn. Need a bigger house? Get yourself a pile of lumber
and a case of canned corn and they'll build an addition for you.
I spooned the corn into dishes and kept talking. I wanted them to
get used to the sound of my voice and associate it with good things.
When they heard
the other hens clucking in the main room of the henhouse and outside,
they were only mildly interested. Big deal. They've heard hens before.
The roosters crowing? That got their attention. They all ran to
the door between the two rooms and stood there staring at it, wanting
to see what was on the other side. Hens in an eggery never see or
hear a rooster. These girls had just discovered boys and they were
with the materials and we got to work. Trying to scare the poor
creatures as little as possible, we did all the sawing and nailing
we could outdoors and brought the finished pieces in one at a time.
Inside, we used screws instead of nails wherever we could so we
wouldn't have to pound hammers in a room where the tin roof echoes
and magnifies every sound.
of us, they'd race back and forth, always trying to be far from
us and our activity as they could get. On the way, they pooped on
everything they passed, meaning tools had to be set up on shelves
to keep them from being decorated. Screws, too, had to be carefully
monitored - hens will pick up and swallow shiny objects.
With two hens
in the established flock sitting on eggs, we needed a place for
them to hatch. So we divided the room into two areas. One, the larger,
for the 12 new girls and the other for the two moms-to-be and their
guardian-escort --- the inimitable Gooberoo. We built the frame
and laid out plywood for the flooring while the hens ran back and
forth. By Saturday night, the larger area was done. It really needs
a couple layers of floor paint, but with the girls already in residence,
that can't be done. So we plunked down a bale of bedding on the
new floor and called it a day. When we went out later to check on
them, they were all at the unfinished end on the dirt floor. Hens.
Sunday we finished
the floor and got the divider with gate up between the two areas.
The girls are settling in a bit and were willing to let us get within
4 or 5 feet - major progress!
and Jim Laurie live at Frog Pond Farm in Iroquois
County, Illinois, where they grow their own organic produce
and tend to a large flock of rescued chickens and guinea fowl.