(Let me clarify… Most of you are used to me calling my children, My Chickens.
Nothing has changed, lest you get confused. 
 My Chickens will always be My Chickens.)
Funny Story….


I know, I am constantly announcing upcoming posts that never turn out to be quite so upcoming… but last month I posted “Adventures in Wisconsin Part I” and I have been waiting for the day when I dared to post part II.

Here goes…
After leaving the charming new niece Sophia we drove out of Madison into the beautiful countryside of Wisconsin looking for a mapdot town between rolling fields and jutting walls of limestone.
Simply stunning.
After the mapdot we watched for our road to the Certified Organic Farmer I had found on Craigslist a few days before who was selling her 10 month old – 1 1/2 year old hens as she had 150 chicks keeping warm getting ready for next year.
Out with the old in with the new.
Or one Farmgirl’s trash is another Farmgirl’s treasure.
You see, I wanted to keep chickens.
I have wanted to for a couple years but we could not afford the fence it would require. Anyone I told looked at me like I was nuts but I had calculated that I spend about $500 a year on eggs and never have as many around as I’d like, nor do I buy the kind I really would like to. Organic AND free range. Those bad boys are a good 4-plus dollars a dozen.
I had in mind to order chicks and raise them in our warm school barn over the winter but the minimum is 25 so they stay warm enough in the mail. Yes, they come to your post office. Now, I may be crazy, but I am not crazy enough to get 25 chickens.
As we turned on to the gravel road leading to this woman’s farm I had that intense yearning come over me yet again for a farm of our own. Never, in my life had a seen such gorgeous terrain. She is located on a hill overlooking a glacier path and it was stunning.
She said I could take some photos but I would have totally been rude had I taken as many as I really wanted to — I have never seen a farm like this. Nor have I ever met such a peaceful, sweet person. (And I am not the type to walk away from anyone and call them “sweet”… that’s just not me.) She is doing exactly what I dream to someday… she runs a 150 family CSA, sells at the farmers market on Saturdays, makes goat cheese… breathing fresh air all day and working in the dirt.
Ahhhh….
We pulled in and she came to us in her Wellies and sock cap ready to help us load our 8 hens a layin’ into the two long cardboard boxes in the back of our Suburban. We selected 5 Bovans, an Amish bread on account of they’re being good layers and very docile. You can pet them, pick them up… and we selected 3 Ameraucanas because you just gotta have those blue eggs.
Are they docile?
Not so much.
The 5 Bovans gave a smidge of protest as we closed the box and duct taped it shut but as she reached for the first of the Ameraucanas it let out this
BLOOD CURDLING 
scream like I never knew a chicken could make and Joel looked at me like,
“What the h— are we doing?”
He was freaking out that we were going to get home and this bird was never going to shut up attracting all sorts of unwanted attention to our little wanna-be urban farmstead.

“What comes first, the chicken or the ordinance?”

…was the title to a piece in a magazine I saw recently and it’s a good question but you see – I don’t care. I had heard that it was not allowed in our town and I got it in my head that that was just plain STUPID. You can keep chickens in a lot swankier suburbs than ours… Evanston, Batavia, Oak Park for pete’s sake! Who should care what is going on behind my fence? I wasn’t getting a rooster and at least chickens can’t bark!  My neighbors stupid dogs bark at me thru my kitchen window every time I wash my dishes. As if they have never seen me before! OK, maybe not EVERY time but they drive me nuts when they do.

Anyways, this dumb bird actually starts throwing up from the stress and Joel looks at me and starts giving me the “Axe” sign, like
“No way, we aren’t taking those ones, I don’t care how bad you want blue eggs”…
To which I shot him back the silent
“Too bad buddy, I am getting my way on this one!” look.
Real submissive,
I know.

We finally get them all loaded and calmed down, we’d driven a total of 3 hours so far that day and we have a two hour drive home, at dinner, in rush hour with two tired adults, three starving children and eight hens a-layin’ in the back of our truck. I was giggling at the thought of the hilarious memory we were making.

It wasn’t going to be funny for much longer…

Earlier in the week tempers had flared as we built a novice style chicken coop in our garage that was FULL of children’s toys and a cabinet job that Joel is finishing up… we hoiked (yes, that’s a word) a series of old doors down from the rafters, scrounged up any other wood, old cabinets doors, paint and two by fours we could and I am proud to say that we built our coop for $100 only buy more two by fours, a heat lamp, a sheet of insulation for the roof and some chicken wire. Everything else we found in our garage. Which is really cool or really scary depending on how you look at it. Making it cute would have to wait til spring… we had to get it done as those birds were coming home with us in just a matter of days…
Well, we were glad to know it was done as we carefully drove out of her driveway, me snapping at Joel to take the corners easy. Every time we turned you could hear frantic claws scratching hopelessly at the floor of the cardboard boxes.
“Buck, buck Buccccckkk!!!!”
And then we hit traffic on the Madison beltline like I have NEVER seen before in Chicago and that is saying a lot. I mean, red lights all the way to the horizon and we’re going like point nothing miles and hour!!! The truck began to smell a little like “you know what” and our (human) chickens began to get hungry. It got so tense that Joel jerked that Suburban off the highway, sending birds flying, into a Radio Shack parking lot to buy a GPS for a better route home and then into a McDo parking lot for french fries… the only food we eat from McDo.
Now you tell me the sense of driving all the way to Wisconsin for Certified Organic Birds only to GMO french fries on the way home?
Pragmatism reigns supreme.
Two hours later we were STILL driving, in the middle of nowhere, in the pitch black, me snarky ’cause I think GPS’s are silly and Joel ready to be on his couch, beer-in-hand, when the kids announced they had to pee. So we pulled over on a dark country road so they could go along side the ditch, Joel goes to get back in the truck and “Doink” – his door won’t close. “Doink” again, it’s ricocheting off the truck and will not close so he’s out there with a flash light in his mouth and his giant knife in his hand (that he is never without) posing as a screw driver, TRYING to fix our door.
“Doink.”
I could just see it, we were gonna drive home in the freezing air in a now stinking truck, with three wired chickens, 8 freaked out hens, two strung out adults and a door tied shut with my camel colored Pashmina I got in Paris that I had around my neck.Yee. Haw.Thankfully his crazy knife came in handy and we were on our way once again. People and birds began to fall asleep which was good cause the hard part was still ahead of us and we had to plot it out very carefully: Getting our Chickens to bed and getting the City Chicks QUIETLY out of those boxes and into our arms for a crash course in
WING CLIPPING!

We got home, locked The City Chicks in the truck, put the kids to bed and then carefully carried the boxes of birds into the school barn. Feathers flapping and claws scratching away! We decided to cut our teeth on the docile Bovans so we carefully undid the tape and Joel reached the entire upper half of his body into the box which began to jerk around, the squawking of birds and flapping of wings filling the air. He jumped out, slammed the box shot, regrouped and went in again. One by one he got those girls out and I clipped their wings with a print out off someones website page on “how to” at my side. One by one we put them into the coop. Mind you, before this night I had never even touched a fricken’ chicken!

And then it was on to the loud mouth, the freaked out Ameraucanas. If you could have seen him reaching half his body in that 5 foot long box after those birds you would have cried laughing. That stupid bird started screaming so loud I thought the entire town was going to show up on our front door to complain! But we got ‘er done had a glass of wine and went to bed, our Chickens snuggled tight under the covers and our City Chicks roosting on the bars we has so lovingly installed for them earlier that week, and me, exhausted off to la-la land with visions of omelettes, macarons and frittattas soothing me to sleep.
I am happy to say they didn’t even go into shock and egg production began the next morning!!! Three were molting when we bought them so we were getting an average of 5-6 a day for a couple weeks but now we are into our 5th week and I have already gathered over two dozen since Saturday!!! It’s not uncommon for us to get 8 eggs a day. We are, officially never without food.

I could not be more thrilled.

I am not an animal person, in that I don’t gush over animals but I sure love my City Chicks. (As always when I say Chickens on this website I mean my children lest there be any confusion.)They are each named after Jane Austen Characters…

Lady Catherine “DeBird” (She’s the loud, opinionated one)
Miss Jane Bennett
Miss Elizabeth Bennett
Miss Elinoir Dashwood
Miss MaryAnn Dashwood (another loud, sassy one)
Miss Margret Dashwood
Miss Emma Woodhouse
Miss Anne Elliot

Le poulier is called “Henberly.” Because we could not resist. Corny. We know. But my manly hubby loves Jane Austen as much as I do.

I have not blogged about it because my neighbors read my blog… not that I would ever dream they would have a problem with it but just out of the whole “loose lips sink ships” thing. They are all hard core locals and I am the transplant. They know a lot more people around here than I do… if the wrong person found out… it sounds paranoid, but we went thru so much to get to this point and we love our Single Ladies (another knick name) so much…

I was at a neighborhood luncheon on Saturday and was amused to find out that everyone already thought we had them because of a crack I made weeks ago on my blog about butchering chickens in my back yard. I denied it so much that they all let it go for a moment and then I said,
“But if I DID have chickens, would anyone report me?”
(The alderman’s wife, a friend, sitting at my side!)

At least they will know who to come to if they need an egg.

Now, one more hurdle.
The village comes to inspect our fence on Friday…
how to keep those squawkers quiet?

We’re gonna hide them in the basement!

Say a prayer!

 The coop is in our garage and a hole is cut in the side of the house so they can come and go… remember that side of the house that I said we never got any use out of until the fence? Well that is the chicken run. They have PLENTY of room and are very happy Ladies.
Pre-coop clean up.

Half way there. There is a door on the right to walk in and feed them and a door on the left to walk in and clean under the roosting bars.

Inside, pre-paint. I’ll show you the almost finished product in the next few days. It’s even decorated a bit for Christmas but I can’t wait to go for it next spring… now if they would just stop crapping everywhere….

 The view of the Glacier Path.
Their original home. 
Gathering the freaked out birds.
 Aidan ready to pounce if one got away. Anyone want to take a stab at my L.P.?
 Me. Geeking out. Tucking them in that first night.
 The next morning.
 Miss MaryAnn Dashwood.
 Me. Even more geeked the first morning.
 Les Oeufs.
 Miss MaryAnn Dashwood again. The girl has gumption.
 I have always wanted hens at my backdoor. I never factored in the mess they would leave… but Juliette sure enjoyed them before the weather turned!
 So cute. Next summer is going to be a riot.
 Hours of fun.

My little farmer. He must feel like such a little man when he goes in that coop to tend to them. It’s so charming.


A bientôt!







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