As a side benefit, it is fun to have them around. They are interesting to watch, they eat my scraps, and it makes our little space feel like an old fashioned farmstead. But, they aren't smart, they aren't pets, and they are a lot of work and expense.
So, without the eggs we just wouldn't keep them around. Over the past couple of months their egg production has gone from a dozen a day, down to five a day, and now only two chickens are laying occasionally. And we are feeding 25 of the little girls!
It isn't their fault, though. They are just too old to lay eggs. Over the years we have found that chickens are good layers for about a year and a half. For six months after that, they do okay. By the time they are around 3 years old, their working life is over.
If I had been paying attention, I would have added some young hens to the brood about a year ago. I wasn't though, so here we are -- store-bought eggs in the refrigerator. Yes, it's true. I had to buy eggs. In the past 15 years that has happened to me only one other time!
About three weeks ago I placed an order for 25 baby chicks. I chose three different breeds: two of them are good layers and don't mind the cold weather and the other breed lays the green and blue eggs.
When I first set them up in their box in the basement, they were so noisy that I could easily hear them all over the house.
As it turned out, they just weren't warm enough. I turned on their heat lamp and aimed it into the box. They grew calmer and quieter. Within a few minutes they were all just standing still soaking up the warmth. As they got warm, they got sleepy. One by one they began to close their eyes -- and lose their balance! One would fall over and knock down the few standing next to it. Then they would stand and start the process again.
The poor little critters were just exhausted. Within a 48 hour period they had been hatched from an egg, put in a box with strangers, shipped from Texas to Alabama on a truck, spent the night in a post office, and then plopped down into a cardboard box. With full tummies and a heat lamp they settled in for a nap. When I went back down to check on them, they had all spread their little wings and laid down flat on their stomachs, heads stretched out in front.
I would find myself tiptoeing around the house, trying not to wake the sleeping babies. I was careful not to bang any pots while I was cooking. That lasted about a day and then I remembered --they are CHICKENS, for Pete's sake!
Do you know how long it takes a baby chick to get old enough to lay eggs? SIX MONTHS! Due to my mismanagement on the farm, I'll be buying my eggs for six more months! I don't plan to let this happen again, though. In fact, I am pretty upset with myself to be in this position!
I feel a little like Scarlett O'Hara in this clip:
"As God as my witness, they're not going to lick me. I'm going to live through this. And when it's all over, I'm never going to be hungry again, no nor any of my folk."
In some of Scarlett's other words, "Fiddle-dee-dee! I'll think about that tomorrow."