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Finding chicks even in the city

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POSTED: July 14, 2008 5:00 a.m.
When I start to bake a cake, I no longer ignore the recipes that call for half a dozen eggs. Eggs are a dime a dozen in our household, because we have - joy of joys - our own chickens.
In fact, we have 45 of them.
Some we ordered from a chicken catalog, a print material that is high on my reading list. We always order the mixed assortment, which means a lot of surprises.
The post office calls to say that the biddies have arrived, and they're making an awful racket down at the P.O., and can we please come get them.
A chick can survive two or three days without food or water. Each has wiggled out of its shell at a hatchery and has been promptly sealed, with about 25 others, in a cardboard box punched with holes, which is immediately shipped.
First thing we do is feed and water them. Then we watch them grow.
Some turn out to have feathers on their feet. Some have naked necks. Some are speckled; some are red. This year there's a black one with a bonnet of white feathers bouncing on her head; she looks like a feather duster.
The chickens live in the pasture, where they follow the cows around, eating grass and insects. At night they roost in a portable, possum-tight chicken pen.
The reason I am writing about chickens in a column about nature is not because of hawks that fly over daily but have yet to bother the hens, nor because of a cottontail rabbit that gave way to curiosity and allowed a hen to get within a yard of him.
I am writing this column because of the high price of gas. By "high price," I mean the four dollars a gallon we're paying at the pump as well as the incredible cost of the climate crisis, brought on, in part, by our use of gas.
Most food, including eggs, is shipped to us from great distances - an average of 1,500 miles.
The more food we produce locally - for ourselves and our communities - the less we have to pay to have it shipped to us. And that helps to re-stabilize our climate.
Chickens are easy to keep, even in a city. In fact, more and more city-dwellers I know are building little runs in their backyards, just beyond their little gardens.
And chickens are fun. In April I noted in my journal, 'The most exciting thing going on in our lives is that the first chick that Rosa hatched was from her own egg. (Rosa is an Araucana who has been with us for over six years and who still lays a green egg every day.) The next day a second chick appeared. Rosa is still keeping the clutch warm, and as she sits, two little heads peep out from under her wings.'
Probably the best thing about this chicken venture is not the endless entertainment, but the eggs themselves - the dozens of tasty, orange-yolk eggs that arrive to our kitchen after a short walk from the pasture.
Bring on the angel food cake, I say.

Author Janisse Ray lives on a family farm near Baxley.
 

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