In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Chicken dreams

I have wanted to have chickens for almost as long as I can remember. My grandparents kept chickens, and I loved going down to the chicken coop when I visited them, and collecting the eggs. Of course it was an experience of childhood, untroubled by reality. Along the way in my adult life I have met other people with the same longing. When you find someone who shares your chicken dream you know you have a deep connection.

Having chickens didn't seem practical until we moved here to McNutt's Island. And we are not certain that it is practical even here. We have no neighbours who could take care of our chickens if we wanted to go away for a while in the winter. I can't imagine the chickens getting a boat ride to a chicken-sitter on the mainland. Or maybe somebody would want to live alone on an island with chickens for a couple of weeks in the winter. It's hard to say.

But realities aside, a girl can dream, and I do, and Greg aids and abets me. We've spent long conversations on various chicken coop designs and plans. We've walked around the yard, considering the best site. We've read books and consulted the internet. After much thought we've decided on the best number of chickens in our dreamy little flock.

At first I was enamoured of heritage chicken breeds. I read about them all, and lingered over their pictures, going back and forth with indecision like someone mooning over the choices on Should I go with personality or looks? Low maintenance or something a little more challenging? Then there are those breeds that produce eggs in beautiful colours of greens and blues. It was all very tempting. I settled longest on the Chanticler, a chicken with a name I loved. The Chanticler has the distinct quality of being Canadian, developed by a Cistercian monk a century ago specifically for the cold weather. It has a lovely reputation for laying lots of eggs, even in winter, and also for being placid and easy-going. A dream chicken, you might say. But I think in the end -- if it actually happens -- we will just order our chicks at Spencer's Garden Centre in Shelburne like everybody else does around here.

The chicks arrive at Spencer's in April or May. I'm not sure we will be ready to welcome them this spring, though. Especially since now we realize it isn't just minks we have to be worried about, and snakes, and the osprey and eagles and hawks, but foxes too. I imagine the fox coming out of his den beneath the pear tree some warm spring night and discovering, in his own back yard ... chicks. That would be a good moment for the fox. So the fence is going to have to be pretty well built, and so is the coop.

And then -- I know this is way down the road -- but I think about learning to slaughter an old hen. Even though my grandmother did it so I know I can. Somebody will show me how to do it, since it's a part of life here. But I worry a little about it anyway, because it's easier to be a beginner at some things than at others.
But just say we are ready when the time comes. And just say the wild animals all back off and give this project a little space, a little respect. And that the chicks grow to be lovely hens, with maybe a rooster too because I do love the sound of a rooster even though he's not much use. Oh, and just say they never stop laying, never grow old. And in the mornings I go out to the chicken coop and put my hand into the nests and bring up eggs, just like that.

Rhode Island Red image in the public domain

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