This weekend I went to the Northeastern Poultry Congress with a flock of very cool chicks (who all incidentally happen to be bloggers about chickens.) Lauren (who has a great blog and this post in particular of the show is outstanding) arranged the outing. I had never gone to one of these before but as a chicken owner, you can bet I jumped at the opportunity to go with friends. Here is a photo of us at the show, notice how happy we all are, that’s what chickens do to you, they make you happy.
Before I left (it was a 2.5 hour drive so I had to leave bright and early) Marc warned me “Don’t come back with any new chickens.” (He’s always saying crazy things like that!)
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I told him. “It’s the wrong time of year to get chicks and now is not the time to introduce a new adult into our flock.” We try to do that in the spring and summer when the birds are out of the henhouse and have more room to get to know each other. “Don’t worry.” were my parting words.
It was bitter cold on Saturday and as I approached the building, I saw an open side door. Hoping to get out of the cold as quickly as I could I popped inside.
What was this????!!!!!
Like the kids when they entered the magical chocolate mixing room in Willy Wonka’s factory, I was dumbfounded and utterly amazed. There was row upon row upon row of all sorts of chickens, ducks, turkeys, and even a few rabbits.
“Wow” I thought, this is pretty cool. AND THEN I REALIZED THAT I WAS IN THE SALES BUILDING AND ALL OF THESE CREATURES WERE AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE! I hadn’t even entered the judging room yet.
Okay, can I just put it out there – I’m not a very strong person.
But Marc’s words were still ringing in my ears like the ghost of Marley – “dooooon’t bring home any mooooore chickens.”
I looked at the geese, they were neat but I’m not interested in geese, or ducks, or another rabbit. The chickens were okay but you know what? We have 36 chickens right now, I’m okay in that area. And then I saw the literal golden goose of chickens. I saw Jan Brett’s Black Polish birds – and they were for sale.
I took a deep intake of breath. “Wendy…,” I warned myself. “Think of the children.” – a little phrase I say to myself which can stop me from doing something bad about half of the time.
Be strong, be strong. I went over to look and saw the problem right away. She only sold them in pairs, a male and a female, and well, I’m not doing males anymore, if I can help if. It looked like I would not be buying any of Jan Brett’s incredible birds today. Marc was going to be proud of me.
But then I noticed that on a small table right by Jan’s booth, a woman was selling Maran chicks. Oh good I thought to myself, I was going to meet up with a friend later who had Marans and I had wanted to see what this breed was.
The hens are black with a bit of copper and the males are black with a beautiful orangery-copper mantle. It’s a stunning breed, but not only are they stunning but, get this, they lay chocolate eggs. As the eggs travels down the egg-tunnel, the hen coats them with a dark brown pigment at the very end making them look just like chocolate eggs.
I went over to the table and the chicks were selling like hotcakes. People apparently love this breed (and who wouldn’t love a bird that lays chocolate eggs?) I mentally added this breed to my list of birds to get someday (right up there with a female black polish.)
And then, this is the part where I got into trouble. The woman selling the chicks was holding one tiny little chick in her hands apart from the other ones. I asked her to see it – just adorbs (as my teen daughters would say) – a tiny ball of black and yellow fluff with all her baby down. This little baby still even had her egg tooth, just a bitty wonder.
Oh you don’t want this one, she said to the customer who was picking out 5 chicks. It’s toes are fused.
My ears picked up. Fused toes? I hadn’t come across that before. I looked at the baby and sure enough, the two end toes were not only fused but the toes were starting to curl under. It turns out this is a genetic condition and if the chick is a female she’ll still lay eggs but shouldn’t be used for breeding and if the chick is a male, you wouldn’t want it anywhere near the females in order to avoid this trait being passed on. The future did not look rosy for this little guy.
“I’ll take it I,” said before Marc’s voice could even get past the “bring” part of his warning. The woman looked at me like I was a little nuts. (which, as any one who has read this blog knows, is not entirely off the mark.) It took a little convincing to tell her that I really was going to take good care of it.
“I write about chickens and kids, we have a flock of pet chickens.” I presented my case. “We’ll take care of her and make sure she has a wonderful life – adored by all. We kind of specialize in birds that need a little bit of help.” I said remembering one of our lame 3 witches and, of course, Alkaia.
I must have looked a little desperate (I prefer not to think pathetic) and so she gave me the Black Copper Maran chick, to keep. For my very own.
“Guess what????” I texted Marc.
“Oh No!” was his reply – can you tell we’ve been married a long time?
We’ve named her Charlie (as in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and of course, the kids have fallen in love with her (we don’t know if its a boy or girl but we’re all using positive thinking and calling her a girl. I showed the kids what the breed looks like and what the eggs will look like. And as we are in the middle of January, in New Hampshire, it looks like we are going to have having an indoor guest for the next few months.
She’s still young, and I’m looking into what I can do about her toes (leave them alone – she might do fine, tape them to cardboard to “flatten” out the cartilage, even snipping the webbing between the toes) but for now she’s warm, happy, and well into the first season of M*A*S*H (I spend a little bit of quality time with her each night) because she’s living in our TV room which, due to an electric heater, is the warmest room in the house.
And so while I have a ton of stories to tell about the Poultry Congress, I wanted to get this one out first. I should probably have a tee-shirt made that reads:
I went to the Northeastern Poultry Congress and all I got was this adorable, baby chick.