Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Chicken Saga

OK so a few days have passed and I'm feeling a bit more emotionally stable so I can finally write about what has happened in this past week...

About a week ago, we got a less than friendly letter in the mail stating that we are in violation of the housing association by-laws because we are raising chickens. Shit. Of course we signed all those documents last fall when we agreed to buy this house... maybe you'll be surprised to find this out but shocking news- we didn't read it all... but then again even if I had read the rules at the time I would have glanced right over the part that says we are not allowed to raise poultry b/c at the time it wasn't something we were considering doing.

I'm not really even sure how it came about that we decided to try raising chickens anyway? I think it came after I'd done some research about the factory farming industry and read about how horribly chickens are treated in facilities where they are laying eggs... so really this was my little way of voting against that whole industry. And through the whole experience I have learned A TON about chickens and it's all been really cool. They are really neat animals- much smarter than you'd think- and they have a very interesting social culture as well that is easy to figure out if you spend some time watching them interact. It's easy to really start to love your chickens when you raise them from chicks. I mean, when you start taking selfies with your chickens, you know its true love.

Anyway, since I was new to this whole chicken raising thing I didn't pay a ton of attention to making SURE I had hens to start off with... I didn't think through the ramifications of what if they become roosters... The fact of the matter is that roosters are not allowed to be raised in residential areas and I can understand why. They crow often. They crow loudly. And they crow before the sun even comes up. It's actually sorta cute at first when they are just learning that they have a voice. Their crows are squeaky and not very loud. That lasts about a week and then they crow like legit roosters.

So I guess I'm not surprised that we got the letter stating we had to get rid of them, but I was very sad. I wasn't sure what to do with them- roosters are hard to give away because most folks are in situations like us (neighborhood living no roosters allowed). I didn't want them to end up having to fight (if you sell roosters on Craigslist or whatever they are often forced to fight) and I also didn't want them to end up on somebody's dinner table. I understand that most people eat chickens but eating my pets feels different.

I guess in good news, Hawaii is a place where wild chickens are everywhere. In fact, the road we drive every day to/from our house we have nicknamed Chicken Road because so many chickens live alongside the road. Lots of mama hens with their flocks of chicks as well as other hens and roosters... I wasn't sure if Snow and Peepers would have the skill to live in the wild after being pampered in our backyard for the first 5 months of their lives (doesn't food just fall from the sky??), but my thinking was that if I leave them in the field maybe I can see them more often than if I gave them away to a farm somewhere further away?

I won't write in detail about how I caught Peepers and put him in a box, or about how Snow went crazy squawking like mad when he saw me do that, or about how Snow's legs were shaking when he realized he was next to be caught, or about the look of sheer fear in Peeper's eyes when he was let go in the unfamiliar field. And I definitely won't write about how I balled my eyes out the whole time.

Instead I'll just summarize that 3 days later, Snow and Peepers seem to be adjusting to their new home down the road. I stop by 2-3x/day to bring them food and water and they come right to me every time. I've seen some hens nearby who I hope will soon become mates for my boys. I plan to help them by making their home attractive for the hens (Look girls! Food! And water!) Funny story- earlier today I went down to fill their water and give them some food... then on my way home as I was driving by it looked like a chicken was there eating but didn't appear to be my boys... so I stopped to check it out... And interestingly enough there was a hen there eating their food BUT she was with another rooster! And my boys were just right there watching... I am going to have to give a lesson to those boys about not letting other roosters eat their food... Anyway, I walked up and the wild rooster ran one way, the wild hen ran the other way, and my boys hung out right there with me. And all through the field you could hear roosters and hens in every direction clucking and crowing and just generally being upset by my presence. I think it will be interesting to watch as the weeks go by if/when the boys find hens to join them. I really hope that in the coming months there are a bunch of little Silkie/mix baby chicks running around!

Anyway, here at home we still have Ellie. Technically we are not supposed to keep her either but I'll be surprised if anyone truly has a problem with her being in our back yard. She is generally very quiet. She does sing a little in the mornings when she is about to lay an egg. Funny too- when she first started laying eggs she did it in the nest we built her as part of her coop. But then I stopped finding eggs there... After a few days I started looking around the yard a bit and wouldn't you know it? She's found herself a new little nest under a bush to lay her eggs! It's kind of like an Easter Egg Hunt out here every day now, except it's not Easter, the eggs are not chocolate, and Ellie isn't very creative in finding new hiding places.

I plan to appeal the rule that says we are not allowed to have chickens here. City/County law says households are allowed to have two hens, and I think if the folks in the neighborhood understood what great pets hens make, they'd be more likely to permit us having them. So I'm hoping it's just a matter of education and I hope I don't have to become a member of the neighborhood board to get the rule changed, but if that's what I have to do, that's what I'm going to do.

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