Here in the Ozarks we’re a “little bit country and a little bit rock and roll”- as in 1980’s big hair band ‘rock and roll’. We get our big screen movies 4 months after the rest of the country and by golly we like to grow our own food.
For a small percentage of our rural population, this is a super-secret effort to thwart the coming end-of-the-world looters. But, those are mostly folks from Cal-i-forn-ia, who’ve moved in and think we don’t know what they’re up to with their solar water heaters and green houses.
Please. We don’t need to loot their grub, we’ve got our own!
Starting in March, most Saturday’s you can find Swap Meets to populate your food growing enterprise. Swap Meets are a visually arresting sight: Caged chickens, guineas, turkeys, ducks, rabbits, beagle dogs, goats, sheep, and a random used bicycle or sewing machine sit on the side of a curvy Ozark road. Some swap meets are high-class and have their own King John porta potty.
After spending a Saturday installing our $600 chicken coop, my husband and 3 young boys headed out to find some egg laying chickens. Even though we were late in the day, the first swap meet we pulled into had 5 brown chickens left. They were seriously mangy looking and mean, attacking each other in the pen. A few were missing eyes. They looked like they had run all the way from Arkansas just ahead of a ravaging coyote.
“Maybe we should wait,” I started to the boys.
“No, no, no,” they chorused. “These are the ones! Look at that one…we can call her ‘One-Eye.’ And look how that one jumps so high, she is ‘LaBrown James’… And that one they’re beating on, is… No-Fight.”
“These here chickens are only one year old and the best egg layers in the Ozarks.” The seller told us. “And I don’t just go to the hatchery and buy old, tired-out chickens like everyone else.” He gave us a look of disgust, and all three of my boys nodded their heads, clearly understanding that this was no ordinary swap meet seller-this one was honest.
“How much for 3?” My husband asked.
“All give you all 5 for $10 bucks a piece,” Seller said. “That’s is a real deal. I had 50 of these just this morning and they were gone my 8 am.”
It was 3 pm, but hey, maybe there really was an early morning rush on chickens.
“They’ve all been disease and mite checked,” Seller continued. Just give them a few weeks to settle and you’ll have 20 eggs a day.”
Sold. $50 bucks.
But wait… The young couple a few stalls down had baby chicks. The small pen full of chicks was chorusing with alarmed cheeps at the poking from my boys. “Mom, mom, mom,” my boys were enthralled. “Baby chicks!” we can hug them and love them and name them “Night, Cereal, Peeper, Snow, and Loudy.”
The chicks looked like baby swallows to me, or maybe a grackle, or field lark. “Do they lay eggs?” I asked.
DUMB, DUMB question. I should’ve asked: “Do they lay eggs that the average human, who’s used to supermarket eggs, would want to eat.”
“Oh yes, mam” Young seller said. “When these here hens get grown, they will be some of the best egg layers in the Ozarks. They’re genuine registered Blah-Blah-Golden Chick They’ve all been sexed too, no roosters, every one of ‘em is a hen.”
At this point, the entire cage went silent, the chicks heads fell to their wings and their eyes closed. “They’re sleeping,” Young seller explained.
“Please, please dad.” My boys begged. “Did you see how their sleeping. They’re so C-U-T-E!”
“How much are they?” I asked, accepting that we were also buying some genuine-registered-possibly-rooster-field-lark-narcoleptic chicks.
“Two buck a piece and I’ll throw in some chick starter feed.”
“Alright.” My husband shook his head and the boys started cheering.
As we were leaving, the young seller came running up to the window, like we had forgotten something. “Now you folks know the chicks will have to be indoors for several weeks…
Fast forward several weeks.
Our chicken enterprise is -$660.00 dollars in the hole. We’ve no eggs in sight, and we’ve had 4 causalities. No-Fight and One-Eye fell over dead in the yard for no apparent reason. With a big thanks to the Poultry Gods, Snow and Peeper chicks were discovered dead by the boys right before the school bus. Early medical examiner results indicated that they were trampled by their uber-smart siblings.
Unfortunately, though I wish for their cheeping demise daily, LaBrown James and the rest of the chicks continue to peep, day and night, in a sectioned part of our bearded dragon cage. I’ve included a picture for your viewing pleasure. 🙂
All my best,
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