The wait for our ducks to start laying eggs seemed to take an eternity, and once we saw our first few eggs that was all we were seeing, a few eggs. Two, possibly three eggs per day out of what we believe are 11 females. Possibly due to peer pressure, and not the fact they are all the same age, we have gotten 15 eggs in 2 days.
Okay lets get back to the next item on my list of things someone should have told me before I moved to the country. For todays blog post lets talk about what you can see, and by that I mean nothing anything at all. When the sun goes down it is DARK. I mean I understand the concept of an absence of light but holy carp it is dark. It is just so surprising how much you expect that there will be some bit of light to be there at all times. You truly don’t realize how much light pollution there is near the cities until you get out to an area where there are no street lights. Even if you don’t have street lights in your neighborhood there is still an amazing amount of light that can be given off of nearby houses. When your house is surrounded by a 100 yard wide wall of 50 foot tall trees in all directions, the only hope for light comes from above, and then you look up to see a million pin points of light, none of which let you see the hand in front of your face.
One of our first nights in the country was a moonless one and we were amazed by the darkness. You really don’t understand the capabilities of a flashlight until you see it cut through that kind of dark. The light from a good flashlight looks like a physical beam that you could reach out and grab. For you Star Wars fans out there picture carrying a light saber to light your way.
I was walking across the yard with my trusty battery torch blazing the path when I heard something in the garden next to me. In that instance my mind ran through a thousand options of what horror could have snuck up on me. I turned my light so quickly that I could almost see the light bend. I prepared myself for the worst as the beam focused in on the beast. I found myself facing down a bunny rabbit, but from the look in his eyes I could tell that he had messed himself too.
So let me end by saying that when you move the country, bring your own light with you where ever you go, as when the sun goes down you are going to need it.
I was awoken this fine summer morning by the roosters call and the sounds of his flock itching to be set free from their nightly entrapment in the coop. Each morning begins the same, out the back door to the coop to open the door, refill the food and water. The chickens fly out the door, racing to be the first to the compost bin to see what kitchen scraps have been left overnight. Then it’s a cut back through the house to the koi pond to feed the fish on the way down to the pond to open up the ducks. I can hear the ducks loudly quacking as I throw a few handfuls of food to the voracious fish.
With the chickens and fish done it’s down the hill to the noisiest corner of the property. I fill the feeder and water before I open the door to the quacking horde. As I pull down the door there is a moment of silence from the beasts until they realize it is only me there to open the world to them for another day. They waddle as quick as there feet will go to be the first down the ramp and to the food.
I stick my head in the coop to make sure all the ……Wait what is that? Is that… No it couldn’t be. It’s…..it’s…..it’s an egg! Glory be the long wait is over. The ducks have laid their first eggs.
Neither of us were “country folk” when we decided to make the move away from the city and into the wilds of the county. Raised in the suburbs, minutes from the nearest grocery store, hardware store and Starbucks, we knew not the want of a fast food burger. We were ready to try something new and decided to move away from the sound of traffic and sprinklers to a spot in the woods where the silences of nature filled the air.
That brings me to my list. This list, which I will slowly add to as time goes by, is all the things we didn’t know before we moved to the country, including the things we thought we knew but had wrong. The things we wished someone had told us and the things we were glad to discover on our own.
The first thing on my list is the sound of the country. I had imagined standing on my front porch listening to the breeze in the tree tops, the chirps of birds all around and a general peace and silence in the sounds that would surround me. Little did I know, the country is far from quiet.
Let’s start with nature itself. Having a pond on the property means that we have frogs; while it may sound enchanting in a animated film to have a frog singing by the waterside, the communal roar of a hoard of amphibians can be quite intense. Then there are the cicadas, another sound glamorized by the film industry. Their shrill chirps cut through even the croaking of the toads to invade the ear holes.
I include as part of nature a factor that we brought on ourselves: the chickens and the ducks. The ducks produce a constant racket that sometimes brings a smile to my face, at other times makes me question why any animal would ever need to produce a sound that can so easily be heard by every predator for miles around. With chickens of course, we have Mr. Rooster. The crowing at the break of ever dawn was expected, but the howls throughout the day baffle the mind and intrude on my ears.
We have two types of hens: those that quietly step into the nesting box, drop an egg in the straw and head right back outside like it’s no big deal, and those that hunker down in the box and scream bloody murder for the next fifteen minutes, letting everyone know that an egg is coming. They noisily herald the biggest event the county has ever seen is happening right now and everybody needs to know about it. “AN EGG IS COMING, YOU GUYS! AN EGG IS COMING!” After the egg has ceremoniously been laid, these particular chickens poke their heads out of their coop and proclaim to the world of their great accolmplishment. “I DID IT! I LAID THE BEST EGG EVER, BETTER THAN ALL OF THE OTHERS EVER LAID!”
Of ourse, while these chickens are loud and obnoxious in a funny sort of way, I have no idea what sound I would make if I had to pass an egg everyday.
Another sound that unexpectedly breaks the peacefulness is the echo of gunfire. I know every American has the right to bear arms, and considering the fact that we saw an actual bear crossing the road the first week we moved out here, I think it may be a necessity for country life. It is the oh so frequent sounds of gunfire that perplexes me. Okay, hunting season is one thing. I get that; harvesting animals for food is part of what we wanted to experience to get closer to our food. It is the weekend blast-fest that we sometimes hear that I don’t understand. There are times we can hear, what I assume is target practice on a backyard range or something like that, no problem, but the number of rounds of ammunition sometimes baffles me. I’m sure that it is good time being had, but don’t those bullets cost money? Anyways lets just say it is another sound that I wasn’t shown in the version of the country previously put before me.
At this point let me say I do love it out here, and this list I will be building on is not a reason why others should not try leaving the city for the country, it is just things I wish I would have known. Now where are my ear plugs I want to fish in peace. Damn frogs.
This past saturday we were away from the farm all day long, so when I got home about 8:30pm I had a bunch of chores to do. I started with a trip down to the duck house to herd them inside and close the door for the night. Next I headed up to the pool to get the cover pump going since it had stormed during the day and filled with water. By the time I made it to the chicken coop, most of the daylight was gone.
The girls were all up their roost, and I noticed that for the first time, all four pullets had made it up there instead of sleeping on top of the nesting boxes. I stepped into the coop to collect the eggs and peer into the nesting boxes. The first box is closest to the door and thus the most lit, but all I see is the golf ball we put in early on so the hens know where to lay. Oh well, the girls dont seem to prefer laying in that box as much as the other two. Squinting into the darker middle box I find the same thing, no eggs just a golf ball. Seems a little odd, but hey, I’m not going to question the mind of a chicken. The third box is farthest from the light, but there appears to be a lot of something in it. As I reached into the dark box to collect my bounty of eggs, I thought for a split second about how all ten hens must have been lined up all afternoon for their chance to sit in the prized box.
My mind switched gears an instant later, and I realized that I had just grabbed ahold of something that felt nothing like the shell of an egg. I knew now why we seemed to be short on eggs over the past few days. It was time to take a picture to let my wife know what she was missing out on by staying behind to help clean up after a party at her parents houe.
Thankfully, Mr. Black Snake had been attempting to munch down another egg when I stuck my hand in and he hadn’t snapped at me, but now I needed to extract the visitor. I quickly grabbed an empty feed bucket with lid that was sitting in the coop, stuck it near the box and put on a thick pair of gloves, but then decided to use the pitch fork in the corner instead of reaching back in there with my hand. At this point the chickens on their shoulder-high roosts were getting restless, and they rustled and peeped disgruntedly, eyeing me as I moved around the coop.
I slid the tines under the snake to gently lift him into the bucket, but he took off and high-tailed it out the door. I chased him down, pinned his head to the ground with the pitch fork handle, and quickly grabbed him at the back of his head. He instinctively wrapped himself around my arm; looking back, that would have been the perfect moment totake the picture I sent to my wife. Wearing my new snake bracelet, I had to re-enter the coop to grab the bucket, further distrurbing the chickens, especially Mr. Rooster, who has taken a great interest in my adventures. They bob their heads and fidget nervously as I unceremoniously dumped the uninvited guest into the bucket.
With the snake contained and the wife notified, it was time to decide the fate of my captive. I know this type of snake is good for keeping down the rodent population, but his appreciation for eggs means he can’t stay here. We decide not to take the thief’s life, but definitely want to make sure he won’t easily find his way back.
I threw the bucket in the back of the truck and drove the snake over the river to the next county. For the sake of accuracy, the county line is only about a mile away, but to make it back to our coop, he will have to cross a set of railroad tracks and a hundred yard bridge or swim across the river. For now, I feel the eggs are pretty safe.