How Was Your Day … Egg Farmer?
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because sometimes it’s OK to talk to strangers.
In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”
Well, we got about 60 eggs today. We get about one egg per hen, and we’ve got about 65 hens now. My wife, Helen, and I raise laying hens from chicks. You’ve got to keep an eye on them, ’cause chickens are weird. The first month or so, they can lay soft eggs. If that happens, they’ll start eating their own eggs, and then it’s game over.
I started raising hens last year. It was a catastrophe. I wasn’t checking on them enough, and the egg eating started. We weren’t getting enough eggs to feed ourselves, so I sold about 90 of those hens for $2 apiece to a guy who was going to butcher them all. He came and got 50, and I told my wife there ain’t no way you’re going to see this guy again. Butchering that many chickens by yourself is a lot of work. Sure enough, he called and said we could keep the money and the rest of the chickens.
I do know a little bit about livestock, having grown up on a farm in California’s Central Valley. I spent 42 years there, but I don’t miss it. And I didn’t mind the rain when we moved to Oregon. That was the good life, selling fresh fish straight from our boat, a wooden trawler named The Slo Pok. I worked seven days a week for years, making runs into the harbor for salmon and tuna and Dungeness crab. Then NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] came in and told guys like me we had to run clear up the coast, while ships that ran a half mile of net were allowed in. So, we left.
My wife has named a bunch of the chickens, but I don’t think she should get so attached.
We went to Quartzsite, Arizona, after that, but you’d be lucky if it was 90 degrees at night. The coolest we could ever get our RV was 80. It was so hot in Quartzsite, they had a naked guy who owned a bookstore. He’d ride his bike around town in his birthday suit, but people just accepted him for who he was.
Before we escaped the Arizona heat, I met a guy who said he was going mining for gold. I worked with him for two weeks, but I didn’t make enough to even buy a pack of cigarettes. Then we ended up in eastern Idaho, and I don’t see us ever leaving. We’ve figured out the chicken business, and it’s become a steady source of income. We sell the eggs at the gas station and the feedstore and to local restaurants, but folks come by the house too. You might need a permit to sell ’em, but I never checked.
My wife has named a bunch of the chickens, but I don’t think she should get so attached. We call our chickens “free range,” though they’re raised in a big pen. They’ve got plenty of room to roam. You can’t let chickens wander around the yard. The coyotes or raccoons would get them if the hawks and owls didn’t.
I don’t have insurance on these chickens, but I do have a shotgun. We don’t have a big operation, but we have a lot invested in these birds. We’ve built a solid clientele, and I don’t want to lose that. You’ve got to do what you can once you’re on a fixed income. But money aside, these hens give me something to do every day. And that’s worth a lot too.