Archive for May 18th, 2011

The Year of Poultry

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

I marvel at all the people raising chickens…in the city. My food colleague, Janice Cole, has written a lovely book about it: Chicken and Egg: A Memoir of Suburban Homesteading with 125 Recipes (Chronicle Books, 2011). More about that in another post. Back to the actual animals.

Up to the 1960s and 70s in chickens were raised for what was called, ‘egg money.’ Farm wives sold eggs to have a little more money for groceries, things for their kids, and maybe a bit for themselves. Eggs were 30 cents a dozen. I rode my bike a half mile into the country from Irene, South Dakota, to Gladys and Edwin Larson’s farm to pick up  cartons for my mom.

Gladys and I walked into the hen house, the chickens scattering out of our way, as we picked the warm eggs, sometimes marked with a light smear of feces. All this seemed only natural. Though it was natural, as well, that we didn’t raise chickens ourselves.

I won’t be joining the ranks of chicken keepers in Minnesota. However, I do have a duck. I’d noticed a Mallard pair in my garden in early April. I’m a block from a pond, only accessible by crossing two streets. Didn’t think they’d find my yard very hospitable. And, then, there is the neighborhood coyote (I pronounce it ‘KY-yote.) But, last week, I saw the ducks quite close to the house and not particularly concerned that I was nearby:

Yesterday, I saw her, the hen, nesting in a pile of last fall’s maple leaves. She’s made a thick nest of those neglected leaves between a peony and the brick planter wall.

Today, the male was watching from further out in the yard. I understand that duck gestation is 28 days. We’ll see.