Saturday, May 21, 2011

Free Range

Becky came with us on our trip to Owen county, which was very helpful. She's uncannily good at catching chickens.

I gave you guys a hint, really I did. I said, "Later, Peeps." Peeps, the marshmallow candy covered in sugar, were made to look like chicks. I was trying to be clever. Maybe it was completely lame.


We found exactly what we were looking for: an abandoned farm way out in the boonies that had a huge penned area in which our people from Bald Knob discovered a trove of meals walking around and clucking. We searched the place pretty thoroughly while we were there, and it was interesting. Turns out the family that owned it raised chickens to be free range and sold them as organic. Made a good amount of money at it before the zombie plague broke out, too.

We caught about three hundred of them total. There were a few dozen chickens left there, but we didn't try to get all of them. Left to their own devices on the big plot of land they occupy, there's a good chance they'll multiply again. We can hope. Besides, the vehicles we took were absolutely stuffed with birds. We couldn't have fit any more of them in without using a hammer to do it.

I was surprised that so many of them could live in such a relatively small area without someone to feed them, but after talking to one of our farmers it made more sense. Chickens are omnivores, and they can survive off of almost anything. Kentucky has a lot of bugs and other small creatures. Not really that strange to find a decent population of chickens out there. Lots of folks around here used to keep them as pets. Many of those people would also eat the eggs.

We're going to try something. Given the truly stupid amount of potato beetles we're seeing, the people who run our farms think it's worth trying to release a bunch of them into the fields to see if they can clean house. I'm more worried that the chickens will destroy the potato plants, but the bugs will do that anyway if we can't get them under control.

The urge to slaughter a bunch of them and eat very well for a few days is strong, and the sentiment isn't just limited to me. Fortunately, that choice isn't for any one of us to make. It's a lot more logical to set up some nests and collect eggs. Much more food in the long term, and full of protein and fat.

Still, fried chicken sounds delicious. I know a lot of people are thinking the same thing...

Ahh, OK. Got to get my mind off that. Let's talk about the actual trip.

It was fairly uneventful, to be honest. The way there had been cleared by our people from Bald Knob during their scouting trips. There weren't a lot of surprises to be had. I will admit to being pretty surprised by the fact that the chicken farm was untouched by zombies, considering how many fowl were there, easy meals all. I took a close look around when we got there, and saw that the fence was pretty resistant to damage.

It was pretty tall, about six feet. It had started life out as standard grid fencing, cheap but sturdy. The people who had put it up had sunk posts every four feet, which gave the thing a lot of stability. Of course, that alone wouldn't have been enough to stop the undead, should they have discovered the place. No, the owners had thought ahead and planted some dense climbing flowers all around the outside of the fence. The whole damn thing was a mass of vines and leaves, impossible to see through. I'm told that it probably attracted a lot of bugs, too. Our birds likely ate very well because of that.

All the foliage gave nice cover to the chickens, and grew thick enough that it basically made a solid wall. If you've ever seen a creeper of ivy in a piece of stone, the tiny thread of green cracking it like an eggshell, then you can understand why I'm not surprised at how strong the fence was.

Actually catching the damn things was awful. Also? Really funny. Except for Becky, who is a lot faster than most of the people who went, it was chaos. We slammed into each other over and over, tripped on our own feet as we scrambled to get our hands on the birds. It was about as awkward as two virgins screwing, only with a lot more swearing and less satisfaction.

Still, it was a good trip. We've hopefully got a decent setup to avoid starvation if our hunting and fishing efforts falter because of this trip. Worst case scenario, we can kill and eat them. I don't want to, though. In fact, a lot of people have expressed interest in keeping some of the chicks we caught (or letting some eggs get fertilized) in order to have a chicken at home. I think it's a good idea. Who doesn't want a pet that will keep your garden free of bugs while supplying you with a tasty egg most mornings? That sounds like a WIN!

In fact, I've already got a chick. Cute little thing. My dogs have been eying her enough that I had to put her cage (our old ferret cage, the one we used to take the ferrets with us when we left the compound) in my bedroom with the door shut. I think I'll let the chick grow some before I risk putting her and the dogs in the same room.

I named her Athena. I've always liked that name, and Jess and I have always liked giving our pets strange and non-pet sounding names. I hear her chirping at me now. Good thing I set out a little trap for some bugs. She can eat a lot of them...

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