First off let me start by saying I am breaking the rule of 12 days of Christmas already by running down the list prior to Christmas. The 12 days start ON Christmas. Then, yesterday, I realized I also counted wrong and started to early. Therefore, Today is the right slot for me to put my 3rd day to allow the 12th day to actually fall on Christmas, but I digress.
The funny thing is that I actually own exactly three French hens. They are a breed called French Marans. They are known for their dark chocolate egg color and are much sought after by chefs and Gourmands alike. I had no idea how popular they were until on decided, on my own with no help from modern media to which I have very little contact save the internet, to get some of these birds. They are SO popular that the chicks are as expensive as $25 and a dozen fertile eggs as much as $50. Well, I decided to do some research and found an eBay seller who had the fertilized eggs somewhat cheaper. I ordered a dozen, put some under my broody hen and some in my incubator. Nature won out and all three under my good ole hen hatched while the incubator resulted in naught.
Here are the eggs when they arrived. And a close up of their dark color and lovely flecks. At the beginning of the hens laying cycle they are quite dark and then they fade as the year passes. However, they are still noticeably darker than a standard brown egg. Here is one of my Maran eggs, next to a blue Ameracauna egg and a brown Orpington egg. Quite a lovely trio, if I do say so myself.
I have always loved chickens and really farm animals in general. When I was younger, I was homeschooled, I finagled part of my biology learning to incorporate a homemade incubator to write about and record the cycle of development. This was really a ploy for me to get pet chickens. The funny thing was we bought fertilized eggs at our local farmers market and only one hatched out of the dozen. This was later known as a miracle chicken as when we told the farmer he said, “Had I known you wanted to hatch eggs, I would have got you some. Those you bought had been refrigerated. What you have there is a miracle chicken” and we all laughed.
He was a miracle chicken for me because I managed to end up with a pet chicken. A rooster, of course, and he loved me and followed me about but attacked anyone or anything that came near me. I suppose I was his hen.
Since then, I have always made it a point, no matter where I lived or what little space I have had, to keep some chickens. They are wonderful pets or providers or both. They are amazing in that they can give you nourishment from their eggs and their meat and their feathers, if one were to try a complete Little House on the Prairie lifestyle, would also serve to make pillows or stuff a nice comforter to keep warm.
Here are two of my lovely three ladies. They are a wonderful black with a green cast to them, and a beautiful copper coler on the neck. (Though one is All black for some reason). They are actually called Copper Black Marans. They are feather footed which is good for colder climates and their combs are adorable and lay to the side, much as one would think of a Frenchman (or woman) wearing their classic beret.
There is another variety of Marans called Cuckoo Marans which have a lovely checkerboard coloring. Here is a mother and her hens. I do not have this variety.
But, despite the breed you choose, and there are MANY breeds to choose from, chickens are increasingly becoming more and more popular. Many cities are beginning to reverse their anti-chicken laws allowing urban residents to keep hens (no roosters but one doesn’t need a rooster for eggs).
If you have not ever kept them I would consider it. With our increasing food scares and also rising grocery prices, it can be economical to keep chickens. If one allows them food scraps and to free range a bit, their food costs can be lowered. I have increasingly been reducing my bought feed and giving them more range time. I also sell my surplus eggs to our local feed store at $2 a dozen keeping a tally to pay for my bought grain.
One lady who works there was impressed with my Maran eggs and took some. The next time I went there she said my eggs were the best she had ever had and that another customer had commented on mine as well. They sell all eggs from local chicken keepers and in comparison mine won. I believe this is due to the foraging. Chickens are omnivores and love grubs and worms and insects as well as grass and various plants. They will not eat my flowers and somehow manage to go into my herb or flower garden, eat the pests and weeds and leave the herbs and flowers behind. This is not true, however, for my veg patch and one day a wayward hen found her way into my veg garden and helped herself to tomatoes on the vine, the little dickens.
Another joy, for me, is hatching your own first batch. A simple incubator can be purchased online or at a local feed or pet store. And I can attest to eggs be delivered in the mail from ebay as having a pretty good hatch rate. You will never know if you are getting hens or roosters of course, so buying chicks that are guaranteed to be hens (pullets) is probably a surer bet.
And they do not need tons of space. I wanted to share this easy and cute little Instructable for a chicken house/coop.
Instructions for this easy coop is HERE. And really any variation could be made. And if you have a fenced yard, let them out sometimes, as they will always know to get back to where they roost.
During the War years, chicken keeping was another way that many survived rationing and the hard times. And with times getting harder now it doesn't’ hurt to be a little more self sufficient. And there is nothing as satisfying as baking or cooking with eggs you raised yourself. Part of my morning delight before I get breakfast on, is my trip out to the chicken house to see what my little darlings have left for me. They are a joy and rather easy and if you find you tire of them, there is always someone looking for a good laying hen.
So, why not give 3 French hens this Christmas or maybe an incubator a book on chicken keeping and a dozen fertile eggs. IF they hatch them in January, they’d have laying hens by July! It truly is a joy.
And extra feathers can add a wonderful fashion statement to any ladies or gents hat. So, because I cannot but help share these free patterns, here is a darling hat and bag crochet pattern that would look a treat with some added free feathers from you lovely birds. Maybe even choose a Chicken breed’s whose feathers are in a shade or style you would covet having as accessories to your wardrobe. Chickens are truly the pets that earn their keep. Happy Chicken Keeping and as always Happy Homemaking.
Materials Required: AMERICAN THREAD COMPANY "AUNT LYDIA'S" STAR SPUN, Article 235
6 skeins #2 Silver (White with Silver Metallic) for Bag.
3 skeins for Hat.
"AUNT LYDIA'S" HEAVY RUG YARN, Article 235
5 skeins Natural or color of your choice for Bag.
2 skeins for Hat.
Aluminum crochet hook size G.
Ch 46, s c in 2nd st from hook, 1 s c in each remaining st of ch, ch 1, turn.
2nd Row. 1 s c in each of the next 4 s c, * d tr c (3 times over hook) in next s c, keeping the d tr c to front of work, 1 s c in each of the next 5 s c, repeat from * 5 times, d tr c in next s c, 1 s c in each of the next 4 s c, ch 1, turn.
3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th Rows. 1 s c in each st, ch 1, turn.
4th Row. * 1 s c in each of the next 4 s c, d tr c in next s c, 1 s c in each of the next 4 s c, d tr c in next s c, s c in next s c, d tr c in next s c, repeat from * twice, 1 s c in each of the next 4 s c, d tr c in next s c, 1 s c in each of the next 4 s c, ch 1, turn.
6th Row. 1 s c in each of the next 4 s c, d tr c in next s c, ** 1 s c in each of the next 3 s c, d tr c in next s c, * s c in next s c, d tr c in next s c, repeat from * once, 1 s c in each of the next 3 s c, d tr c in next s c, repeat from ** twice, 1 s c in each of the next 4 s c, ch 1, turn.
8th Row. Same as 4th row.
10th Row. Same as 2nd row. Repeat from 3rd through 10th rows twice.
27th Row. 1 s c in each s c, ch 1, turn. Repeat the last row twice but ch 5 to turn last row.
30th Row. 1 d tr c in each of the next 2 s c, * ch 1, skip 1 s c, d tr c in next s c, ch 1, skip 1 s c, 1 d tr c in each of the next 3 s c, repeat from * across row, ch 1, turn.
31st Row. 1 s c in each d tr c and 1 s c in each ch 1 space (45 s c), ch 1, turn.
32nd Row. 1 s c in each s c, ch 1, turn. Repeat the last row 3 times.
Next Row. 1 s c in 1st s c, * d tr c in next s c, 1 s c in each of the next 2 s c, repeat from * across row, cut yarn. With wrong side of work toward you attach yarn in 1st st of starting ch and work 1 s c in each of the 45 sts, ch 1, turn. Repeat from 2nd row for opposite side. Fold in half and sew side seams.
DRAW STRING: Cut 12 strands 45 inches long. Using 6 strands make a braid. Tie each end about 2 inches in for tassel. Make another braid in same manner with remaining 6 strands. Lace through beading starting each braid at opposite side and lacing over the single d tr c and under each 3 d tr c group. Tie the 2 ends together.
Ch 2, 6 s c in 2nd st from hook, do not join this or the following rounds. Place a marker at beginning of each round.
2nd Round. 2 s c in each s c.
3rd Round. * 1 s c in next s c, 2 s c in next s c, repeat from * all around.
4th Round. * 1 s c in each of the next 2 s c, 2 s c in next s c, repeat from * all around. Work 6 more rounds in same manner increasing 1 s c at each of the 6 increasing points and having 1 more s c between increasing points in each round (6 increases in each round).
11th Round. 1 s c in each s c.
12th Round. * S c in next s c, d tr c in next s c, keeping the d tr c in front of work, repeat from * all around.
13th Round. 1 s c in each st.
14th Round. Same as 12th round but having the d tr c between d tr c of previous round. Repeat the last 2 rounds once.
17th Round. 1 s c in each st.
18th Round. Start Brim. Working in s c increase in every 5th s c.
19th Round. Same as 18th round to within last 7 s c, 1 s c in each of the last 7 s c.
20th Round. 1 sl st in each of the next 3 s c, 1 s c in each s c to within last 3 s c, 1 sl st in each of the last 3 s c.
21st Round. 1 sl st in each of the next 4 sts, 1 s c in each s c to within last 4 sts, 1 sl st in each of the last 4 sts.
22nd Round. 1 sl st in each of the next 5 sts, 1 s c in each s c to within last 5 sts, 1 sl st in each of the last 5 sts.
23rd Round. 1 sl st in each of the next 5 sl sts, 1 s c in each s c to within last 5 sts, sl st in next st, ch 1, turn.
24th Row. Skip the sl st and working through front loop of sts, work 1 s c in each s c to within last 6 sts, sl st in next st, ch 1, turn.
25th Row. Skip the sl st and working through both loops of sts, work 1 s c in each s c working a sl st in next to last st, do not work across back of hat, ch 1, turn.
26th and 27th Rows. Same as 25th row, cut yarn.
Turn under last 4 rows and sew to inside of brim.