Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Three weeks ago, my best friend Nora called me early in the morning. She wanted me to go with her to meet a lady. The lady was selling action figures that Nora wanted to get for one of her sons as a birthday present. (It was a Craigslist transaction). I threw off my covers and put on a dress and drove up to the general store where I left my car and hopped into Nora's. After an hour and a half drive, we met the lady, who had farm tags on her little sedan, in a 7-11 parking lot. She seemed really nice, called herself the the 'Farm Mama' and after Nora had paid for the figurines, she gave us her business card and said she had lots of baby chicks if we were interested. After a bit of whispering and deliberating, Nora and I decided to follow the farm mama to her homestead to have a look at her chicks. We were a little nervous when we pulled into her driveway. There was a weedy, dilapidated look about the place... a faded sign dangling in the dusty picture window said 'BEWARE of DOG'. We followed the farm mama over stepping stones into a kind of breezeway filled (save a narrow, jagged path) with cascading piles of countless feed bags (full and empty) to the back yard where she showed us several pairs of different breeds of chickens. There were also calves munching on hay and a pot-belly pig rooting under a tree. Those were the creatures of the small backyard and I privately wondered how much land and what other animals she and her husband might have. We never did see a dog. There was at least one cat. After looking at the parent birds, we followed the farm mama into the house to see the hatchlings. The air inside was thick with barnyard musk. The kitchen table was piled high with eggs and egg cartons. There were roosters crowing in cages in the carpeted living room. Despite these sorts of close quarters not being something I would like to live with, I thought the farm mama was very kind, and I got the impression she was truly knowledgeable and loved and cared for her animals well. She gently plucked four Rhode Island Reds and two Marans from the bunch of peeping chicks in the living room and kissed them goodbye before placing them in a box for me to take home. Nora got six chicks, too.
When I got home, I found all kinds of commentary on the internet about Marans. I wish I could just ask an experienced old woman about them, because you never know what information is accurate on the internet, especially coming from people getting all wild and upset about the genetic purity of chickens. Marans are a French breed, apparently not yet recognized by the American Poultry Association, and due to under-the-table, indiscriminate breeding, Maran genes have been corrupted here in the U.S. A proper Maran has feathered legs. A proper Maran eggshell is a beautiful deep-dark brown, and the yolk is gourmet in richness and flavor. Most likely, my Marans aren't up to pedigree. But I don't care; I really like this little rooster (and his hen, which I don't have a photo of yet).