Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Rhode Island Red

Will is the corporate chef for the company I work for. Before that he was the Executive chef at the restaurant I work for, and I was his sous chef. He is a middle aged, balding, white guy who has been cooking since I was wearing diapers. We get along really well, and I am forever indebted to him. His philosophies have been installed into me, and has a huge hand in sculpting what my own food philosophy and style has become. I know him as well as I know my wife, and can tell what he is thinking from his facial expressions. We have been in the crap together, and on top together. He likes to say he is getting old, and he hopes someday to have a farm where he can grow everything he wants, and have a tractor. For his birthday last fall Melissa and I gave him a gift certificate to a work wear supply store up the coast for the sole intent to buy himself some farmer overalls, and he almost cried.  He is getting close to those goals. He presents the harvest from his own garden in armloads to me, as well as food he has preserved, turkeys and chickens he has raised, and eggs from his other chickens. For Christmas 5 or so years ago he gave me a brand new kitchen aid mixer. While I would've bought one for myself at some point since, it got me jump started on making my own bread. It was his curtails I rode to the James Beard House in NY. In return, I show up to work and bust it. I keep up to date of food books, menus, and restaurants for him. I try to keep him up to date with technology, clean up after him, organize, and keep him from losing his temper. It works good for us.

The Rhode Island red is a great all purpose chicken. While usually sought after for their egg production, they are also desired for their meat production by small farms as well. While there are some pretty fancy egg birds out there who will lay green and purple eggs, I wanted something that would lay a brown egg, a good sized one, and lay them often. The Rhode Island red will do that, laying 5 or so a week, and it does well in cold and hot enviornments. They will do good in confinement, have a generally docile manner, and are relatively low maintenance. Everything I am looking for in an egg bird. The name comes obviously from the state where it is the state bird, and they are available in white or red, but the red is the variation you will see most often. The red is for their feather color which is closer to a vibrant brown with some red hues.

For Christmas and my birthday this year Will decide it was time to do this, and about 3 months ago ordered the hatchlings with my yard in mind. Six were ordered and then started in his set-up to get them going. They were received at just a day or two old so take some special care in the first weeks of life, and he had some experience with that stuff, and due to the timely slaughter of his turkey collection, he had the room as well. Then he would come over on his day's off and build me the Rolls Royce of chicken coops, and has been on that project for a few weeks now.  On Monday I came home from work and the chicken coop while not totally finished on the exterior looked absolutely amazing and was full of six beautiful Rhode island red hens. Equipped with a spot for them to roost, lay, eat and drink safely indoors, and then a door for them to get outside to the elements totally caged to protect them from wildlife, with doors for me to access them outside or in. Ideally I can shoe them out to clean up inside, and shovel them back inside to clean up outside. The boys, Melissa and I are all over the moon about it, and while we are still most likely about 2 months away from when they will begin laying, both boys like to check the egg box "just in case". Once early spring rolls around, with the right food, and weather, we should be seeing well over two dozen eggs a week from them. Plenty to give to neighbors, family, and friends.
I think the plan is to actually side the coop with hardi plank so that it can be color matched to the house color, as if this isn't enough. So it sits in the pouring down rain, in the corner of my totally fenced big back yard, with a new puppy that came from Santa Claus for the boys, at the house we only have to pay on for 29.5 more years. Life is good. Thanks for reading.

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