Roost 66 chickens ready to lay
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain firstname.lastname@example.org October 7, 2012 6:18PM
Updated: November 9, 2012 6:03AM
MANHATTAN TOWNSHIP — An exotic mix of chicks are providing plenty of kicks at Roost 66 this fall.
Any day now the Polish, French and American free-range chickens will start laying an international rainbow of blue, green, brown and white eggs for local consumption.
While they don’t plan to profit from their new egg-producing hobby, John and Sherri Kiefner are happy to be tapping into a burgeoning “farm-to-table” movement.
And they’re having a lot of fun watching customers flock to their Roost 66 — Home of the Happy Hens Facebook page where sponsors can pay $25 per chick to get naming rights and 10 dozen eggs.
John hatched the idea to stock his farm with chickens when he was reminiscing about his childhood. He grew up on a grain farm that featured an eight-sided chicken coop. But the coop never was stocked after John’s dad got a job at Caterpillar.
Sherri loved the idea and she spent eight hours online picking out 20 different chicken varieties that appealed to her. The 66 chicks were born June 6 and Sherri got a call from the post office on June 7 asking her to come and pick up her precious cargo.
“They come in a cardboard box packed pretty tight,” she said.
The blue Andalusian, crevoceour, Sicilian buttercup and silver Polish chickens are more rare than some of their coop-mates. A Dominique called “Chicken Little” belongs to America’s oldest breed, which now is threatened, said Sherri, who has researched all of her hens’ histories.
The Polish crested and silver Polish look more like pineapples than chickens because of the plume of feathers on their heads, Sherri said. She has had to give the birds haircuts so they can find their chicken chow, which consists of chicken feed, kitchen scraps, apples, sweet corn, bugs and worms.
“These are the only ones you can catch because they can’t see anything,” John said jokingly as he picked up a silver Polish.
The chickens roam around the yard all day, but at sunset they head for the red-and-white Roost 66 chicken coop John built from scratch with some vintage coop items harvested from other farms.
Sherri named a Sicilian buttercup Lucia after one of her college professors. Others have named their chickens Chick-fil-A, Chicken Nugget and Miss Egg McMuffy. Cosette, the crevoceour, is named after a character in the opera “Les Miserables” and Phyllis, a feather-headed fowl, was named for her resemblance to the late comedian Phyllis Diller.
The couple will be selling extra eggs for $3 a dozen once the hens start producing. Sherri isn’t sure if the real eggs from her exotic birds will taste different, but she knows from her research that the eggs will have harder shells and the yolks will be a deeper shade of yellow.
“We’ll have four to five dozen eggs a day when they’re all into full laying mode,” she said.
None of the chickens will end up as a Sunday supper because Sherri plans to let them live out their lives at Kiefner Farm — even after their egg-laying days are over. The chickens all have personalities, so it would be cruel to consume them, Sherri said.
While Sherri said she is having “more fun than should be legal” raising her chicks, her pet poultry face perils every day from raccoons, coyotes and hawks. But Sherri said the chickens “know when to scramble” if there is trouble and they head for the nearby tree cover.
Sherri said she’s happy to be part of a growing trend for consumers to buy food that is produced closer to home. But John will be a little happier once the hens start laying.
“I love hard-boiled eggs,” he said.