Archive for the ‘Backyard Chickens’ Category

My Current Parallel Universe

Thursday, April 8th, 2021

Mind-boggling Possibilities

When I went out to the coop with the girls’ breakfast this morning, I found myself talking to them about Mrs. Crouch, our resident ghost.  I was asking them if they’ve ever had occasion to speak with her.  They clucked and chirped a bit, but I think they were mostly telling me to get on with their morning treats.  I’m not sure they are into paranormal stuff.

Nor am I.  But, I’ve been in the  midst of going over the copyreader’s edits and stewing about the cover image for my upcoming book, Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula, so I’m traveling along some ghostly parallel plane just now.  Come to think of it, the chickens probably are, too.  Just not the same one as mine.

Which makes me wonder just how many parallel universes there might be.  According to an article titled “Parallel Universes: Theories & Evidence” written by Elizabeth Howell in 2018, the concept of a parallel universe “is a facet of the astronomical theory of the multiverse.” (And never mind that the multiverse term immediately puts my puny thought processes in a musical mode.)  Ms. Howell goes on to say, “There actually is quite a bit of evidence out there for a multiverse.”

She briefly expains five different multiverse theories — all of which are totally beyond me and none of which mentions Mrs. Crouch or any of the other ghosts in Historic Haunts…   On the other hand, Ms. Howell does point out that physicist Stephen Hawking questioned the multiverse theory shortly before his death. “We are not down to a single, unique universe, but our findings imply a significant reduction of the multiverse to a much smaller range of possible universes.”

I wish I’d had a chance to talk with Dr. Hawking about where Mrs. Crouch might be in the great scheme of things.  Unfortunately, the closest I ever got to meeting him was when he visited this house via his appearances on “The Big Bang Theory.”  Perhaps he noticed Mrs. C. in passing.  But whether he did or not, it all begs the question: Whatever will I tell the chickens now?


Hop to it! Easter’s on its way!

Monday, March 29th, 2021

Even the most recalcitrant chickens know that bunnies have nothing whatsoever to do with Easter.  Fluffy little chicks, yes.  Bunnies bearing baskets of colored eggs, definitely not.  And don’t ever bring up that discussion with Aracaunas or Americaunas or other “Easter Egger” chickens who lay those lovely blue and green and purplish eggs.    Talk about crossing their legs until further notice…

Right now, though, we have none of those colorful egg-layers.  In fact, for the past year or so we’ve wondered if our hens are over the hill, production-wise.  We have only three girls and all of them are approaching the slow-down age of three or four.  When they were producing, their eggs ranged in color from a warm beige to a dark brown.

So imagine our surprise these last few evenings when I’ve checked the nest boxes and have found, in the northern one, a light-almost-white egg — and getting lighter each day!  What the…?  My first thought was that one of those girls must be laying for the first time ever.  But after a lengthy discussion with Farmer Nyel and a review of past performance by each of the hens, we are pretty sure that’s not the case.  So the only conclusion to be drawn is that they are preparing the household for Easter.

Two out of three – suitable for dying?

Even chickens can figure out, evidently, that the lighter the egg, the more succesful the dying process will be.  We don’t pretend to know how they can adjust their internal spigots to a desired shell color, but that’s what one of those feathered ladies has done.  Apparently.

Unfortunately,  we have no little kids in residence so we aren’t planning on the dying-and-hiding ritual.  But please don’t tell the chickens.

An Awkward Time of Year

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021

Mr. Wirt and His Chickens c. 1900 – Before Daylight Savings Time

The chickens and I have talked it over and we are in perfect agreement, for a wonder!  This time of year, just after Spring and Daylight Savings Time have converged, is not the easiest time for any of us to co-ordinate things.  Not the humans, not the chickens and not the deer or bear people.  Our clocks — biological, mechanical, digital, and otherwise — are out of sync.

The chickens are still up even after I’ve eaten my dinner.  They will not be ready for their kiss-and-lie-down prayers until I am well-settled in front of the television.  Maybe even nodding a bit.  If neither Nyel nor I remembers to put Jeopardy on pause, I am doomed to go lock up the coop by flashlight.  There is no long twilight at this time of year and, with chickens, I’m either right on time or in the “big dark” as three-year-old Christian Hawes used to call the pitchy-black time of night.

October 2020 – Ms. Doe Eating Pears

I try not to go out at flashlight time.  That’s when the deer people come calling and their modus operandi is to freeze in place when they see me coming.  That’s okay… if I can see them.  But my night vision isn’t too great and I am more-or-less unaware of what lies (or stands) just beyond my little beam of light.  It makes me nervous.

It makes me even more nervous to think that one of the bear people might be lurking out there.  I know they come around at night, too, because they also leave calling cards.  Actually, I’ve never encountered a bear in the yard — not like my frequent meetings with Ms. Doe and Mr. Buck, especially during the fall and winter.

I read recently that deer spend their entire lives within a one-mile radius of where they were born.  That certainly helps explain why I feel well-acquainted with the current deer people of Oysterville and with their forebears, as well.  I don’t know the habits of our village bears, but I suspect their range is somewhat larger.  But it’s not the where of it that I worry about — it’s the when.  Especially during this awkward time of year.

When talking to chickens…

Tuesday, March 16th, 2021

Trying to explain Daylight Savings Time to chickens is a lot like getting them to fuggedabout the pecking order.  It ain’t gonna to happen.

Before the time changed, the girls were going to roost just when I was sitting down to dinner — 5:45ish.  It was still a half hour or so before twilight but no matter.  If I appeared any earlier, they wouldn’t go into the coop.  Much later and I had to use a flashlight and hope I wouldn’t smack into a deer.  Or worse.  So, I was always about ten minutes late for dinner.

Now that we’ve set the clocks forward, you’d think that I could have a lovely, leisurely meal and go do my kiss-and-goodnight duties about 6:45.  It should be perfect, right?  NOT!

“Did you explain it to them?” Nyel asked.

“Of course I did!” was my indignant reply.  Any woman who has taught her chickens that “Egg! Egg! Egg!” means “Get busy in that nest box tomorrow and start laying!” is obviously down with chicken-speak and has the Daylight Savings Concept covered.

So why do they just look at me with that one-sided-eye look and make me come back later no matter what time I arrive to tuck them in?  I’m here to tell you that chickens are very stubborn people.  And I’m beginning to think this property is Arizona and Nyel and I are the Navajos.

And it wasn’t even March yet!

Monday, March 1st, 2021

March Sunrise over Willapa Bay

March 1st today.  Beautiful sunrise.  No wind.  Mild temperature outside.  Whatever happened to “coming in like a lion?”  And does this lamb-like weather forewarn of March going out with a roar.  YIKES!  Let’s hope not.

We had about enough roaring in February, by my reckoning.  For a couple of days, I kept the chickens inside their run.  Didn’t want a repeat of the 1922 windstorm when Ilwaco’s chickens ended up in Seaview and everyone had a heck of a time sorting them out once the weather calmed down.

February 2021 Storm Damage

So… our girls stayed safe.  Not so our south fence.  A good part of it blew down — right into the lane.  Nyel was philosophical.  We’ve known for some time that the posts are rotted at ground level and need replacing.  One more job that we have to hire out these days.  Nyel sent a “Help!” text to Our Main Man Eugene who came over within minutes to prop it back up.  A temporary fix “so the girls won’t get out,” he said.

In the next few weeks, he’ll be back to do some honest-to-goodness repairing.  Then there will be the post-painting issue.  And then some pro-active work on the rest of the south side fence — posts AND rails, Nyel says.  It never ends.  Just like that pesky wind.  But… it’s job security for some folks and I guess that’s the best way to look at it.  And maybe the whole month of March will be gentle and lamb-like.  We can but hope.

Patch-Patch-Patch Some More

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

Repaired and Awaiting a Summer Replacement

Yesterday, the back door of the chicken coop came off in my hand.  Not the whole door — just the trim piece on which the handle is situated.  Even so, it was startling.  It definitely wasn’t one of those I-don’t-know-my-own-strength things.  It was a question of old age (the door’s, not mine), years of weathering, rust, and rot.  It left an inviting gap for chicken-hunting critters to get into the coop.  I was proud of the the girls, though; they didn’t seem at all worried.

Luckily, it was early morning so chances of marauding visitors were slim.   I lugged the trim piece up to the kitchen to show Farmer Nyel and he thought he could probably fix it.  I didn’t ask how.  “Just lean it up against the workbench in the garage,” he said.  I tried not to think about him in his wheelchair using power tools like drills and saws while standing on the cement flooring balanced on one leg.  YIKES!

Inside View From The Back Door

As it turned out, I was so busy trying to jam an hour or more of information into a half-hour time slot for today’s video presentation, that I didn’t have much worry-about-Nyel-time.  By late afternoon, he had the door rebuilt and hung in place.  I was still timing myself and trying to decide which of the “crucial” information about Oysterville to leave out. In the old “misery loves company” mode, I called Dobby to see how he was coming along.  We commiserated with one another but the only advice he had was, “Wear your long underwear!”

At least I can trundle off to today’s live-stream video taping secure in the knowledge that Farmer Nyel and the chickens are safe — Nyel inside and warm and the chickens with a repaired door to keep out those pesky raccoons and possums.  Yay!  There will be plenty of time to worry about a total coop re-build before summer arrives!

Farmer Nyel is in Project Planning Mode

Saturday, January 30th, 2021

An Upgrade in Progress

Nyel has been at it again.  Thinking.  Which, I’ve found, often leads to planning a new project around here.

I’d asked him recently about some aggregate paving stones that were taken up last year when Eugene turned our kitchen garden into a wheelchair-friendly cement patio and walkway.  (Another Nyel-generated project which has been fabulous.)  “What are we going to do with those pavers? They’re just stacked up over there growing moss.”

“I’ve been thinking about those,” he said…  Of course he had.  I should’ve known.   And yesterday, the Garden Girls turned Nyel’s thoughts into reality by “paving” the  area outside the chicken coop, turning a muddy mess into a lovely patio for Nyel’s feathered friends!  It’s not finished yet.  Twenty-one more pavers required was the verdict.  Nyel said, “Go for it!”  Those chickens are SO spoiled.

Waiting for Doors

The other project involves Eugene and the woodshed he built last summer.  “It really needs doors,” I told Nyel a few weeks ago.  “I have a plan,” was the reply.  “Barn doors.”  And he showed me some possibilities he’d found on the internet and tweaked to his own specifications.

I loved his idea — roller doors just like the one that’s always been on the west side of this house.  It, too, once led to a woodshed which was eventually incorporated into the house and has become our laundry room and pantry.  Only the roller door remains to remind me of the days when Papa’s chopping block, with ax at the ready, was just on it’s other side.

The girls and I have been clapping and cheering.  We love it when Farmer Nyel is in a project planning frame of mind.  There are always surprises in store for us!







It’s just hard to tell…

Tuesday, January 26th, 2021

Christmas Cheer, Maybe

I’ve long said that it’s hard to tell with chickens.  But I’m happy to report that now that we are all working on our communication skills — me, chicken-speak; they, English — things seem to be moving right along.  However, communication is not without its pitfalls.  Take yesterday morning, for instance.

I wanted to step out the south door and take quick picture of the rhododendron just across the lawn from me.  I wanted to see if I could identify it by comparing photos with images of January-blooming rhododendrons posted online.  “Quick!” I thought.  “Before the rain really gets going.”

January In Our South Garden

But no sooner had I opened the door than here came Little Red Hen and Clara, lickety-cut, right up onto the porch.  Luckily, I was prepared and scattered some mealworms for them.  But, NO!  LRH came right over and began head-butting my legs, making it very clear that she wanted to eat right out of my hand.  No bending and pecking for her.  And, of course, when Clara saw what was happening, she joined in the nudging and pleading game.  And here came Slutvana as well.

I finally broke away and took my pictures, convincing the girls to hunt for a few more morsels out on the lawn.  But, my rhododendron ID search wasn’t all that satisfactory after all.  I think this beauty could be one of three varieties — Christmas Cheer, Nobleanum Venustum , or Harry Carter.  Apparently, it’s hard to tell with rhododendrons…

Who, exactly, are Slutvana’s relations?

Thursday, January 21st, 2021

Russian Orloff

Slutvana, our Russian Orloff, spent most of last summer and fall in a nest box — any one of the three we have.  She didn’t seem particular.  She wasn’t laying and she wasn’t broody.  Talk with her as I might, she wasn’t about to reveal the cause of her self-isolation from the rest of us.

But now that winter is upon us, she is suddenly out and about.  Her nest box days seem to be a thing of the past and, although she seldom collaborates with any of us, at least she is interacting with the garden and getting a little exercise.  She is definitely one-of-a-kind, chicken-wise.

That may be because the Russian Orloff is the only distinctly Russian breed of chicken to be found in America. Russian tradition credits Count Orloff – Alexey Grigoryevich Orlov (1737-1808) – with the importation and promotion of this breed of chicken. This is the same Count responsible for the Orlov horse breed, the famous Orlov Trotters. The Count is said to have imported the breed from Persia.

Or it may be that she is self-conscious about her looks.  Her small comb is almost non-existent and, in combination with her fat body, she is not the most attractive hen in the coop.  Plus her plethora of neck feathers makes her look like she has multiple (not just double) chins AND jowls which is not any more attractive in chickens than in people.

Orlov Trotter

On the other hand, Russian Orloffs are said to be “very cold hardy birds with their small combs and fat bodies.” A chicken’s comb, as you might know, actually helps it stay cool.  Unlike us, chickens can’t sweat.   To cool off, its blood goes into the comb and because the comb sticks up from the head, it says cooler than the rest of the chicken’s body. Blood circulating from the comb and the wattles helps the bird lose heat during hot weather.

So there you have it.  Slutvana is either really feeling frisky with the colder winter weather or she is out and about hoping for a glimpse of  her pseudo-cousins, the Orlov Trotters.  I don’t think there are any in Oysterville, but I haven’t wanted to discourage her quest.  Anything to get her out of the coop for a change!


About Walking On Water

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021

High Tide on Clay Street

The day woke up gray.  Again.  Right now at least, it’s not actively raining.  But, the meadow is still mostly water.  Lake Little is as large as I’ve ever seen it.  There is still standing water in the lane and in our yard.

I’ve not ventured out to the chickens yet.  It’s still early and, on these gray days, they tend to sleep in.  When they do decide to leave the coop and venture out into their run, they object to the puddles and try to find higher ground.  Yesterday there wasn’t any.  Even the lawn between our house and theirs was deceptive — grass growing through one big lake.

I wasn’t quite wading and not quite floating as I took them their breakfast.  It was a weird sensation — no solid footing to be found.  I walked quickly, somehow knowing that, if I paused with my full weight on one foot or the other, I’d sink down, down, down below the surface.  And who would know…

I’ll wait a bit this morning.  The girls aren’t really pleased to see me, anyway, in this kind of weather.  I think they expect me to fix it — to turn off the wet and to turn on the warm and bright.  They don’t understand that I can’t even walk on water.