Archive for the ‘Backyard Chickens’ Category

Cream, Buff, Beige, Tan, and Chocolate!

Friday, April 19th, 2019

The Evening Bounty – 4/18/2019

The girls had gone to roost by the time I arrived at the coop last evening.  Twilight was morphing into darkness and I could just make out the day’s egg production in the nest boxes. Five!  One from each hen.  I thanked them collectively – so much easier than when there are fewer eggs than hens and I’m not sure who should get the day’s praise.

If only I knew which belonged to what color egg, I’d be home free.  All of them are in the brown tones, but each a different shade from so light that it appears white in photographs to one that is a rich chocolate brown.  They make a wonderful display in the egg boxes.

A dozen store-bought, stark white eggs seem so boring to me these days.  Even the color of the yolks seems bland by comparison to our free-ranging girls and they (the yolks) certainly don’t stand up so perkily in the frying pan as the ones from our coop.  Taste-wise?  I honestly can’t tell the difference… but don’t tell the girls.  On the other hand, friends who are recipients of our home-grown eggs rave over their flavor… so maybe I just have jaded taste buds.

It is a myth, of course, that brown eggs taste better or are more nutritious or any of that other marketing nonsense you might hear.  The shell color is just a matter of genetics and pigment.  Some breeds produce one color; some another.  And, although there is some variation on a day-to-day basis, even with a single hen, the differences are so subtle as to be unnoticeable.

From Farmer Nyel’s Finest

I’ve always thought that the reason for the white commercial eggs was all a matter of marketing and, I guess, in a way that’s true. Leghorns lay white eggs.  They also happen to eat less than many other hen varieties so they’re cheaper to raise plus they happen to be very good, reliable layers – all great reasons that they are the chicken breed of choice among farmers in the egg biz.  Perhaps those are the reasons Columbus brought them along on his voyage to the New World – or at least that’s how it is thought the first Leghorns (who actually originated in Italy) got here

In the past we have had blue egg-laying Araucanas and Ameraucanas and, presumably we have an Ameraucana right now.  She certainly looks like an Ameraucana, but she must be a hybrid who didn’t get the blue-egg gene.  She is the one who lays the chocolate brown eggs (I think.)  There is also a breed called “Easter Egger” who lay blue, green, rose or brown to sage, olive or cream – depending upon their parentage.  I’d love to have a flock of those – just for fun.

Unfortunately, we don’t really know much about our current ladies.  I think four of the five (or it could be five of the five) came through Jack’s Country Store about a year ago.  We ordered “sex-linked” chicks to guarantee that they would all be female.  Most were; some were not and we’ve had to do a little culling.  What can I say?  Mother Nature seems to have the final say, no matter what.  But, whatever their parentage or breed or proclivities, these five hens are great layers and their eggs are beautiful!  We have no complaints.

Not so’s you’d notice!

Wednesday, April 17th, 2019

Free-ranging all over the place!

If the ladies are missing their rooster companions, they aren’t saying.  They aren’t even hanging around pining away.  All five are out and about – in our yard, on the road, and probably visiting the neighbors, though we’ve had no reports corroborating that assumption.

Healing Nicely!

The two randy roosters have been gone for a week and I’m not sure the hens have even noticed.  There has been no slow-down in production.  They are still laying three to five eggs a day – and in the nest boxes, too.  No more of those egg deposits in the run or under the coop (knock wood)! And, their feathers are slowly growing in; the bloody areas on their backs from those wicked rooster spurs are healing.

An Egg in Every Nest Box

The best news of all, from my viewpoint is that our backyard chickens are free-ranging once again.  No worries about rooster attacks on visitors – or me!  In fact, just the opposite.  The ladies come to greet everybody – perhaps hoping for a handout, but more likely just out of curiosity.  They come up on the porch, look in through the window panes in the door and seem to be saying, “Won’t you come out and play?”

Little Red Hen Comes Visiting

I’m pretty sure they are hoping to entice Farmer Nyel outside.  I’ve told them that he is enjoying their antics through the windows and, somehow, I think they get it.  They spend a lot of time in the east garden which gives the Farmer a ringside seat when he is working at his desk.  “As soon as it gets a little warmer,” I promise the girls, “he’ll come outside in his wheelchair to visit.  Maybe he’ll let you hitch a ride!”

Those girls may not miss the roosters but I’m pretty sure they miss Farmer Nyel.  Eggceedingly!

…and not the jingle-jangle kind!

Sunday, April 7th, 2019

Rooster Spurs

I got a lot of razzing when I announced to the Friday Nighters that the roosters were gone.  Also, oh nos and expressions of sympathy for them.  Say what?  Obviously, no one had paid attention to or believed my tales of distress as a victim, and no one had any idea of the damage the boys were causing to the hens.

Rooster Damage To Hen

Nyel and I, on the other hand, were both absolutely jubilant that those bad boys were gone, spurs and all.  Erik-the-Chicken-Godfather to the rescue!  He came over Friday afternoon well prepared – protective eye gear, heavy gloves, a heavy-duty fishing net, two strong cardboard boxes, and a new role of masking tape.   I had called and asked if he could box up the roosters so I could take them to the poultry auction in Chehalis and he had done his rooster-capturing homework.  Besides getting prepared for battle, the choice was to try hypnosis.  We thought he’d made a good call!

Erik-the-Chicken-Godfather

He began with the baddest of the bad boys – the black rooster.  The capture wasn’t the biggest struggle, though.  Getting him into the box and taping it shut was the dicey part.  Surprisingly, the white roo was harder to capture.  He put up more of a fight than the black rooster.  My theory about that: as the beta male, he was used to being on the defensive.  And he was good at it.  I saw the alpha roo confront him many times but the white roo’s fighting stance with white ruff extended always caused the aggressive black alpha to back off.  (More than once I wished for a white ruff – maybe like Queen Elizabeth the First wore.)

Making Capture Look Easy

To top off the capture, Erik offered to drive the roosters to Chehalis the next day! I hope he knows how truly grateful I am!  When I called last night to see how it went, he reported that it was a smooth delivery.  I hope those boys fetch enough money that Erik’s trouble will be repaid – at least a little.  A suitable thank you will need to wait until Farmer Nyel is able to participate – maybe a chicken dinner??

Quadruple Taping

Yikes! Yolk? Yuck!

Sunday, March 31st, 2019

Five In The Next Box

It probably happens to the best of us chicken tenders.  Certainly, it has happened to Farmer Nyel.  More than once.  And, yesterday, as a Substitute Chicken Farmer, it happened to me.  Yuck!

It all has to do with due diligence.  For us, the evening chicken routine includes egg gathering as well as making sure the girls and boys are all in their kiss-and-lie-down mode – the chicken translation being, on their roosts and settling down for sleep.  Sometimes we carry bottles of water to replenish their supply; sometimes we also take a bucket of poultry food to add to their feeder in the coop.  And, even if our arms are laden, always we gather the eggs.

Depending on how many eggs the ladies have left for us during the day, and further depending on how many buckets and bottles we might be toting, we sometimes have to put a few of the eggs in our pockets.  Our eggs have fine, sturdy shells thanks to the crushed oyster shell we mix in with the chicken feed, so the pocket carrying method is perfect safe.  Usually.

Oh no!

Once in a while, however, the famer has a bit of a distraction twixt coop and fridge.  Perhaps the phone is ringing or the timer on the oven is dinging or the farmer’s brain is on a temporary leave of absence.  Best case scenario:  the egg is discovered early the next morning, none the worse for wear.  Worst case scenario, you are patting your pockets to find something else and suddenly something cold and wet and slightly viscus is running down your leg!  I have watched that happen to Farmer Nyel more than once.  All you can do is laugh, lament, and clean up!

Last night it was my turn.  I put on my friendly old field jacket – the one specifically designated for outdoor duty – and reached in my right-hand pocket for my gloves.  YUCK!  The gloves were there, sort of stuck to the jacket and to broken eggshells and surrounded by (no – more like swimming in) raw egg.  Eeeeeuuuw!

Freshly Washed – Until Next Time!

Then, of course, I remembered that we’d had a full house, egg-wise, the night before.  Five eggs—one from each of our hens.  Four filled my left pocket (all of which made it into an egg box and into the refrigerator) and the one that wouldn’t fit went in my right pocket.  I’m not sure how it got forgotten or broken – probably I was feeling hurried and was overly vigorous in hanging up said jacket.

So, I dumped the whole mess in the washing machine and was clever enough to put the water temperature on “cold.”  No cooked egg in my jacket, thank you.  All turned out well – even the gloves.  Only a few eggshells and some Kleenex bits to deal with at the bottom of the washer.  The jacket was dry in time for my morning coop duties and this time around no eggs went in the pockets, you betcha!

Seven Silent Witnesses

Saturday, March 30th, 2019

Coop Door Open

“We need to have a little talk,” I said to the flock.  It was just past daylight and I had arrived at the coop knowing full well that the girls and boys would be out and about in the run, waiting for their morning treat.  No need for me to open the coop door and let them out as usual.  I hadn’t closed them in last night.  On purpose.

I had gone down about quarter-to-dark to do just that – close the coop door for the night.  But the door was closed and barred and the chickens were all huddled together under the coop, apparently their answer to being locked away from their roosts.  Wot the heck?

Coop Door Closed

I went into the run, unbarred the coop door and then raised it up, hoping that at least some of the flock would rouse themselves enough to go up the ramp and “to bed” as usual.  I wasn’t completely hopeful, though.  Once chickens nod off, they are well nigh impossible to roust.  Only daylight seems able to do that.  But… two or three rustled themselves out of the dark and into the coop.  Then another and another.  I couldn’t see well enough to be certain if they’d all made it, so I left the coop door open… just in case of a straggler.

It was then that I noticed two eggs laid in the dirt in the run.  Usually, that trick annoys me but this time, it was more proof that someone had locked the hens away from their nest boxes – and from their food, for that matter!  Access to both is through the coop door.  Fortunately, their water trough is in the run, so they did have access to that.

Security Guard Richard Schroeder

After securing the gate into the run, I checked the nest boxes… just in case.  Two eggs!!  Say what?  So, logic says that for part of the day there was an open coop door giving access to their eating/laying/sleeping quarters.  And part of the day they had been locked out.  But by whom and to what purpose?  The flock remains silent.  In fact, eerily so this morning, even when I promised extra treats for a bit of information.

This isn’t the first mysterious happening at the coop.  When Carol was chicken sitting some months ago, the latch keeping the coop door open had been disturbed.  Then it happened on my watch.  Tucker made a ‘fool-proof’ latch – just in case it had previously come undone (twice?) all by itself.  Now… a new mystery.  Perhaps it is time to call in the security guards?

Oh no! Not another one!

Saturday, March 23rd, 2019

Homecoming Presents for Farmer Nyel

There was a surprise in the north nest box last night and right in time for Nyel’s arrival home.  He’d been gone for three long weeks – hospitalized with a broken hip plus, as a result of inattentive caregivers at St. Vincent’s in Portland, a serious flare up of his CHF (congestive heart failure.)  If anyone needed a surprise from chickendom it was Farmer Nyel.

But… maybe not this one.  It was a “fairy egg” – a teeny-tiny, perfectly formed egg sitting right alongside two other normal-sized eggs which, by comparison, looked gigantic.  This is the second time in our eleven years of backyard chickens that we have been gifted with a fairy egg.  Sounds very special but… not really.  Here’s the scoop from an online source:

Teeny Tiny Bowl for a Teeny Tiny Egg

… also called “wind”, “witch”, “cock” or the fairly crass “fart” eggs, are merely a glitch in the laying process that is fairly common in backyard flocks. Smaller than regular eggs, usually rounder and containing no yolk, these eggs generally occur either very early in a hen’s productive life before her hormones and reproductive cycle are fully formed and working properly – or sometimes very late in a hen’s laying life as her hormone production is winding down. They can also be the result of stress or a disruption of routine.

Well, our hens should be (and have been for several months) at peak production. They are neither too young nor too old, but “just right” as Goldilocks would say.   Also, their routines have not been disrupted except by the absence of Farmer Nyel, and you wouldn’t think it would take three full weeks for that to sink in.  Besides, I had told the entire flock that he would be back yesterday.

No Yolk!

No.  I’m thinking that we have a couple of looney-tune hens.  One of them is still laying her egg outside under the coop each day.  And now, we have the fairy egg-layer.  Maybe she thought this would be a special homecoming treat for the missing Farmer.

In any case, Nyel dutifully opened it to see what it contained.  No yolk.  Just albumen and a dark spot that was unidentifiable.  I really think that the first fairy egg – the empty one – was better.  This one was just weird.  But, like the good chicken farmer that he is, Nyel was appreciative of the effort and expressed hope that her system would straighten itself out soon!  Meanwhile, he had one of the “normal” eggs – poached on toast – for breakfast!  Truly, there’s no place like home!

Egg Hunt on St. Paddy’s Day

Monday, March 18th, 2019

Tucker and Carol

The day I brought Nyel “home” to Ocean Beach Hospital, I called Carol and relieved her of her chicken duties with a gazillion thanks and promises to pick up the squirt gun soon.  Oh — did I mention that I had noticed a little purple package on the piano top, left there during our March 3rd House Concert – a belated birthday present from Stephanie.  Inside – a Rooster Defense Mechanism in the form of a squirt gun!  I had left it with Carol for her protection during her chicken duties while we were gone.

Erik-the-chicken-Godfather

On my first visit to the coop, I found that the Chicken Godfather (that would be Erik) had made a coop-cleaning visit and everything looked wonderfully neat and tidy in Farmer Nyel’s chicken domain. The nest boxes were filled with sweet-smelling cedar-shavings but had yet to be used and, though I glanced around the run when I filled up their water trough, I didn’t see that the girls had left any eggs out and about.  (They do that sometimes, either in protest to a change inside the coop, or just to be wild and crazy.  It’s hard to tell with chickens…)

On reflection, I think I must have been egg-blind or under some sort of hen hypnosis because on my next visit (which was yesterday morning) … eight, count ’em, eight eggs!  When you have only five laying hens, that is an impossible number, even within a 24-hour period, never mind twelve!

Only one of those eggs was in a nest box.  Four were spaced out along the fence line inside the run.  One was on the floor of the coop.  And, for a few seconds, I thought those six eggs were the total – still at least one egg too many unless I had missed seeing that one on the coop floor the day previously.  Possible, but I’m pretty sure I had looked…

Under The Coop

I was just about to open the coop door when I said to myself, “Self,” I said, “maybe you’d better look under the coop building.  If there are six, there could be more!”  And, sure enough, way over in one corner was a lovely, light brown egg.  Difficult to reach unless I bellied under.  So, I left the chickens closed in and went to fetch the bamboo garden rake.

It worked like a charm and the egg went into my bucket with the other five dirt-encrusted eggs (and the single pristine one by whoever braved the new nest box shavings.)  Only as I was headed out did my eye catch yet another egg way under the coop.  Eight in all!!  That must have been two days’ worth but how could I have missed them?  Chalk it up to another of life’s little mysteries.

The Home Stretch

Friday, March 15th, 2019

Daffodils on Bay Avenue

What a difference a day makes!

Bright and early yesterday morning, after eleven days away from home, I headed for the beach to take care of a few necessities on the Homefront.  Like finally receiving delivery of our new, back-ordered-for-three-months stove and keeping an appointment or two of my own.  Nyel had given me a list of things to do and get for him, as well, and besides all that… we both felt that I had done all I could to get his care situation turned around.  It’s not that we had given up hope exactly… but we felt it might be time to let some dust settle on the hospital front.

My drive was uneventful weather and traffic-wise.  Until the home stretch!  I had stopped for a moment at the Ocean Park Library to pick up a book waiting for Nyel and then headed east on Bay Avenue, curious to see if Tom Downer’s daffodils were up and blooming.  Were they ever!  Hundreds of cheerful yellow blossoms filled the verge from Eric’s gallery to the Charles Nelson House at the corner of Bay and Sandridge.  Talk about a glorious welcome back to the beach!  OMG!

Better Than The Yellow Brick Road!

I arrived home about noon-thirty and called Nyel to see how it was going!  He hadn’t sounded so cheerful since my birthday night before TBH (The Broken Hip.)  Apparently, no sooner had I left but “everybody and his brother” – hospitalist, cardiologist, the orthopedic team, his current nurse, etc. etc. – crowded into his room.  No one called it the “Care Team Conference” (that we had been advocating for since Monday) but, that was what it seemed to be.  Everyone weighed into his progress, pro and con, and what the next steps should be!   YAY!

The decision was made to get him onto oral diuretics so he can be transferred to a rehab situation – maybe as early as today!!!  No sooner had they left than Nyel got a couple of phone calls – one from his cardiologist’s assistant in Seattle saying that his doctor was again offering to oversee his recovery (the heart aspects) long distance and, hard on the heels of that, a call from our Primary Caregiver in Ilwaco who said he would be comfortable working with the cardiologist and managing things from this end.  So… it looks as though Nyel might still wind up in rehab at the Ocean Beach Hospital in Ilwaco!  Double Yay!

The Rose City Mixed Quartet

About that time, the Rose City Mixed Quartet arrived to serenade Nyel (!!!) and the Physical Therapist who happened to be working with him right then (and who also belongs to a singing group in Portland) joined in on the madrigal “Paul and His Chickens.”  (Nyel said, “She later told me that it had been the BEST day of her entire working career!”)

When I checked back with Nyel in the evening, he said that the day just kept getting better and better.  Sue and Bill stopped by in the afternoon and stayed for a couple of hours.  “You have to share that chocolate,” I told him.  “How did you know they brought some?” he laughed.  “I know Sue and Bill…” was my response.

Waiting for Farmer Nyel

We realize that things can change in a trice, but we are both feeling so much more hopeful now than we were twenty-four hours ago.  “What do you think caused all the turn-arounds with the St. V’s people?” I asked Nyel.  “I haven’t a clue,” was his response.  As usual, they didn’t explain themselves and Nyel didn’t feel he had much part of the decision-making process.  But… that entire concern is moot for the moment.  I’m heading back to Portland and hope to return with the ever-patient patient before too many more clucks and cock-a-doodle-dos from Farmer Nyel’s flock.

Oh yes… the stove couldn’t be installed yesterday – they brought the wrong connecting parts…  But even that didn’t mar the joyous thought that things are finally turning around for Nyel.  And did I say that neighbors Carol and Tucker had me over for the best dinner I’ve had in since February 28th?  It really was a day to hold in my heart!

Birthday Bash and Late Night Crash!

Tuesday, March 5th, 2019

Sydney’s Birthday Dinner

On balance… but that was part of the trouble.  My birthday began well enough.  Almost.  It was to be the Christmas we were unable to have with Charlie and Marta but only Charlie could come.  Still, Nyel made reservations at the Bridgewater Bistro, Cate filled in for Marta,and we met Patty and Noel for a marvelous dinner with visiting by Tony and Ann thrown in.  And Dave Drury and his trio played Happy Birthday!  To Me!

Andrew Emlen of the Skamokawa Swamp Opera

We got home about nine – pitchy black outside.  Nyel took the flashlight and went to check on the chickens.  It seemed to be taking him a long time.  I looked out the east window and could see his light but it wasn’t moving.  Just then my phone rang.  “I’ve fallen.  I think I broke my hip.”  I called 911.  Charlie grabbed blankets.  (It was below freezing but, fortunately, the grass where he had fallen was fairly dry.) Aid Car.  Ocean Beach Hospital ER.  X-rays.  Bad break. Yes, hip.

Charlie Visits Nyel at St. Vincents

Nyel was ambulanced to St. Vincent’s in Portland where he had surgery on Friday morning. Blood pressure plummeted.  Much concern.  Charlie and I feeling helpless at the hospital.  Sunday, no improvement.  Charlie and I went home to host an SRO House Concert for the Skamokawa Swamp Opera. (Fabulous!) Phone calls to the hospital before, during, after.  No improvement.  Transfusions.

One Step at a Time

Monday Charlie and I caravanned into Portland.  Nyel feeling lousy but sitting up and actually walking ever-so-slowly with a walker.  I am staying until he is ready to go home; Charlie said his goodbyes and back to L.A.  “I think we have to stop celebrating Christmas – no matter what time of year it is,” he said.  And we both remembered Christmas of 2016 when Nyel went into congestive heart failure and this merry minuet of hospital stays began.

Damn!  Damn!  Damn! This gentlest of gentlemen has had way more than his share.  We’d gladly give up Christmases and Birthdays, too, for Nyel’s good health.

The Cuzzins Come Calling!

Friday, February 22nd, 2019

Cheryl

It’s one of those “just like yesterday” visits, yet we think it’s been two years since Cheryl and Virg have been here.  We were SO pleased when they responded to our “it’s been a long, long time” invitation and said they’d be able to come for a two-night stay!

As usual, they arrived laden – with gifts (two painted rock chickens by Cheryl, and a matching oven mitt and two bright red kitchen towels!) and food.  It’s not that we won’t feed them – it’s just what they do.  They bring all the makings for the first night’s dinner and Virg barbecues (steaks!) while Cheryl does the trimmings in the kitchen.  Our job is to eat and enjoy!

Cheryl is my cousin on the Espy side and, now that Willard has gone on to meet the ancestors in person, Cheryl’s brother Ralph is our family genealogist.  He says we are third cousins twice removed…  Mostly, we just think of ourselves as friends – a friendship that began when they lived here at the beach, probably about a mile due west from us.  They moved away in 2009 and, though they are in Lacy for half of the year, our visits have become more and more infrequent.

However, except for a few bits of “catch up” about family matters and changes on the Peninsula, our transition to the here-and-now from the once-and- was is seamless.  From our perspective, it helps a lot that Cheryl and Virg never seem to age.

Their secret is a totally healthy lifestyle – as far as we can tell.  They exercise.  They eat healthy and sparingly.  (The steak, they pointed out, is a rare treat for them.)  They walk and ride their bikes regularly.  They have well -rounded interests – are musicians, enjoy a place on Lake Chelan in summer with the attendant boating and water skiing, have forested property near Elma that Virg maintains, visit family yearly in Arizona about whom Cheryl records and creates fabulous books.  Really, they are the poster children for retirement years!

And, somehow, they make us feel that we are doing just fine, too. When they leave us on Saturday, I’m pretty sure I won’t feel guilty that I don’t do all those healthy lifestyle things.  I’ll just be ever-grateful that I know people who do and… that they are cousins!!  Yay!