Archive for the ‘Backyard Chickens’ Category

Chickens in the Rain

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019

Downspout At Work

I heard the gurgling and dripping as soon as I surfaced this morning.  Way before it was light enough to see the rain, I knew it was coming down pretty steadily.  As welcome as it is (aren’t we way behind our yearly average?) I don’t look forward to slogging down to the chickens.

Back from a Rainy-Day Visit

Not because of the slogging, mind you.  It’s just that the chickens are so damned complacent about the rain.  About almost everything, really.  They simply take life as it comes — always excited to see me with treats, always eager to explore the garden, never adverse to finding a way to get beyond the fence.  Sunshine or rain, it matters not.  Even snow, after a little clucking and foot-shaking, is taken in stride… so to speak.

Sydney in Yellow Rain Hat

We chicken farmers could learn a lot from our coop tenants when it comes to attitude and equanimity.  I think the words to live by are “don’t borrow trouble.”  My mother used to tell me that when I would get to stewing about the might-happens.  I never could reconcile that thought with “plan for the worst” which was another momism — though to be fair, it was usually paired with “hope for the best.”

Well, wouldn’t you know… the gurgling in the downspouts has stopped.  Maybe the slogging will be minimal, after all.  One way or another, those chickens will be happy to see me… and their morning treats!

Another Mystery In the Coop

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019

Wind-proof Latch

The gate into our side yard (where the cannon lives in the good-weather months) was wide open yesterday when we returned from erranding.  I’d like to say that’s  not an unusual occurrence and lately that’s been true.  But there was a time, when it happened all too often.  Mostly on weekends.

Nyel thought that it was blowing open (mostly on weekends?) and so Tucker replaced the latch (which is on the inside) and adjusted the gate props that keep it closed.  Still… once in a while it is somehow opened and, with free range chickens, it is worrisome.

We know it wasn’t anyone trying to get a better look at the cannon.  It’s put away for the winter these days. It could have been the propane guy but, until we get the bill, we have no way of knowing if he was here.  It could have been kids, but as far as I know, there were none in town yesterday.  Another one of life’s little mysteries…

Open Coop Gate

A little later when I went down to the coop at dusk, the coop gate was closed and the chickens were clucking and clacking outside it — wanting to get into the coop to roost for the night.  Four chickens.  One missing.  Slutvana!   I called and called, even after the others were snugged in for the night.  No Slutvana.

“The coop gate could have blown shut,” Nyel said.  Yes, maybe.  But it seems odd that the garden gate was open and the coop gate was shut, both on the same day. My own clucking and worrying was rewarded today with the sight of Slutvana joining the others for morning snacks.

I should say trying to join the others.  They were all huffy toward her — did not let her near the treats.  They seemed to be scolding her for not waiting patiently with them at the coop gate.  And for staying out all night.  I wonder if she has learned a lesson?  I know I have.  I’m propping that gate open from now on.  With a heavy cement block.

Confusion and Consternation in the Coop

Monday, November 11th, 2019

Beg Red Wanting Out Into The Garden

Yesterday, I opened the gate between the new chickens and the three old biddies. Not old in the age-sense, mind you.  Just in the proprietorial sense.  The co-mingling didn’t go perfectly but, on the other hand, no serious disagreements occurred.  Mostly, I think, because of the intimidation factor.

The three small hens were wary.  They approached the scratch that I threw out to all of them on tiptoes (tipclaws just sounds wrong) and scuttled off quickly when the big chickens let them know that they weren’t really invited to share.  I had brought out some meal worms for the new couple, following the example of their former farmer, and enticed them away from the scratch by some deft hand-feeding.  To be fair, I did offer some meal worms to the little (not in the sense of young; purely a size thing) ones,but they were having none of it.  Must be an acquired taste.

By the time I headed out the gate, Big Red had made his move toward each of the little ladies, but without success.  They scuttled out of his way with a considerable amount of clucking and scolding.  I’m sure I heard, “I’m just not that kind of girl.” And “I hardly know you, you dumbcluck!”

Little Red Hen All By herself

Interestingly, I’ve never seen Big Red approach his large lady friend with any amorous intent.  When I mentioned that to Farmer Nyel he looked at me with total amazement.  “That would be incestuous!” he said.  “She’s his sister!”  Sometimes I wonder about that man…

It is the big new hen who seems to be the most snarky one of the new, combined flock.  When Snowhite approached the water trough, Ms. Large Lady scolded and blocked her way.  This morning I noticed that Snowhite has retaliated and had taken up a position in the doorway of the coop, clucking and scolding and saying very clearly, “Mine!  All mine!  Keep out!”

It isn’t clear to me whether the new chickens have actually been allowed inside the coop at all yet.  They spent last night huddled in the little broody shed and, though they seem to be ruling the run, so to speak, I think the little hens are ruling the roost.

Having A Spa Day

Oh and did I say that our old Little Red Hen darted out the gate right along with me this morning?  No way would she be enticed back into the run.  I’m planning to do some lawn fertilizing today and don’t want the flock inadvertently sampling any of it so I’ve left them inside the run — all except for that recalcitrant Little Red.  Later, though, I spied her having a dust bath over by the north rhodies.  Leave it to her to turn her escape into a spa day!

When I worried about detente in the coop, Farmer Nyel soothed, “It’ll sort itself out.”  We can but hope.

So far so good. We can but hope.

Thursday, November 7th, 2019

Big Red — Still a Teenager

His wake-up call came right at first light.  Six-thirty.  An hour and a half late for us at this time of year but nice to know that the new rooster is on the job from day one.  His cock-a-doodle-do is yet a little uncertain in the middle, but he’s working on it.  Quite a bit.

Farmer Nyel and I had spent yesterday down at the coop getting ready for the new residents.  Nyel built the coop during the summer of 2008 and made a separate area a few years later to serve as a Broody House and Pen.  Right now I’m thinking of it as the Honeymoon Suite since it’s housing both the new rooster and his pullet lady friend.  Both have accepted their new quarters gracefully, although they hang out by the chicken-wire fencing that keeps them separate from our three older ladies.

Waiting for Morning Treats

For their part, Slutvana, Snow White, and the Little Red Hen have been quite curious about the newcomers.  Especially Snow White.  She appears to be rather aggressive in her “welcome” — going right up to the fence and clucking furiously.  I hadn’t thought so before, but she may well have become the alpha hen of the group once we took the last rooster to the Chehalis Poultry Auction in the spring.

Little Red is less forceful but also very interested.  We wondered if she would recognize the newcomers as relatives (or vice versa) but, so far, the fact that they are all Rhode Island Reds doesn’t seem to be a factor in the getting acquainted game.  Perhaps it is because the new girl is twice as large as she is and the rooster is even bigger still.  Could it be that Little Red doesn’t recognize that they are cousins?

As for Slutvana — she approached the fence, looked over the new couple and left for a day in the garden.  I could almost her her disdain.  She is, of course, the one that none of our previous boys could leave alone.  She definitely has that special something that makes her the most desirable girl in the coop and she appears to know it.  When Big Red (Nyel says that is his name) is finally allowed to co-mingle, we will see if Slutvana’s charms are holding.  If all goes well, we think the big co-mingling day will be next Monday.

The new Rhode Island Red hen

And as for me and Big Red.  So far so good.  He welcomed me into the Honeymoon Suite this morning and ate meal worms right out of my hand.  He was gentle and polite although he didn’t let his suite-mate have any.  Neither of us argued with him, but I was able to slip her a few goodies on my way out.

Thus far… a good beginning.

Another Rooster? Please God, No!!!

Wednesday, November 6th, 2019

The last time we took a mean rooster to the Poultry Auction in Chehalis we both said, “Never again!”  So why, you might ask, is it that a young rooster is coming to join our flock today at three o’clock?  Why indeed?

It started five or six months ago with a conversation with our friend Nancy Allen.  Nancy has had chickens — hens only — for several years now.  I’m always interested (and gobsmacked) by her chicken stories — five snacks a day including cottage cheese and meal worms, baby chicks roaming her kitchen etc. Her chicken philosophy is the polar opposite of Farmer Nyel’s.  I find her chickens-as-pets approach fascinating and appalling at the same time.

So when she called to say that she had acquired four Rhode Island Red chicks but Phil said she could only keep two and she offered the other two to us, I was reluctant.  For starters, since Nyel has become incapacitated mobility-wise,  I now have 100% care of our little flock.  I am not an enthusiastic farmer, chicken or otherwise, and I find the daily coop duties more than I can handle.  In my mind, the philosophy around here is “attrition is good.”  Getting two more girls and coddled ones at that did not have much appeal.

Beautiful but Mean

But… Farmer Nyel looked at me with big eyes and… we said, “okay.”  Nancy said she’d like to wait until the hens were laying successfully so it would be a few months.  We said, “okay.”   But a month or six weeks ago, Nancy called to say that one of the hens was quite a bit larger than the others and she was suspicious.  “No roosters!” I said.   “Well, we’ll watch her and see…” was the response.  Last week the word was, “He’s definitely a rooster.  He’s begun to crow.  But he’s very sweet…”  “No roosters!” said I.

Nancy was persistent.  “He’s very very well behaved,” she said.  “Not at all aggressive.  Won’t you come and meet him and see for yourself?”  Meanwhile… Farmer Nyel was looking at me with big eyes.  So… I went to meet Mr. Rooster yesterday and learned that 1) Nancy wanted to bring him to Oysterville that very afternoon and 2) that the hens were not laying yet so it would be a while before the hen could join our flock.  “Laying those first few eggs can be traumatic,” Nancy said.  Gobsmacked, I said nothing.

We finally agreed that the rooster would come at three o’clock this afternoon but only if accompanied by one of the hens.  “Could we fix up the coop so they can see the others but be separate from them for a while?  They say that’s the best way to introduce new members to the flock…”  I said I’d see what we could do.  I didn’t mention that the last time we did the slow (five day) introduction trick, one of the new hens was pecked to death the first day of togetherness.  My hope is that the Mr. Rooster will protect his lady friend…

But the greater hope is that there will be no pecking at others at all — especially at me.  I do not have a good history with roosters.  And I don’t have a Plan B.  Stay tuned…



Be still my heart! It’s only the deer people!

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019

It was sorta like this only pouring and foggy….

Yesterday was long and hard.  We left Oysterville at 9:00 a.m. and got home at ten to ten p.m.  Me driving up and back to the U.W. Medical Center where Nyel had a couple of appointments — sorta routine, sorta not, good reports for both.

It was gray and rainy and, for part of the way up and back, so foggy that our cruise control stopped working.  No biggie, but rather disconcerting to be traveling along at 65 mph in heavy traffic and to suddenly realize that your car is slowing to a gradual crawl.  Thank goodness the drivers behind me weren’t the road rage types.

By the time we got Nyel and his wheelchair home and into the house, I was more than ready to go-directly-to-bed-without-any-supper.  But, Nyel was hungry and offered to make burgers.  And then he mentioned softly “and maybe you could check on the chickens.”

You had to be there…

“Please God, no!” I thought.  It was pitchy black, wetter than wet, and even the good flashlight that Tucker gave us last winter hardly made a dent in the dark.  The night was just plain thick.  I shrugged my coat back on, turned on the east porch light, and stepped out into the yard.  Two steps and I knew I wasn’t alone!  I shone the flashlight’s beam a bit to the right and there was a HUGE shape, motionless, looking at me with big eyes.  And a big rack.  No!  Not just ONE huge shape!  TWO huge shapes and ONE smaller shape!

Was I actually backing up the porch steps?  “It’s only a deer family,” I told myself.  “Having a lie-down and chewing their cuds,” I told myself.  I stopped at the door just long enough to take a picture.  It didn’t phase the family and didn’t register noticeably on my camera — just a couple of reflections from a couple of eyes.  Damn!

Even though I knew it was silly, I did not go out to check on the chickens.  After all, if Bambi and his parents are out there, who else might be lurking nearby?  And maybe not so disinterested in me and my yellow rain hat as were the gentle deer people?  I said a silent “Sorry!” to the girls and hoped that Rocky Raccoon wasn’t reconnoitering.  Ditto the coyotes.

Nest Box This Morning

Nyel didn’t chide me and the chickens were fine.  They even had an egg ready for me early this morning.  As for the deer people — only a calling card or two left behind.  Proof enough that I wasn’t hallucinating…

Oh no! Not you, too?

Monday, October 21st, 2019

Looking Suspiciously Tatty

Just when Slutvana, the Russian Orloff is looking back to “normal” and Snowhite, the all-white-mystery-hen, is halfway to feathered out… our pretty Little Red Hen has begun to molt.  Big Time!  I thought she was going to escape the molting season unscathed, but no such luck. So… despite Slutvana’s regrowth (she never was that attractive), we have a motley looking group down in the coop

They say that appearances aren’t everything.  I’m not so sure with chickens.  Granted, the egg production is more important but, so far, even the molty ones haven’t quit laying entirely.  We have been getting one or two eggs a day throughout the feather renewal process and, for the two of us that’s plenty with some to spare.

Snowhite’s Online Twin

Once again, our girls seem to dance to their own drummers.  According to Nutrena’s website:  During molt, chickens typically stop laying eggs and use this time to build up their nutrient reserves. Even though they are not laying, it is critical that your chickens have a high quality diet during this time.  Of course, Nutrena is in the business of selling poultry food, so they may be biased about molting.  And since our girls are fairly reluctant readers… they don’t know the difference.

I worry a little that it has turned cold and wet outside and the girls’ outer wear is definitely tatty.  They don’t seem to notice, though.  They march around the garden as proudly as ever.  There’s no doubt a lesson to be learned there.  But I remain unconvinced that appearances are not everything.


Waiting for Wednesday

Friday, October 4th, 2019

Nyel on the Move

Day before yesterday it was sunny in the afternoon here in Oysterville.  It was a Wednesday.  Yesterday it rained.  Today it is raining.  And the forecast says it will be raining until next Wednesday.

We are waiting for the sun breaks, whether they only come on Wednesdays or not.  That’s when Nyel can go outside and commune with his chickens and other garden denizens.  He could probably get outside on rainy days, too, although his “all terrain” wheelchair is electric and getting it wet is not recommended.   Not that communing with wet  chickens sounds particularly appealing, anyway.

When Nyel headed outside with his book  Wednesday, his plan was to sit in the sun and read.  He invited me to join him in the south garden and so out we went.  We were only halfway there when the girls spied us and trailed along behind.  Shyly.  We think the wheelchair is a little overwhelming for them, but they made it clear that they wanted to say “hello” to Farmer Nyel.

Farmer Nyel and His Girls

We thought an offering of food might help — chickens can’t resist a tasty morsel or two — so I went to get the can of scratch.  Sure enough, as soon a Nyel rattled it, all their shyness evaporated and they were eating out of his hand in no time.

Next Wednesday maybe he’ll see if one or two of them would like to ride around the yard with him.  It will make quite a picture, don’t you think?  “Man in Wheelchair with Chickens” we’ll call the portrait.  Could be one of a kind!

By fools like me…

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019

Box Top at Adelaide’s

You’ve probably noticed — Poetry is having a huge resurgence right now.  According to the National Endowment for the Arts, the share of adults in the United States reading poetry grew 76 per cent between 2012 and 2017.  Last year, the numbers doubled again!

And, it seems, our Peninsula is right in the thick of things.  Tony Pfannenstiel and Steve Kovach, both of whom I’ve met only recently, are among the movers and shakers who are encouraging poetry appreciation by establishing Poetry Boxes here at the beach.  The first went in at Adelaide’s a few weeks ago and one went up at the Ocean Park Timberland Library last weekend.  Other locations that I know of are at Bay Avenue Gallery, at Abaracci Coffee Bar in Long Beach and at the Norcross-Renner’s out on Stackpole Road.  Wow!

Poetry Box at the Library

Too, Peninsula poets have been sharing their works — not only by postings in the boxes, but by gathering to read in various venues.  Even I have been asked to read my poetry!  Say what?  I was astounded — mostly because poetry is SO intimidating to me.  I think my poetry-shyness began in the ’50s when the big pastime of some of my more intellectual college mates was to go to City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco and schmooze with the beat poets and wannabes.

As I recall, I got the idea during those sessions that nothing should rhyme, that the thoughts expressed had to be deep, and that a poem was successful only if it elicited hours of discussion interspersed with long silences.  It was all totally intimidating and, though there are some poems and poets I like very much and maybe even understand, I am loathe to hop in, myself.


So when Tony asked me to read at a wordfest to be held on Veteran’s Day at the Port of Nahcotta, I asked if I couldn’t read prose instead of poetry.  Even “prose” sounds pretty serious to me.  I’ll probably be reading some of my chicken blogs.  No long discussions or profound silences required.  Just some polite clucking, please.



Which season is it, anyway?

Sunday, September 29th, 2019

Really?? An apple blossom in autumn?

Today’s blossoms on our apple tree say clearly that it’s summer.  The lawn chairs with legs akimbo say the winds of autumn have arrived.  The flagpole sans flags announce that winter storms are expected.

I think the chairs win!  The calendar says September 29th — the sixth day of autumn, 2019.  I’d forgotten (if ever I knew) that Our Grand Affair was on the last day of summer.  It was definitely a day that telegraphed “Autumn On Its Way” and here we are, a week later, with all the signs pointing toward Halloween and Thanksgiving.

The morning after a windy night!

Except for that one, lonely apple blossom.  I wonder if it will become an apple…  I haven’t seen any bees in the garden for a while so I’m not hopeful.  Nor do I expect any long, sunny days which I also think are necessary for the fruit-setting to occur.  Maybe Larkin will weigh in with a thought on the subject.  I remember long ago when I had a fruit tree question, Larkin had a great deal more information for me than all the internet sites put together.

Lonely Flagpole

Yesterday, Nyel and I spent a few hours outside in the sun — me puttering and deadheading, Nyel  giving occasional advice and dozing over his book.  Now that he is able to be outside, it seems wrong for the season to change so quickly.  Come to think of it, maybe THAT”S why the apple tree is blooming — to welcome Farmer Nyel back to the garden.

The girls, on the other hand, seemed very shy.  But then, you never know about chickens… social one day, uppity the next.  Maybe they were just embarrassed about their featherless, molting condition which Nyel did, indeed, notice — even from afar.  He was sympathetic, mostly.  But I did hear him mutter, “Dumb time of year to molt,” though he knows full well they are right on schedule.  What was Mother Nature thinking, anyway, when she decreed that molting should occur when the days grow shorter?