Archive for the ‘Backyard Chickens’ Category

And now there are four…

Wednesday, June 12th, 2019

The Black and White Hens, June 3, 2019

Night before last, there were only three girls huddled on the roost when I went down to tuck them in.  It was gloamy out but quite dark in the coop and I couldn’t make out clearly which two were missing.  I thought probably one was the Little Red Hen.  She’s the most adventurous and if anyone was still out on the town I thought for sure it would be she.

Then, yesterday morning, the white hen stood in front of the locked gate to the run.  She seemed full of attitude as in, “What is this?  You locked me out?  I couldn’t very well have left that party early, could I?”  But she was silent as to who she should have brought home with her.

As it turned out, it was one of the black hens — not the LRH, much to my relief.  I know I shouldn’t have favorites, but that red hen does seem to be the leader of the group and is always the one who approaches me first when I go outside.  I think she feels somewhat responsible for her missing friend.  She has seemed distracted — didn’t even dive into the scratch this morning.

LRH Returns After An Adventure

Instead she cluck-clucked at me and led me back into the run where she just stood looking up at me.  “I know,” I told her.  “The black hen should be here somewhere, but she isn’t.”  And, again, the two of us looked under the coop and in every nook and cranny.  To no avail.

On the one hand, I feel totally responsible since the disappearance took place on my watch.  On the other hand, I’m glad that Carol wasn’t on duty.  I’d feel even worse if she felt responsible.  Farmer Nyel tries to console me.  “It’s a chicken, Sydney,” he says.  “Stuff happens,” he says.  “We’ve  lost others, too.  It’s all a part of having chickens.”  I think his attitude is probably quite farmer-like.

All of which I understand.  But still…


Going To Bed With You-Know-Who!

Sunday, June 9th, 2019

I’ve always been an “early to bed, early to rise” kind of person, so “going to bed with the chickens” is not a problem for me.  Ditto “up at the crack of dawn.”   But during these longest days of the year here in the northern climes, our free range chickens are causing me a fair amount of sleep deprivation.

Take today, for instance.  First light is at 4:45 a.m. according to  Sunrise is at 5:23 a.m.  That’s about the time I’m having my first cup of coffee, and even though the chickens are up and stirring in the coop, they don’t really get anxious about door-opening time until 8:00 or 8:30.  By then, they are thirsty and eager to get to their water trough out in the run.  And they are feeling a little peckish about their morning snack.

At the other end of the day, though, they often push the limits.  Although sunset will be at 9:07 tonight, you can bet your basket of eggs that those girls will be out free-ranging in the rhodies until last light at 9:45.  I’ve told them that they are pushing my envelope pretty severely but you know how it is with chickens.  They only listen when they want to.

And speaking of listening — I’ve been noticing that when they hear my voice coming from inside the house (as when I’m talking on the phone) they all gather outside the nearest window to eavesdrop.  If I’m in the dining room, they come up on the front porch and gather under the dining room windows.  When I’m in the library, they scrunch under the hydrangea and cock their heads in an interested sort of way.  I wonder what’s going on in their little gray cells.

When the hummingbirds chase us from window to window around the house, we know that their feeder is empty.  I suspect when the chickens appear to be eavesdropping, they are hopeful that I’m about to bring them some scratch.  Even if it’s last light, I know for a fact that they aren’t signalling lock-down time.

No doubt afternoon naps are the answer to my lack of sleep problem, but I’m resisting them as firmly as I did when I was three years old.  I knew then and i know now that they are a waste of precious time…  And besides, if your mother is making a chocolate cake and your friend comes over to play, guess who gets to lick the bowl while you are sound asleep!!!


Thinning and Slimming

Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

Baby Apples Galore on June Four!

Today was THE most beautiful of Oysterville mornings so, after I woke up the girls with a few treats, I went on a walk-about to see how our garden grows.  “Luxuriously!” I say.  Mary Mary Quite Contrary has nothing on us!  I was especially amazed at our dwarf apple tree, a Rajka which, supposedly, gives a late summer crop.  But it is bursting at its seams already this year.


The Garden Patrol

Last year it produced a puny crop which Nyel thought should be thinned, anyway.  The result was not many of apples to speak of.  I’ve heard that, left to their own devices, apple trees produce large crops every other year and this must surely be the year!  I’m not exactly sure what will happen without Nyel’s tall stature, long reach, and deft hands to do the necessary choosing and picking.  He says that they will self-thin to some extent, but I have no idea how that works.  What I do know is that it is difficult to be a one-legged-thinner so this year will begin a No Thinning policy at our house.

Nyel, Reconnecting

As I did my survey of the garden, I was accompanied by four of our five fowl ladies.  (I think the fifth was busy in the nest box.)  They were giving the beds the down-close-and-personal examination.  I doubt that they know (or care) anything much about how the apple crop is coming along.  As for Nyel, though… I will give him a report complete with pictures when I visit him him Seaside later today.  He will probably have some cogent advice for me which I will follow assiduously — as long as it doesn’t involve ladders!

And speaking of thinning… Nyel has lost about 30 pounds since his hip fracture.  His appetite is beginning to come back, finally!  I hope he soon begins making some solid gains!  One hundred fifty-five pounds is just scary for a six-foot-two man!  Of course, he points out that he’s six-two only on his good side — probably about five-ten if he could stand on his other leg.  And that whole concept is even scarier…

It’s Chicken Tetherball Season!

Monday, June 3rd, 2019

The ladies have been laying to beat all records — five hens and five eggs a day for many, many days in a row.  It’s as if they hope a good report to Farmer Nyel will bring him home  more quickly.  Don’t I wish…

He is proud of them, though, and I told them so this morning as I hung up a new regulation tetherball-for-fine-feathered-athletes.  They were on it like the tournament had already started.  If you haven’t seen a game of Chicken Tetherball in the flesh (or feather), you have missed quite a treat.  The ball, of course, is a head of cabbage, and the girls seem to the manner born.  Without any introductory explanations or special encouragement, the  play begins as soon as the referee (that would be me) gets out of the way.  I did tell them that the equipment was according to Farmer Nyel’s specifications and they seemed extraordinarily pleased about that.

The internet is full of suggestions for games for chickens.  Some are complex — like filling a remote toy pickup truck with scratch and then releasing the chickens  to chase after the truckful of treats.  The online video was with turkeys and was hysterical.  They run flat out after that pickup and if you’ve never seen racing turkeys (or chickens) you just haven’t spent enough time on the farm.

However, I’m more inclined to try the spaghetti game.  I haven’t seen this done, but apparently you hang a strand (or many) on the fence and then watch the fun…  I can’t quite imagine what that “fun” is exactly,  but I’m willing to share next time I have a pasta dinner so I can find out.  Whatever transpires is supposed to be hysterical.

Farmer Nyel is more interested in chicken tricks — like getting them to jump through hoops.  Fortunately he has more patience than I and I’m thinking that getting his ladies to do a simple circus act or two might be a pleasant summer pastime for all of them once he gets home.  Stay tuned…


“They told me to take off my wedding ring…”

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

Wedding Ring Amongst The Miscellany

Day 26 — During the time that I was in Oysterville, “they” adjusted Nyel’s pain meds once again.  He had been in misery on Day 24 mostly, we think, because the the nurses are SO inconsistent about giving him his meds on time.  If they are late and he experiences break-through pain, it takes several (on-time) dosages to get him normalized.  Some nurses are timely.  Some are not.

The ones that are not always have excuses — “I was busy with another patient” is the most common and hard to argue with.  My personal favorite (NOT!) is the “He didn’t ask for it so I didn’t think he needed it.”  I think I might have raised my voice just a tad:  “He’s on a scheduled dosage!!!”


In response to that particular go-round, “they” added yet another pain med.  Sometimes the two were being given together.  “No, no, no” said yesterday’s nurse.  You have to wait at least a half hour.  Those drugs are not good together.  Why is he on THAT schedule?”  I think her question was rhetoricaL… but it’s hard to tell with these Providence nurses.

When I walked in this morning Nyel said, “Those people are talking to me again.”  The “people” come to him when he is dozing.  He knows they are not real but, apparently, that doesn’t help matters.  “They told me to take off my wedding ring.”  And so he did.  “It’s right here on the table by my glasses.”  After I retrieved it and put it safely in my purse I asked, “And if they asked you to pull out your IVs, would you??”  “Probably,” was the answer.  YIKES!

Nyel’s White Board

So I ratted him out to Jon, his new nurse-of-the-day.  “He shouldn’t be given these pain two meds together — not even if they are given a half hour or hour separately.  One or the other.  Not both!” and Jon has crossed off one of the pain meds completely.  I didn’t know he could do that without a doctor’s order.  But I actually know very little…

The Tall and The Short Of It

The last time Nyel hallucinated it was in the ICU after his big “clean out the hardware” surgery early this month.  On that occasion he was an amoeba with millions of other amoebae.  They were racing for their lives in a game for which there were no rules.  Nyel said he lost and was then going down a ramp to the next game, also with no rules.  When he told the ICU nurse about it, she said, “Oh yes!  That’s called an ICU delirium and often happens after you’ve had anesthesia.  There have been a lot of studies about them.”  I looked online…  Wish I hadn’t.

As usual, my every instinct is to bust him outta here… where are Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman when we need them?


Chickens and Lilacs and Rhodies, Oh My!

Wednesday, May 8th, 2019


I nipped home yesterday afternoon to get the mail, pay some bills, deliver some book orders and get a change or two of clothes — all those itemss that go on hold when things get dicey.   But Nyel was in a good place — pain under control, appetite returning, and most of those pesky numbers looking better.  So, off I went!

So fragrant!

I was greeted in fine style!  The Jean Maries are out in all their glory — as well as the Mrs. G.W. Leaks.  Our lilacs are lucious and even the fuschias are blooming!  I know they are showing off in hopes that Nyel will come home before their glory days have passed.

Our Front Porch!

But, most amazing of all, was the welcome from all five girls.  No sooner was I in the house, than I heard them on our front porch.  Right up to the front door came the little red hen!  I’m sure they were a bit disappointed to find that it was only me — no Farmer Nyel in sight.  Nevertheless, they stuck around for some scratch and listened attentively to my report of things in the big hospital coop in Portland.

Glorious, Glorious May!

In the evening, after a super dinner at the Wachsmuths’, Carol walked across the street with me to “tuck in the girls.”  They left five beautiful eggs in the nest boxes and rustled around on their perches as we said goodnight.  In true farmer fashion, Carol made a a pouch of her sweater and nestled the eggs in it for her walk home.  How lucky we (and the chickens!) are to have such willing neighbors!!



Tomorrow: Take a chicken to lunch?

Friday, May 3rd, 2019

Official Poster

Tomorrow, May 4,  is International Respect for Chickens Day.  As a matter of fact, the entire month of  May is International Respect for Chickens Month!  Who knew?

This is an annual project launched by United Poultry Concerns in 2005 (how did we miss it??) to celebrate chickens throughout the world and protest the bleakness of their lives in farming operations.  Backyard Chicken Farmers are all for that project if Farmer Nyel is any example.  In fact, Respect for Chickens is what Free Ranging Backyard Chicken proponents are all about.

Says the United Poultry Concerns website: Please do an ACTION for chickens on or around May 4. Ideas include leafleting on a busy street corner, holding an office party or classroom celebration, writing a letter to the editor, doing a radio call-in, tabling at your local church, school or shopping mall, hosting a vegan open house, or simply talking to family, friends or strangers about the plight – and delight – of chickens and how people can help them.

The Well-loved Tetherball

If Farmer Nyel were home,I’m pretty sure his focus would be on the chickens, themselves, rather than on information dissemination.  No doubt he’d be setting up the Chicken Tetherball Court.  Perhaps you remember the cabbage tetherball, first suggested by our Chicken Godfather, Erik Fagerland, and introduced to our girls by Carol Wachsmuth, our neighborly chicken sitter of record.  The girls love it.  In fact, the last time Famer Nyel renewed that head of cabbage, it lasted less than a day!

I definitely think that chicken tetherball would qualify as a “Take Your Chickens to Lunch” activity, completely in line with treating  chickens with respect!  Farmer Nyel is hoping the girls will take a raincheck for now…  He’s working hard on getting home soon and has asked me to put a few heads of cabbage  at the top of my grocery list!  We both have our fingers crossed that the homecoming will happen in May but, if not, we’re sure an extension of such a worthy project would be fine!  After all, who knew?

Giving ‘The Farmer Nyel Report’ To the Girls

Thursday, May 2nd, 2019

Getting The Farmer Nyel Update

Yesterday, I drove home “to take care of a few things” — but mostly, of course to give the girls the first-hand scoop on Farmer Nyel.  He was still in the ICU, but off the ventilator and doing well.  I wanted them to know.

The day was spectacular and our garden was full of color.  If we had been home, I’d have taken Nyel outdoors for a few hours of sunshine and enjoyment.  His apple tree was blooming to beat its record and the Jean Marie Rhodies were coming out in force.  My back-up position, of course, was to take some pictures to show him.

On the Way to the Coop – May 1, 2019

The girls all came out into the run and stood (more-or-less) attentively while I gave them the report on Nyel’s status.  They had a bit of trouble making eye contact with me.  I know the feeling.  When you are concerned, sometimes ‘chastity of the eyes’ makes listening to the news just a bit easier.

I reassured them the best I could — no promises about when he’d be home and a little heads up that it might be a while, even then, before he could resume full coop duties.  But I promised that they could come up to the house to visit — “porch privileges.”

Everything was hunky-dory in the house in spite of it being the site of Sunday’s House Concert.  Between the musician, Wes Weddell, and neighbors Tucker and Carol, you’d never know that several dozen people had attended, eaten dinner, etc without benefit of us.  The furniture had been put back in place, the dishes washed, the carpet vacuumed, — I couldn’t have done better myself.

Our Apple Tree – 5-1-19

I dashed around, taking care of mail, bills, garbage, food in the fridge, phone messages, a dental appointment,etc. all the while checking in periodically to see how Nyel was doing.  Today I’m back here in the ICU where Nyel is how awaiting bed availability on the cardio floor and will be transferred up there — probably today.

Tomorrow a team will remove his pacemaker (which is also ‘infected’ with the MSSA) and he will continue getting physical and occupational therapy.  He says they had him “walking” yesterday and this morning — “Actually, shuffling,” he told me.  “You know… one of my legs is shorter now.”

Yes… I know.   And so do the chickens.  And shuffling is just fine with all of us!  However, whenever, wherever Farmer Nyel gets around, we’re hoping that it happens soon… in Oysterville!

Looking for A Hen Named Joe

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019

We may have a case of cannibalism going on in the coop.  Either that or an egg-sucker of the four-legged variety.  The ladies aren’t talking and didn’t take kindly to appearing in a lineup.  Short of seeing tell-tale signs of egg yolk on someone’s beak or catching a hen in the act, I am feeling frustrated.

I am reminded of the James Swan story about one of John W. Champ’s first cases as Justice of the Peace in Bruceport.  A man named Joe had been caught in the act of stealing a pair of boots and was also suspected of setting Captain Hillyer’s boat adrift.  Joe admitted to the incident of the boots but maintained that he knew nothing of the boat.  He was locked up in Champ’s hen house until the matter could be straightened out.  When it was found that Old Toke has ‘borrowed’ the boat, Champ went to release Joe from the coop only to find him quietly “engaged in sucking eggs.”

If we find our culprit, I’m calling her Joe – mostly because that’s the only egg-sucker I’ve ever heard about.  Of course, I haven’t a lot of hope of finding out which one she is.  It’s not like there is a breathalyzer test available and I’m not looking forward to putting myself on surveillance duty on the off-chance that I’ll catch the cannibal hen in the act.

Nyel and I discussed the problem over our morning coffee.  I’ve decided to check the coop more frequently during the day and try to remove the eggs as soon as I find them – not wait to gather them all in the evening as is usual.  Last night it was actually dark enough to warrant a flashlight when I checked the nest boxes.  Five beautiful eggs!  I was thrilled.  But as I gathered them, one was suspiciously light weight.  It wasn’t until I got into the house and took a good look that I saw the tell-tale hole at one end.

If the problem happens again, I think I will need to isolate each hen, one at a time, to see if I can find the naughty one.  If I do, she will have to go… The problem with egg-sucking in the henhouse is that it is catching – or so say the experts.  If I can nip this in the bud, perhaps the four others can be saved. If not…

I hate for this to happen on my watch.  Was it something I did?  I am distraught…

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.