Archive for the ‘Backyard Chickens’ Category

Game On! But which one? And when?

Saturday, November 21st, 2020

Tetherball for the Girls

No wind, No rain.  Cold, crisp, blue skies!  “Perfect for an outside tetherball tournament!” said Farmer Nyel,

So he sent me out to the chickens armed with a big fresh cabbage and I dutifully attached it to the tetherball rope in the chicken run.  The girls watched from afar, but didn’t seem inclined to choose up sides.  Not just yet, anyway.

I figured they might want to get their team strategies worked out in private, so I left them to it.  After all, it’s been a while since they’ve had a new tetherball installed.  The last one was sometime last summer and only lasted a day.  (And how’s that for a lot of lasts?)  On that occasion, there was only one tired cabbage leaf left hanging on the rope by the time I tucked those girls in for the night.

Playing Hide-and-Seek

Before I left, Clara (or was it IdaMae?) came over to check out the new development and I reminded her that for optimum fun, she might want to ask another girl to have a go with her.  She was non-committal so I left her to it.

I went back an hour or so later to see how it was going.  It wasn’t.  And there was no sign of the girls.  Even though I tried to lure them with the promise of treats, they were staying well hidden (except for their bare feet) back under the cypress tree.  I think they might be confusing Hide-and-Seek with Tetherball.  It’s hard to tell with chickens…

Are the girls learning yet another language?

Thursday, November 19th, 2020

Lake Little, 11-19-20

Now that the tide has decided to stay within its normal boundaries and not wander around while high, Lake Little has also resumed it’s usual winter size.  Granted, it fluctuates with the amount of rain we must all endure, but it seems to call out to the waterfowl, “Come on in!  It’s a good day for ducks.”  And come they do.

I wish my duck I.D.-ing skills were better.  All I can say about who is visiting right now is that there seem to be quite a variety and they are LOUD!  Loud and busy.  I imagine they are talking to one another, mostly, but I’ve noticed these last few mornings that our chickens seem to be trying to get into the conversation.

Lake Little 11-17-20

Truly!  Amidst their usual clucking and squawking, I’m hearing  the chickens chatter with sounds suspiciously like quacking.  Plus they seem to wait for responses from the gaggle on the lake.  I’m thinking that now that they’ve mastered a little human speak (they have been quite receptive to my constant demands for “Egg! Egg!”) they are branching out.

I should point out that the above reference should read “raft on the lake” rather than “gaggle on the lake.”  Geese gather in gaggles and I have not yet seen any geese on Lake Little this year.  Ducks gather in rafts, apparently, but when talking about how noisy they are, “gaggle” seems louder than “raft.”  Maybe I should just referto them as a “gabble  on  the lake”…

Little Red Hen Listening to the Ducks

But I digress.  I just wanted to let everyone know that the girls in the coop seem to be in favor of virtual learning.  At least, I’ve never seen them actually approach the pond for up close instruction in duck dialects.  Nevertheless, I think they are getting the hang of it.  You never can tell with chickens…

Chicken Tales of Pacific County

Friday, November 6th, 2020

Sou’wester, Spring 1966

When I become curious about a part of Pacific County history, my first go-to place for information is the Sou-wester — quarterly magazine of the Pacific County Historical Society.  This morning, after taking breakfast to our girls, I got to wondering about what their ancestors might have been up to.  And so, I did a little searching.

From the very first Souwester in Spring 1966:
Tideland Chickens
Rev. Wolfe of the Raymond Methodist Church has solved the problem of raising chickens on the tidelands. He has just completed a floating house for his chickens which insures a safe, dry place for them when the tide is high, while at low water they can feed outside. Rev. Wolfe did not say whether or not he had supplied his flock with tide tables.  (Raymond newspaper in 1908)

In the second issue, Summer 1966, Charlie Nelson wrote about his folks who were married in Oysterville in 1873:
In those days there was no shortage of food for every family put up a barrel or two each of beef and salmon. Many also kept cows, pigs, chickens and raised good gardens. Needless to say there was always plenty of shellfish for the taking.

Amelia Aubicon Petit (1830-1924)

The very next issue told of the Amable Petit family who arrived in Chinookville on the 8th of September 1866, in a two-masted schooner which none of those aboard knew how to sail against the wind; hence, they moved only with the out-going tide or when the wind favored them. Much of the time they were anchored or tied up to the bank waiting for the tide to turn.  It took them over a month to make the trip from Portland to Chinookville.
When anchored near a farm, someone often came out to the schooner to ask what they were peddling! But they bought food from the farmers living along the river, in one place corn, in another chickens, fruits, and other products.

In the Winter 1988 issue were “Some Stories of the Howard Family”  by Mrs. Neva (Howard) Roberts who was born on a farm in Brooklyn, Pacific County on November 16, 1897.
Early in September 1902, after a period of drought, there came a day of very low humidity and the sun failed to rise, or so it seemed. In Montesano, I have been told, people went about with lanterns and many were scared that it was the ‘End of the World.’ The cows came to the barn in midmorning and the chickens went to roost. The dogs barked and the sky was completely dark. Father said he didn’t think it was the End of the World, but probably a bad forest-fire.

Little Red Hen, a good listener

And, from “The Life and Times of Ned Needham (1902-1995)”  in the  Spring 2000 Sou’wester:
Growing Up around Oysterville and Nahcotta
We moved from the Nasel in March, 1908, by barge with two cows, a horse, and  flock of chickens to 24- acres between Nahcotta and Oysterville. Why my folks bought this place I will never know, since there was no way you could make a living of it.
As an addendum to his article, the 94-year-old author wrote: One piece of advice: if you have read this, don’t wait until you are as old as I am before you write your own history, for your memory and spelling will not be as good as it was when you were younger. Of course old age is a good excuse for all your shortcomings.

I say “Amen!” to that.  I plan to tell these stories to the girls later on today — maybe when I go to tuck them in tonight.  I wonder what they’ll think of them.  You never can tell with chickens…

Midst Fire and Ash: Blessings and Bounty!

Tuesday, September 15th, 2020

Tomatoes from Harry and Linda

It’s not that Harry Schleef didn’t have plenty of other things on his mind.  He and Linda, with the help of grandson Evan, had managed to get their animals (horses, donkeys, llamas) out of their Level Two Oregon Fire environment to safety.  He had seen Evan and Linda on their way to Oysterville with six cats and two dogs and was staying at home to keep an eye on things… just in case.  You’d think he might want to take a breather — a figurative one, anyway.  Air Quality was hardly conducive to a literal one.

But no.  Harry’s tomatoes were ready to be harvested.  He delivered forty pounds to neighbors and when the fire danger was downgraded to Level One, he headed to the beach with more tomatoes for Linda.  It was a quick turn-around to get Evan who needed to begin school yesterday.  And besides, the winds could shift.

Nyel’s Travel Wheelchair

“Too many tomatoes for me,” Linda said when she called.  “Do you want some?”  Heavens, yes!  But… what a mixture of feelings went with the acceptance.  It was Harry and Linda who gave us Nyel’s first wheelchair — the collapsible one we now depend on when we travel to the doctor’s or to any destination where Nyel has to get out of the car and be mobile.  Little did any of us know that it was to be a lifetime necessity.  But they won’t hear of us returning it or even reimbursing them for it.  That’s just the way they are!  And now, when their whole world is threatened beyond comprehension, they are distributing tomatoes!!!

Special Delivery at the Coop – 9/14/20

Meanwhile, our recalcitrant chickens gave us THREE (count ’em… one! two! three!) eggs yesterday!  They seemed very nonchalant about it but I do believe that they have finally mastered the word “EGG!”  When I thanked them and held up their lovely creations I almost heard them cluck “your welcome.”  Surely, it wasn’t my imagination.


Through Thick And Thin With Chickens

Sunday, September 13th, 2020

Not So Long Ago

It can’t be said too clearly or too often — you never can tell with chickens.  Take this smokey 209 air quality index number that we are enduring in Oysterville, for instance.  There have been few complaints from our girls.  In fact, that may be the only sign that they are under stress.  They are definitely more subdued than normal.

But, there is no wheezing or other sign of breathing difficulties.  Nor have they laid any eggs for a few days, despite the fact that our “EGG! EGG! EGG!” lessons have continued despite the air quality.  But since this lack-of-laying syndrome is not new, I hardly can credit it to smoke stress.

Not So Long Ago

I read that one precautionary measure to take might be to close them up in the coop and install an air filtering system.  Yeah!  Right!  Or take them inside the house where the air quality is better.  Yeah!  Right!

First of all, we don’t have an air filtering system ourselves.  We’re certainly not going to install one (and the electricity that probably is required) in the chicken coop.  Our 150-year-old house with all its leaky windows and drafty doors  probably hasn’t much better air quality than their coop.  Which probably isn’t much better than the outside.  And, as Farmer Nyel so often reminds me, “THEY’RE CHICKENS!”

Farmer Nyel In Sunnier Times

We are not overly concerned.  They are all young-ish and, as far as we can tell, normally healthy.  So, in those ways they should be better off than we are.  They seem to be eating their poultry food and drinking their water at their usual (or better) rate of consumption.  And I can’t tell if they are extra quiet because I won’t let them out of jail or what.  Perhaps we’ll know more when the air clears.

Late Breaking News:  Air Quality has been upgraded to “Moderate” with an AQI of 74!  Really???  Seems the same as yesterday but maybe things are looking up (so to speak).  Maybe we’ll get an egg or two today…


An Unsettling Wind

Tuesday, September 8th, 2020

The Black-eyed Susans have usurped the Shasta Daisies.

The wind blew all night.  Not a howling wind.  Not even a creaking wind…mostly.  But it was steady and forced itself under the doors and through the cracks and crannies of this old house.

I don’t like the wind.  Neither does the garden.  It whips and buffets and scours everything in its path and makes me feel uneasy.  I hesitate to see the condition of the dahlias and the lilies and anything else on slender stalks.  And I’m glad I took a few pictures the other day.  Before destruction.

Pooh’s “mastershallums” are everywhere!

Too, I worry that there are dimwits around who don’t think about fire safety.  Would anyone be so stupid as to have a bonfire  on the beach last night?  Or even in their backyard?  It’s so dry.  It wouldn’t take much for a real disaster.  And, as long as I’m worrying, I wonder about how much blow-down there will be  and whether or not power will be interrupted.  Nyel, of course, says I worry too much.

Our hanging baskets are heavy with fuschias in bloom.

Probably just to prove him right, I also worry about the chickens.  In the big wind storm of 1921 or ’22, chickens that lived in Ilwaco were blown clear to Seaview!  I’ve always wondered how folks sorted all that out.  That was back in the days when almost everyone had chickens and I doubt that there were many “designer” varieties among them.  Hard to tell your Rhode Island Red from the next one.  I also doubt that those chickens were understanding a lot of English — not like chickens of today who, as I’ve reported recently, have demonstrated their understand of “egg” and “jail.”  And who know their names.

For sure, I’ll be glad when the wind dies down.  For dang sure!

First the chickens… now Cinderella!

Wednesday, August 26th, 2020

Slutvana at Work in the Nest Box

I know that Nyel thinks I’ve finally gone over the edge, but he’s far too gentlemanly to say so.  And besides, I’ve got him talking to the chickens, too.

It all started because the girls weren’t laying.  When I read that chickens can learn up to 30 words in English (probably other languages, too, if they are in foreign-speaking households) I decided to speak to them about the situation.

I held up a fake egg and said “Egg!  Egg!” over and over again.  Every day.  I also told them that they would remain in “jail” — no free-ranging — until production increased.  And it did!  We began getting one or two eggs a day after an entire  summer of only one or two eggs a month!!  And now Nyel is also saying “Egg!  Egg!” when he visits the coop.  He doesn’t exactly admit to becoming a believer but he says “it can’t hurt.”

Will Cinderella miss the leg?

So… I’ve begun talking to Cinderella, our robot roomba!  I know it’s crazy but…  She somehow programmed herself so that when she leaves her base to begin a cleaning job she ALWAYS runs into the leg of the fainting couch on her way.  Every time.  So, this morning I spoke to her about it in the same no-nonsense tone I use with the chickens.  And voilà!  She missed the leg!  After 50+ cleaning missions this was a first — if only by millimeters!

Nyel isn’t buying it.  Yet.

A Cautionary Tale… for Our Girls

Tuesday, August 18th, 2020

The Girls — In Jail Again!

Perhaps you saw this story when it was late breaking news in Texas.  Somehow I missed it until yesterday when I was “catching up” with my FB friend and former student Michele Ford Kuntz.  She had recently “shared” a FB plea from Justin and Jennifer Matthews in Fair Oaks Texas whose chicken, Reba, had escaped.  I immediately went down to the coop (where our girls are, once again, in “jail”) and told them the news from far, far away.   Here’s the story (minus the links to videos and hashtags, since there has been a happy ending now):

Today we lost Reba. One of our chickens jumped into the trunk of the instacart delivery guy and got shut in.  Four hours later we noticed she was missing so I researched the video thinking the worst (Fox, hawk, etc). After seeing her curiosity got the best of her we called instacart who put us on three way with the driver and interpreted Spanish to English. Turns out he went to Costco afterwards and she jumped out when he opened the trunk! He thought it was a prank! So we hopped in the car and drove to Costco in SA. The parking lot attendants said “yes omg we did see your fat chicken running around the lot for a while but some ladies scooped her up about 11 and took her.” Long story short, if you hear of or know anyone that got a chicken in the parking lot of Costco in SA, please let us know we would like to have her back. Reba was a sweetheart and family pet. Glad she had an adventure and is alive and well but sad to lose her! 

Reba — Could she be a cousin to our LRH?

Update 7/2/20 8am- this post has received a lot of attention and been shared thousands of times thank you all, but Reba is still missing please keep it up and help us .

I’ve set up an email for Reba if you have any information leading to her please let us know at …

Update 7/2/20 1:30pm: it worked! We found Reba! After 2,000 shares and more than 78,000 views and with some help from the local news we are now in contact with the ladies who rescued Reba! We’ll keep everyone posted as we get her back home. She made it all the way to Del Rio, TX but she’s coming home this weekend!

I don’t know if our girls took in all the details or not.  You never can tell with chickens.

Today the ignition… Tomorrow the world!

Saturday, August 15th, 2020

At The Controls

So… yesterday, another egg!  Three in three days!  For sure those girls are understanding the words “egg or jail.”  They may be taking turns but that’s okay!  They are 300% ahead of last week!  We can work on the term “individual responsibility” later.

Courtesy of Mark Petersen

Nyel has been rewarding them with extra treats.  Yesterday it was meal worms.  They look a little creepy to me, but the girls love them.  Little Red Hen, of course, goes right up onto Nyel’s wheelchair to get them.  Up-Close-And-Personal is her middle name.

LRH has also shown quite a serious interest in the controls for the wheelchair.  We’re not sure what her plan is, but if she has the concept of “eggs keep you out of jail” she just might get the idea of “going for a joy ride.”  Personally, I don’t see the connection… but you never can tell with chickens.

A political statement? Highly doubtful.

Thursday, August 6th, 2020

Step One?

I’m not sure that my “no privileges until we see eggs” is working.  Yesterday one of the girls did lay an egg, but she also pecked a hole in it.  This is the fourth or fifth time that’s occurred but, so far, we haven’t managed to identify the culprit.  Since it never happened before Ida Mae and Clara joined the group. they are the two under suspicion.

Unfortunately, the hole-pecker is the only girl who is laying on a semi-regular basis.  The others are still on strike.  Farmer Nyel and I have researched every possible cause for egg-pecking, but we are totally flummoxed.  Whoever the culprit is seems only interested in ruining the egg.  She isn’t eating it or breaking it up.  Just pecking one hole in the top.

Step Two?

“Maybe it’s her own personal birth control method,” Nyel said yesterday.  Say What???  We don’t even have a rooster!  But, come to think of it, I never did have “the talk” with the new girls.  The other two have known (in a Biblical sense) the attentions of roosters (several) during their two-plus years with us. They (especially Slutvana and hence her name) seemed to enjoy having  a cock-a-doodle presence in the flock, but neither of those girls went broody when it would have resulted in a family, so we assume they aren’t interested in motherhood.

Step Three!

On the other hand, we aren’t at all sure that IdaMae and Clara have ever met a rooster or if they’ve had a chance to put all the facts of feathered life into perspective.  Perhaps I should have had “the talk” with them early on.  I’m not sure whether it’s too late.  The chicken experts say that once a hen “gets a taste for eggs” it’s a difficult, if not impossible, habit to break.  But, does she have “a taste?”  One peck without apparently penetrating the egg doesn’t seem to qualify.

Well… if it is a convoluted, misunderstood attempt at birth control, I doubt very much if it is politically motivated.  There have been no protest marches or sign-carrying in or around the coop.  This morning, on the off chance that the new girls need a little birds-and-bees instruction, I took time for a little private visit with them.  I don’t know if they paid attention.  It’s always hard to tell with chickens.