Archive for the ‘Backyard Chickens’ Category

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?




Guess who just blew into town!

Tuesday, September 17th, 2019

Marta’s Chariot

You know how some people just light up a room?  When they arrive, no matter what the occasion, the party can begin.  My step-daughter Marta LaRue is like that.  And, even though Our Grand Affair is not happening until next Sunday, the fun began yesterday when Marta blew into town!

For starters, she arrived in a bright blue Mustang.  A convertible no less!  And, of course, there was a story to go with it.  She had flown into PDX yesterday shortly after mid-day but by the time she arrived the rental car agency had run out of compact cars.  Since she had reserved one (and secured it with her credit card) a month or so ago, they offered to upgrade her at no extra charge.

The Stanger

“How about a GMC Wrangler?”  Marta thought that might be fine but when she saw it… she was horrified.  “Wait!” she said.  “I’m really not a soccer mom — I won’t be hauling 10 kids and their equipment across country.  Do you have anything else?”   And so… she was offered the little Mustang which suits her perfectly!

She arrived in Oysterville about four o’clock.  I was up the street at Cyndy’s.  Nyel was in the garage painting a table for Sunday use.  When Marta came in the house and called (and called), no answer was forthcoming.  So, she headed for Tucker and Carol’s, endearing herself (maybe not) by seeing Carol’s silvery locks and calling out my name!  Just as she realized her error, Tucker appeared… “Marta!  I didn’t recognize you!  I don’t think of you as blond!”

Marta was still laughing when she finally caught up with us.  “I have trouble thinking of myself as a blond, too!” she said.  “But don’t you think it goes with my Stanger?”

Naked Ladies All Over The Place

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019

Tatty-Looking Slutvana

Today I did a walkabout in the garden on my way to have a little chat with the Ladies-of-the-Coop.  I’m beginning to get anxious about their costumes for Our Grand Affair.  It’s one thing to have the 150-year-old house in order for her birthday bash.  After all, people are forgiving about the wrinkles and warts of extreme age.  But the garden?  And the girls?  Not so much.

Wing Feathers: Gone
Neck Feathers: Gone

And, of course, neither garden nor girls are in good fettle at all.  The garden is on its last leg flowering-wise and the lawn!!! OMG!  Between moles and an aborted thatch-job several years back (to say nothing of a septic project that meant a total new grass planting that went bad on the north forty) the lawn is at a low ebb.

Colchicum – “Naked Ladies”

As for the girls…  We are down to three this summer.  The Little Red Hen is looking terrific… so far.  But the other two have chosen this time to begin their molting process and they couldn’t be looking less attractive.  Today, I told them that several people are coming to Our Grand Affair specifically to say “hello” to them.  And, would they please put more effort into re-feathering between now and the 22nd.  Naked hens are not attractive.  But… chickens, as I have often mentioned, are poor listeners.  (And even poorer planners.)

Little Red – So far, lookin’ good!

Naked flower beds aren’t a great attraction, either. Right now, the few dahlias we have are looking good, but by September 22nd, I doubt that there will be a single bloom.  The daisies, of course, are gone.  So are the York Roses and most of the geraniums (thanks to the deer people).  We do have a few fall crocuses — really called “Colchicum” or, sometimes, “Naked Ladies” because they bloom after their foliage has died off.  Too few to be titillating, I’m afraid.

So now…  as Willie Nelson might say, it’s all up to those healing hands of time.  There’s a lot of that going on around here come to think of it.


Chickens, Tsunamis, and The Water Stash

Monday, August 12th, 2019

All In A Row

“What are all those bottles of water lined up by your back door?” our friend Mark asked one Friday night.  “Well…” I responded, “they began as Tsunami Preparation but have segued into Chicken Supplies.”  He nodded as if that made sense, and maybe it does.  Or not.  Definitely one of those it-is-what-it-is things.

There was a time when Nyel took the whole tsunami preparedness schtick very seriously.  He refitted his old backpack with an upgraded first aid kit, bought a backpack for me to replace the one I’d given to Goodwill thirty or forty years ago, and began stockpiling emergency supplies.  Well…  supplies of water.  He rinsed out used tonic water bottles and carefully filled them with refreshing Oysterville water, dating each bottle as it was placed on the pantry shelves.  Periodically, he would refresh and redate.  But mostly, there they sat.

Judging by the dates, he began the Tsunami Preparedness Program in 2001. It petered out in 2015 which was the year Nyel’s left leg was encased in a plaster cast from groin to ankle and he spent three months in a hospital bed.  One of my “other duties as assigned” (in addition to my Nurse Ratched responsibilities) was to take care of the chickens.

Pantry Shelves

Lugging food down to the coop wasn’t hard, but carrying buckets of water was.  So… I began taking and using those tsunami bottles.  As in, who wouldn’t?  That was in 2015…  and the beat goes on.  Today I refilled the empties (though I didn’t date them) and put some back on the pantry shelves — mostly to get them out of the way.

It’s not that I’ve given up on the tsunami — it’s just that the reality these days is, with Nyel’s bum leg it takes us the full twenty minutes just to get out of the house.  Never mind the provisions.  And, when you are in Oysterville, where to go in that time allotment is actually the first big question.  We have resolved that IF we can make it into the car in time, we’ll head for the highest nearby spot — the Oysterville Cemetery — and hug a tree.  If that doesn’t do it… well, we’ll end up where we hope to be eventually, anyway.

As for the water… any surviving chickens will be more than welcome to it.  (I wonder if I should be helping them with their bottle-opening skills.)


Chicken and Vegetables

Saturday, August 10th, 2019

Svetlana on Okra

The ladies of the coop like their vegetables.  Whether they are eating leftovers or sitting on an unopened bag straight from the freezer, there is nothing that quite approaches the busy contentment of chickens with veggies.

Last night I waited until almost-dark  to try to break Svetlana’s hopeless broody cycle.  “Put a bag of frozen peas or some such under her.  Her body temperature will drop and she will no longer feel broody.”  Or so I read.  So, about nine o’clock — just before the flashlight hour had arrived — I took (at no sacrifice at all) a frozen bag of okra down to the coop.

First, I reached under her and fetched a warm, brown egg.  She was still awake enough to give me a cursory peck but I persevered and slipped the bag of okra under her ample, feathery bosom.  She didn’t seem to notice — just shifted and squirmed a bit and then settled back down to her broody duties.  I left her to it and wondered what hatched okra would look like…

White Hen and Corn-on-the-Cob

This morning I had treats to take to the girls — corn cob left-overs, some tomato ends and part of a corn tortilla.  The red and white hens were up and awaiting my early a.m. visit but… no Svetlana.  Upon investigation, I found her still sitting on the now unfrozen (and squishy) bag of okra.  She gave me another warning peck as felt around to see if there was another egg under her but stayed settled in to her duty.

However, when I pulled the bag of okra out from under her, she was up in a shot, out of the nest box and out into the run to explore the morning treats.  She headed right for a corn cob and got busy.  But I noticed her looking through the chicken-wire fencing at the green grassy lawn beyond.  Was she thinking of what she might be missing by insisting that her eggs turn into chicks?

Wistful Svetlana?

Before I left the coop, I reminded her once again that there are no roosters among the little flock and reiterated that without a Papa in residence, baby chicks would not be forthcoming.  “Give it up!” I told her.

We will see.  (I wrapped the bag of okra in a clean plastic bag and set it back in the freezer… just in case.)

When is enough enough?

Thursday, August 8th, 2019

Broody Svetlana 8-5-19

Ms. Svetlana is still broody.  It’s been more than a month now.  According to the experts:  When a hen is broody, that means she wants to hatch her eggs and raise chicks. A breed known for frequent broodiness has hens that often, individually go broody. These hens may not even need eggs to set on to be broody–they may brood in a nest with no eggs. Or in a corner on rocks.

Well, Svetlana is a bit more rationale than that, but not much.  If I remove the eggs from under her (despite her pecking at me), she waits until one of the other girls lays in the nest box next door and, as soon as the hen vacates the premises, Svetlana moves in.  She is one determined fowl!

Frozen Okra

I’ve read that the chicken farmer might be able to break the broody cycle by putting a bag of frozen vegetables, say peas, under Ms. Broody.  Since a raised temperature is one of the symptoms of broodiness, the icy underpinnings may break the cycle and the unrequited mother hen will return to “normal.”  We happen to have a bag of frozen okra (OMG!) in our freezer and tomorrow I’m making the ultimate (NOT!) sacrifice.    (When I asked Nyel why the okra, he said that before he fractured his hip, he was thinking of making gumbo.  I repeat: OMG!)

And speaking of Nyel’s health matters…  we DID get an appointment in Seattle for a second opinion on his osteo-myelitis diagnosis.  Not at the University of Washington Medical Center’s Infectious Disease Department, however.  They informed us that they no longer take Medicare patients.  Say what???  I’m trying to figure out how to get them to sit on icy bags of okra — or a human equivalent of something to break through their unreasonableness.  No Medicare patients???  Really?  I wonder if that comes under elder-discrimination.  (85% of Medicare patients are over 65.)


The Reason Chickens Get Into Trouble

Monday, July 15th, 2019

Fake Listening By Svetlana

It isn’t because they insist on crossing without looking both ways.   Far from it.  I’m here to tell you that the reason chickens get into trouble is because THEY DO NOT LISTEN!  No matter how many times they are told, no matter in how loud a tone, or how they appear to be paying attention — do not be fooled.  Chickens are the worst listeners ever.

Take our Russian Orloff, Svetlana,  for instance.  (Otherwise known as Slutvana or the Russian Slut, especially among the cocky local rooster crowd.)  She has decided to go broody.  Not that there are any guys in the coop or even in Oysterville right now.  Not as far as I know.  Where was that silly girl when I gave all the young pullets the Sex 101 talk?

“Don’t be getting yourself in a family way,” I told them.  “Unless there are guys around, your eggs will not result in chicks.  So don’t be going broody and just sitting in your nest all day.  Nothing will happen.  The eggs won’t hatch.  That’s all there is to it.”

Did Svetlana listen?  Apparently not.  It’s hard to tell with chickens.  Their ears aren’t obvious like a cat’s or dog’s ears.  They don’t perk up when they hear something interesting or flop forward when they are disappointed.  Oh no. But chickens do have ears and they are located on the sides of their heads like most people’s.  The reason they are hard to see is that they are usually covered by feathers.  And earlobes.

Broody Svetlana

And here’s a trick not many people know:  the color of the lobe is a great indicator of the color of the eggs the hen will lay.  White lobe — white eggs.  Brown lobe — brown eggs, although they could be any shade of brown from the lightest tan to a deep, rich chocolate color.

Of course, I know that Svetlana can hear.  She is not the least bit deaf.  She just picks and chooses what to pay attention to.  The whole sex talk just wasn’t interesting to her.  She had made up her mind eons ago that motherhood was for her.  She practiced mightily when we had those two randy roosters but, for reasons probably outside her control, she didn’t go broody until months after the boys had had their way with her.

And that brings us to the here and now.  Ms. Svelana has been in one of the nest boxes for two full days.  When I’ve gone to check on her, she just looks at me… broodingly.  Today I felt four eggs under her.  She may have chosen a nest that already had eggs in it or she may have begun working on her clutch before I noticed her broodiness.  When she has laid “enough” eggs — usually six or eight, she will not leave the nest for 21 days except to eat a little and drink some water.

Svetlana Feeling Frisky, August 2018 —

According to the chicken gurus, “There is no exact science to exactly what makes a hen go broody- it’s a combination of their hormones, instinct and maturity.”  And even if there were a scientific reason, you can bet Ms. Svetlana wouldn’t care even if we explained it to her.  That’s the way it is with chickens. They do not listen and that is the reason they get into trouble.  Period.