Archive for the ‘Backyard Chickens’ Category

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.

She’s not telling… but, no one’s really asking.

Monday, July 20th, 2020

IdaMae is one of those large, lethargic ladies who seem to react slowly to the world around them.  Yet she moves at a regal and purposeful pace.  There is never a doubt that she is doing exactly what she wants to.  I don’t question her motives and neither do any of her coop mates.

So, last evening when she wasn’t on her roost for bed-check, I felt sure that she was on a mission of her own.  I didn’t even have enough concern to report her absence from kiss-and-lie-down-time to Farmer Nyel (which might actually make me an enabler!) I felt sure she’d turn up in the morning… and she did.

There she was, standing three or four feet away from the gate, not looking anxious or guilty or even smug.  She seemed totally self-contained.  I offered her some scratch before letting the others out and she approached it slowly… as if it was her due and, by the way, “I’m not really very hungry.”  No excitement on her part.  And certainly no “thank you.”  Not like the rest.

The other three were impatient and, though I gave them their own scratch to share, I fully expected them to muscle in on IdaMae’s treats, too.  But, no… they left a respectful distance between themselves and the “queen.”  Or, perhaps it wasn’t  respectful at all.  And maybe they have an even different view of her.  Do they know what she was up to last night and are they shunning her for her behavior?  It’s hard to tell with chickens — even when it comes down to a question of naughty or nice.

Peaceful Coexistence… More or Less

Saturday, July 11th, 2020

Companionship… Mostly

It’s been three weeks now since Clara and IdaMae came to live at our place and I’m happy to report that integration with the rest of the flock  (if “flock” can be used to describe just two chicken people) is now complete.

Even so, there were some bumps along the way.  For the first week, we kept Clara and IdaMae in their own section of the run — fenced off from Little Red Hen and Slutvana, but within full view of one another.  Slutvana, and to some extent LRH, paced and postured and showed great concern and interest with regard to these potential interlopers.  Clara and IdaMae didn’t seem to give a cluck.  They laid their eggs (one each, every day) and went about the business of being contented chickens with nary a ruffled feather.

Little Red Hen and Farmer Nyel

LRH and Slutvana, on the other hand, went on egg-laying strike.  They scolded me in no uncertain terms when I came down to the coop with food and water and often ignored their own treats in an effort to get into the new girls’ space and see what they were getting.  (Which, of course, was identical to theirs.)  Finally, after a week, and with encouragement from Farmer Nyel, I decided to let them co-mingle.

Not a good idea.

The new girls entered the big run calmly and confidently but Slutvana was on them like shells on an egg!  OMG!  Fortunately, there was a rake leaning up against the coop and without a moment’s thought, I grabbed it and used the handle end to separate the flying feathers.  IdaMae immediately escaped to familiar territory but Clara made the mistake of going under the coop. Slutvana AND Little Red Hen were all over her — wings flapping, claws extended, feathers flying, and unbelievable noises that were beyond clucking.  More like braying!  With a lot of yelling and rake-thrusting I managed to rescue Clara, but she did limp for a few days.  I was distraught though Farmer Nyel assured me it wasn’t serious.

Sometimes It’s Tempting

I waited another three or four days before trying again.  This time I began yelling at the two old girls before I even opened the separating gate.  Only LRH tried any bullying and IdaMae gave as good as she got.  Yay!  I think the new girls had been secretly practicing their moves and they were saying, “Bring it on!”  The four didn’t exactly share treats well at first, but finally they are co-existing peacefully.  For the most part.

But… life with chickens never goes completely smoothly.  For the last ten days there have been NO eggs.  NONE.  Then day before yesterday there was one.  With a hole poked in it but, as far as I could determine, all the egg inside was undisturbed.  Yesterday, same thing.  I have turned the problem over to Farmer Nyel and, as we speak, he is researching Chicken Cannibalism.

If it’s not one damned thing it’s another with chickens…


Out with the old. In with the new.

Sunday, June 28th, 2020

The Scratch Trail

Chickens are curious.  Chickens are smart.  Chickens can learn lots of useful things.  But chickens are not intellectually inclined.  The “why” questions don’t get examined on a regular basis — fortunately for this chicken farmer’s wife.

When I opened the door into the garden for Slutvana and Little Red Hen this morning, they didn’t question my intent at all.  With no hesitation they went forth, full of joy that, after a week of lockdown, they could get out into the greater world.  It wasn’t until I let the new girls, Clara and Ida-Mae, out of the Broody Hen Quarters and into the Big Run that S. and L.R.H. took note of their new circumstances.  Now they were closed out and the new girls were already exploring their vacated quarters with alacrity.  (I doubt if that’s how their little chicken minds expressed it but…)

Slutvana and Little Red Keeping Watch Nearby

I put a ‘scratch trail’ of cracked corn and grapes up the ramp and into the coop for Clara and Ida-Mae.  I waited for a while to see if they would follow it and take note of the feeder, the nest boxes, and the roost inside.  From their vantage point outside the run, S. and L.R.H. were keeping an eye on things, too.  They did not seem altogether pleased with this new turn of events and were still maintaining a close watch when I gave up my own vigil and came inside for my second cup of coffee.

Farmer Nyel is more confident than I about the outcome of this grand experiment.  But… I’m trying to think like a chicken.  Without anticipation.  Which is harder than you might imagine…