Posts Tagged ‘chickens’

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.)

 

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.)

 

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 https://sunrisesunset.willyweather.com/wa/pacific-county/long-beach.html.  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!!!

 

Twenty-four Hours of Glorious Gallimaufry

Saturday, May 11th, 2019

After almost 50 years — a new mattress!

I was gone from St. Vincent’s for just over twenty-four hours — five or six spent driving, seven or eight spent sleeping, and the rest spent in a wonderful hodge-podge of people and events and life-outside-the-hospital things.  The only downside was that Nyel wasn’t with me.  On the other hand, ‘they’ are making noises about discharging him soon — maybe early next week.  To a rehab situation.

Happy Mother’s Day from Marta!

My first stop was at Adelaide’s where I had a much-postponed coffee date with my friend Ruth.  It took us an hour and a half to catch up with medical news (both of us), children news (both), moving news (Ruth), and silliness (mostly me.)  Then I beat feet home to get ready for one o’clock delivery of a new mattress and box springs, ordered for our bed by Nyel weeks before this hospital stay.

Looking for Farmer Nyel

The deliverymen called at twelve-ten.  Could they come early?  You bet!  They were intrigued with the house and even admired our old mattress with its built-in ‘handles’ for moving it around.  “This is a collector’s item!” said the older of the two  “We may just display it in our store window.”  That made me chuckle.

Ice Cream

My folks got that mattress in 1971 from Sears — had to have the antique bed lengthened by four inches to accommodate the “new, longer” mattress size.  Our replacement  (which, sadly, I had to sleep on last night without Nyel) is actually an inch or so shorter than that old Sears number.  But, oh! so firm and fully packed (to borrow from an old Lucky Strike jingle).  I slept like the proverbial log.

Ready for Memorial Day

And… on to Friday Night.  Quite a crowd of “regulars” came to exchange the latest guzz’n’gossip and to talk about the unseasonably warm weather.  As if on cue, in came Sandra with a big bowlful of ice cream cups in many flavors!  Perfect!  Diane talked about Memorial Day Plans — she hoped Nyel would be back to read “In Flanders Fields” as usual, but if not, would I?

Patient Nyel

This morning Tucker and Del got the cannon out of the garage and put it on its new cement pad — a replacement for the one that was broken last fall during our dreaded Septic System Upgrade.  Then, I headed back to St. Vincent’s.  But first, a short stop in Ilwaco at the Heritage Museum to wish Don and Marge Cox a Happy 75th Anniversary!  Wow!  Talk about Role Models!

I had lots to report to Farmer Nyel  or, depending on his hat of the moment, General Nyel.  Actually, when I got here, he had on a shampoo cap —  I guess he was being Patient Nyel.   Not really a look to perpetuate — especially not at a hospital!

 

 

 

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!

Egg Hunt on St. Paddy’s Day

Monday, March 18th, 2019

Tucker and Carol

The day I brought Nyel “home” to Ocean Beach Hospital, I called Carol and relieved her of her chicken duties with a gazillion thanks and promises to pick up the squirt gun soon.  Oh — did I mention that I had noticed a little purple package on the piano top, left there during our March 3rd House Concert – a belated birthday present from Stephanie.  Inside – a Rooster Defense Mechanism in the form of a squirt gun!  I had left it with Carol for her protection during her chicken duties while we were gone.

Erik-the-chicken-Godfather

On my first visit to the coop, I found that the Chicken Godfather (that would be Erik) had made a coop-cleaning visit and everything looked wonderfully neat and tidy in Farmer Nyel’s chicken domain. The nest boxes were filled with sweet-smelling cedar-shavings but had yet to be used and, though I glanced around the run when I filled up their water trough, I didn’t see that the girls had left any eggs out and about.  (They do that sometimes, either in protest to a change inside the coop, or just to be wild and crazy.  It’s hard to tell with chickens…)

On reflection, I think I must have been egg-blind or under some sort of hen hypnosis because on my next visit (which was yesterday morning) … eight, count ’em, eight eggs!  When you have only five laying hens, that is an impossible number, even within a 24-hour period, never mind twelve!

Only one of those eggs was in a nest box.  Four were spaced out along the fence line inside the run.  One was on the floor of the coop.  And, for a few seconds, I thought those six eggs were the total – still at least one egg too many unless I had missed seeing that one on the coop floor the day previously.  Possible, but I’m pretty sure I had looked…

Under The Coop

I was just about to open the coop door when I said to myself, “Self,” I said, “maybe you’d better look under the coop building.  If there are six, there could be more!”  And, sure enough, way over in one corner was a lovely, light brown egg.  Difficult to reach unless I bellied under.  So, I left the chickens closed in and went to fetch the bamboo garden rake.

It worked like a charm and the egg went into my bucket with the other five dirt-encrusted eggs (and the single pristine one by whoever braved the new nest box shavings.)  Only as I was headed out did my eye catch yet another egg way under the coop.  Eight in all!!  That must have been two days’ worth but how could I have missed them?  Chalk it up to another of life’s little mysteries.

Phew! I’m glad I figured that out!

Tuesday, February 12th, 2019

I’m pretty sure I wasn’t “a girlie” sort of girl when I was young.  I didn’t much like playing with dolls.  I didn’t like playing dress up.  It never occurred to me to get into my mother’s cosmetics.

On the other hand, I don’t think I was a tomboy, either, although it is true that the top of my wish list was always an electric train and I had a secret desire for one of those box scooters like my neighbor Robert Reading had.  I don’t think I ever wanted a squirt gun or a bow and arrow or anything sort of projectile that I might aim at anyone else.

I did ride horseback, climb trees, go camping, and get muddy.  Those things definitely weren’t the prerogative of boys.  But I wasn’t much into sports or long hikes or sailing or anything that took much physical effort.  I’d much rather spend an afternoon reading or playing a board game or maybe trying to write a story for the children’s section of the Oakland Tribune.

All these thoughts converged the other morning when I had to actually enter the chicken run AFTER the girls and boys were up and about – yes, including the evil black rooster! Their water was frozen solid and I was coming to their rescue, a fact that I told them over and over as I bravely unlatched their gate and walked into their midst.

At first the evil one just looked at me and my big bottles of water –plastic liter bottles once holding tonic and the perfect size for taking down to the coop to replenish their supply.  But, before I could reach the trough, he became all too interested.  He didn’t flap his wings or aim his spurs at me, but he did come marching right for me at a good clip.

Before I could think, I aimed one of the water bottles at him and squeezed.  A big stream of water got him right in the face.  He stopped all forward progress and just stood there looking confused.  I didn’t wait to see what his next move might be.  In two giant steps I was at the trough pouring in that water and was outta there before he could say “cock-doodle-brrr!”.   After I had re-latched the gate, I took a look.  There he was at the trough with the other six, happily slaking his thirst.

“A squirt gun!” I thought.  “That’s what I need.”  But I really don’t like the idea of aiming any kind of gun at anyone – even that evil rooster.  “And I don’t have to!” was my happy realization.  “A water bottle will do just fine.”

Tall, Shimmery, and Rooster-Proof!

Sunday, January 27th, 2019

 

Helen Wolfe Dietz

When Helen strode on into the chicken run with ‘nary a glance from that killer rooster, the irony was not lost on me.  Helen is one of the Rose City Mixed Quartet and, like all of them, she is close to the six-foot mark.  That she is blond (well, maybe more silver these days) and beautiful might not have had any bearing on things, but the height probably did.  That she, like her musical cohorts, delights in singing “Short People” at each of their Oysterville House Concerts leapt to mind as Farmer Nyel’s entire flock, including the cockamamie doodle, gazed up at her with foul affection.

Of course, it might have been that they were grateful to see that she was bringing water.  Their trough was bone dry – a state of affairs that Helen had discovered on an egg-collecting mission yesterday morning.  Well, thought I, it was bound to happen sometime.  Usually, I get down to the coop before the girls and boys wake up or at least on a morning after I’ve remembered to lock them up.  But, I had been far too busy partying and having a good time the night before to do my due diligence in the chicken department, so now… I would have to face those rooster spurs.

“I’ll do it!” Helen said.  I protested, but weakly, and so it was that all of us (except dear Farmer Nyel) trooped down to the coop.  Dale took his camera.  Cameron answered each cock-a-doodle-do with stunning soprano trills that caused an almost palpable group gasp from the flock.  I trailed a bit behind (shorter legs) and wondered how I could assist.

As for Helen, she strode on out, lugging five big bottles of water.  Without hesitation, she unlatched the gateway, entered the run, and closed the gate behind her as we all waited to see what would happen next.  What happened was astounding!  All seven chicken stood stock still, heads slightly cocked looking up (way up) at Helen in that weird one-eyed stare that chickens do so well.  When they saw her move toward their water container, they gathered round with silent expectation.  Even the killer rooster.  She was “golden” (or silvery, take your pick) as they say.

Watering the Flock

Wow!  I don’t know if it was her bravery and no-nonsense attitude or if she is actually a chicken whisperer or if it was simply a matter of tall.  Whatever it was, I probably have no chance of replicating it, so I’d better be more diligent about my duties in the future.  After all, I think my growth spurt has been over since 1949.

On Automatic Pilot

Saturday, January 19th, 2019

With Coop Door Open

While I don’t recommend it as a way of life – and I’m sure the chickens agree – our flock does very well without farmer intervention, at least for short periods of time.  This morning (Saturday) was the first day since Wednesday that I’ve been to the coop to check on those girls and, lest you worry… they are all fine.  I think.  It was still dark and I had forgotten a flashlight.

Though the black rooster was announcing the day already, he had not yet led the parade out of the coop and into the run.  That seems to be the routine every day and, even though the coop door has remained open, the light level apparently had not yet reached the lumins (or whatever they are) that he feels is safe for making the day’s entrance to the greater world.

The white rooster was silent for as long as I was doing my due diligence.  He usually doesn’t start crowing until the sun is actually peeking over the Willapa Hills – something about the trust factor that the day is really beginning in earnest.  He defers to the black rooster in all aspects of flock management and fowl courtship – even takes a place in line among the girls when exiting the coop.  I’ve never seen him come out first or second or even last.  Usually third or fourth.

Today’s Bounty

There were eight eggs waiting for me in the south nest box, at least as far as I could tell.  (That’s the nest box of preference lately, though there are two others equally outfitted. Go figure.) I had to go by touch, and pretty hesitantly at that.  Those girls sometimes leave behind more than eggs among the cedar shavings and, without the benefit of light, gathering eggs can be a little tricky.  Also, I’m sure that Ms. Crazy Hen has probably left one or two eggs on the coop floor or in the run.  I’ll be going back down there in a few minutes to see what I can see – with a little help from my friend the sun.

Farmer Nyel

But the point is… (if you knew Gordon Schoewe, that phrase should be wonderfully familiar…) those chickens, as far as I could see, did just fine without being worried by unnecessary Farmer Fussing.  As long as they can get out of the coop and into the run for access to water and back into the coop for access to food and to the nest boxes, and as long as the gate to the outside world is closed and their parameters secured by strong fencing… those girls are perfectly fine on their own for a day or two.

But I don’t really recommend that as a way of life for chickens.  They need their primary caregiver and, in lieu of that, the Farmer’s Wife is acceptable.  Barely.  (Farmer Nyel’s physical therapy begins February 8th.  I hope the first lesson is titled “How to Get Safely to The Coop and Back.”)