Posts Tagged ‘chickens’

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!

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.

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.

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…


Face Recognition and Other Chicken Matters

Friday, May 29th, 2020

Yep! It’s Me!
Sydney, 1941

Not too many years ago, there was a program on TV about Face Blindness — the inability to recognize or differentiate faces.  My knee-jerk reaction was, “Aha!  That’s what I have.”  Since then I’ve learned quite a bit about prosopagnosia (technical term) and have concluded that I probably don’t have  that specific problem — just old age and DBF — Dimming Brain Function (not a technical term.)

And then the other day, my friend Pat Krager sent me a list of  “Five Fun Facts About Chickens.”   The very second fact on the list was… yes!  Chickens can remember and recognize over 100 different faces (both human and animal.)  Extremely daunting news to a chicken farmer’s wife who once thought she had Face Blindness!  It wasn’t a quantam leap to conclude that our chickens are smarter than I am, at least in that respect.

The other four facts were not so revelationary.  I had either figured them out or heard them before:
A chicken can can learn to recognize its own name, and the names of other chickens in the flock.  Yes, I’m sure this is true.  Both of our current chickens (and, granted, there are only two) look up or even approach me when I say their names and seem to realize when I’m talking to one and not the other.
Hens and their hatching chicks converse through the shell, allowing chicks to recognize their mother’s voice.  I’ve always understood that this early communication between mother and offspring was true of many members of the animal kingdom.
Chickens are among the closest living relatives to the Tyrannosaurus rex.  Yep.  Teach a Dinosaur Unit to second graders for enough years and you chalk up such knowledge to extraneous information that will probably never come in handy.

Distant Cousin?

A chicken’s vocabulary includes at least 30 words.  All I can say about that is, if you have been reading my blog for very long, “I told you so!  I told you so!  I told you so!”

Mostly, I’m glad to know that Little Red Hen and Slutvana recognize my face because, even though I’ve assured myself that I am not Face Blind, there may come a day when I no longer recognize their’s.  But don’t tell them!  Even if you do know the same 30 words they do!



That age-old question!

Wednesday, May 20th, 2020

Slutvana On The March

Why did the chicken cross the road?  Despite the almost endless possible answers to that age-old riddle — my favorite being,  Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the idiot’s house”. Which is then followed by a knock-knock joke: “Knock knock”, “Who’s there?” “The chicken.” — in Oysterville, the answer is: “to get to Tucker and Carol’s.”

So, yesterday afternoon when I got a phonecall from my neighbor Cyndy saying, “Did you know that Slutvana is in the road,” I wasn’t surprised.  “She’s stopping traffic,” Cyndy laughed — which isn’t so much a commentary on the vehicle activity on Territory Road as it is on the slow and not-quite-deliberate progress of Slutvana.

Little Red On Her Way To Tucker and Carol’s

Cyndy, herself, was in her car, probably returning home from Willapa Bay AiR.  “I’m right in front of your house,” she said.  “And all the guys working next door are out watching her, too.  Should we be rescuing her?”

“Probably not,” was my response.  “She’s most likely on her way to Tucker and Carol’s.  The word’s out, you know.  Those bears aren’t the only ones who like to snack on that wild birdseed Carol puts out every morning.”

We chatted for a minute or two while Slutvana took her time getting to the other side (ahem.)  Cyndy was concerned about how she got out and I told her that short of keeping them in their run (which is surrounded by chicken wire) there seems no way to contain them.  “They’ll scratch their way under the pickets or squeeze through the space between gatepost and fence.  They’re incorrigible,” I told her.”

Foragers at Wachsmuths’ Fire Pit – Photo by Tucker, 2016

“Should I go get her and bring her back?” came the concerned question.  “Or will Tucker return her?”  I reassured her that Slutvana would find her own way home.  Maybe she’d bring Little Red Hen with her.  You never can tell with chickens!




Drama In the Neighborhood

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020

Mr? Standing Bear

There has been a lot of bear activity at our end of town this spring — most of it, as far as I know, at Tucker and Carol’s.  This morning I awoke to this email message with accompanying photos from Tucker:

We had a bear visit us this afternoon. He was trying to get into our bird feeder. It was amazing to see him up on his back feet. Carol and I chased him away. We had a big stick, but as soon as we opened the door, he took off. We’re glad that he seems to be afraid of us. He didn’t come back… yet.

Mr? Standing Bear, Sitting

YIKES!  That’s one big bear!  My thoughts flew to Slutvana-the-Wanderer who didn’t come home last night.  I’m pretty sure a recalcitrant chicken might be as tempting to a foraging bear as the morsels in a bird-feeder.

Just then, Nyel called to me that Slutvana was out in the croquet garden, not playing croquet but apparently happy to be foraging for whatever temptations were manifesting themselves in the lawn.

Slutvana Through The Window

I couldn’t help but wonder if she had met up with Mr? Standing Bear and  family while she was out and about.  A few minutes later I took her some scratch and asked her if she’d spent a pleasant night.  She did grace me with a fowlish sort of look but was not inclined to share about any close encounters or new acquaintances.

Still, you never can tell with chickens!  I was glad she was home.

RIP Snowhite

Thursday, May 14th, 2020

Not A Mark On Her

I don’t know if my tears were of relief that we had found her, remorse that we were unable to help her, or regret that her life was so hard and so short.  Poor little Snowhite was in the garden all the time — toes up over by the old gazebo.  Nyel spotted her yesterday morning on his way out to water the hanging baskets.

Farmer Nyel is always the one who notices things.  I am usually oblivious.  I blame my poor eyesight, but maybe I’m just not attentive enough.  Not that it mattered this time.   Nyel took care of her remains, but not until he looked her over carefully.

“Not a mark on her,” he said.  I am so very glad about that part and gratified that I can dismiss thoughts of an off-leash dog that might have caused her demise.  I truly think that she died of “natural causes” and I console myself that, during her short two years we did more for her than for any other chicken we’ve ever had — beginning when she was just a chicklet and one of her nest mates pecked her head right down to the bone.

Chickens In Their Very Own ICU 5-11-18 (culprit and victim)

That time, Farmer Nyel made a little medical helmet for her.  She wore it for quite a while, until the skin grew back and some (but never all) of the feathers.  That was May 11. 2018.

Then there was the time last January when Fred and I had to get her out of the coop so Nyel could treat her for mites.  (Or something.)   Fred proved himself to be a mighty fine chicken wrangler and, once again, Nyel’s medical skills came to the rescue.

But this time, although we saw that she wasn’t feeling well, we couldn’t determine the trouble.  I am so sorry.  And sorry, too, that I couldn’t understand what the remaining two girls were trying to tell me the other day.  They probably knew she was over by the gazebo but chickens aren’t good at leading you to the source of their concern.  Even after twelve years of trying, I still don’t understand chicken-chatter very well.