Archive for the ‘Backyard Chickens’ Category

The Egg Count — Waxing by Moonlight?

Wednesday, July 21st, 2021

July 19th – Egg of the Month?

I’ve been noting “egg” on the kitchen calendar each time one appears in a nest box.  Actually in “the” nest box, for although there are three of them, only the north one has seen any deposits for the last several years.  The girls are silent on the reason(s) for this.

Day before yesterday, on the 19th, we received our first egg for this month. Last month we were gifted with three — on the 19th, the 21st, and the 22nd.  All in the same nest box and all by the same hen, at least as far as we can tell.  Each egg has been the same shape, size, texture and color — a sure give-away, but only to a point.  Same girl, but we are unsure as to exactly which girl.  Once again, I wish those eggs came with identifying initials!

We think, though, that it’s probably Slutvana.  She’s the only one who hangs out in the nest boxes — actually, always the north one.  However, though her nest box lounging is a daily activity, there is not always an egg involved.  Read:  hardly ever.

Moonrise Over Willapa Bay

Noting the dates of these last two months, I’m wondering if the egg-laying has anything to do with the phases of the moon. Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I know I’m reaching, but we’ve run out of other ideas.  Day before yesterday the moon was “Waxing Gibbous” and will be full day after tomorrow, the 23rd.  Last month on the 19th the moon was also Waxing Gibbous and was full on the 24th.

And for those who care — probably not the chickens — “Gibbous” comes from a root word meaning “hump-backed.”  According to the online Earth-Sky site:  People often see a waxing gibbous moon in the afternoon, shortly after moonrise, while it’s ascending in the east as the sun is descending in the west. It’s easy to see a waxing gibbous moon in the daytime because, at this phase of the moon, a respectably large fraction of the moon’s dayside faces our way.  And furthermore: Bottom line: A waxing gibbous moon is in the sky when darkness falls. It lights up the early evening. It appears more than half lighted, but less than full. A waxing gibbous moon comes between  first quarter moon and full moon. 

Note:  The site is silent on chickens.  And eggs.

Talk about a one-armed paper hanger!

Monday, July 19th, 2021

Farmer Nyel, Coop Cleaner Extraordinaire

We’ve all heard the jokes about being “busier than a one-armed paper hanger” but I don’t know of an equivalent saying about a one-legged coop cleaner.  That was Farmer Nyel yesterday — taking on a way over-doo-doo (ahem!) project.  It took most of the afternoon and involved a spade, a shovel, a scraper a five-gallon bucket, a large compost container, a battery-operated drill, a catspaw, fresh wood shavings and a lot of tongue-biting by me.

During the first part of Nyel’s project, I had a small job of my own — cutting and hacking at the blackberry brambles, the bindweed, and ivy that have worked their way into the chicken run during the current growing season.  Nyel’s theory has always been that the girls will make short work of the greenery (although maybe not the stickery ones.)  Wrong!  And of course, we also think that we should be getting eggs (at least occasionally) from these lay-abouts.  Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!  They obviously don’t know the Chicken Rules — not the Rules According to Farmer Nyel, anyway.

Inside the Coop

The worst part of Nyel’s job was wrestling the dropping board out of the coop.  It’s big.  It’s bulky.  It’s poopy and  uncooperative.  Plus it’s old and rotten and fell to pieces as he was pulling it out of the back “clean-out door” and (I might add) trying to keep his balance at the same time.  It was scary.  My offers to help got a very sharp response in rather negative terms.  So… I left the premises like any sensible wife would do.   The chickens had left long since — another example of fowl wisdom extraordinaire.

Shortly before dinnertime, the cleanout and repair work had been completed.  Praise be!  Farmer Nyel even accepted my offer to refurbish the nest boxes and the coop floor with wood shavings while he headed into the house to put away tools and clean himself up.  By the time I called those ungrateful chickens home to “slip between clean sheets’ (well… the chicken equivalent to that lovely fresh bed feeling) I was really happy the day was over.  Mostly I was pleased that our one-legged coop cleaner had, once again, allayed our fears and proved that he was up to all coop duties as required.  What a guy!

Thank-you Egg!

And… this morning, guess what?  A thank-you egg!  Sometimes those girls really amaze us.


Enough with the gray already!

Wednesday, July 14th, 2021

Just Beyond The Garden Gate

I don’t mind gray hair.  I find gray clothing rather soothing.  But I’m not a fan of this interminable gray weather.  I SO wish the inland areas would cool off a bit so our “moist marine layer” would move on and we could get back to the sunny skies of summer.

The flowers in our garden couldn’t agree more.  The girls and I took a walk-about this afternoon to talk to them regarrding this weather pattern we’ve been experiencing.  They were silent for the most part but just as we were about to leave them to wait for summer on their own, out came the  sun!  It was just for a moment or two but I swear to you, those flowers perked right up.  They actually turned in unison toward that bit of brightness and we could all but hear their sighs of contentment.

Garden Girls

Of course, it didn’t last.  In fact, the sunshine was of such short duration I wondered if I had imagined it.  But no!  The girls had stopped their peck-peck-pecking and were standing stock still — or maybe shock still.  It was so out of the ordinary for this July of 2021 that none of us quite knew how to react.

I found myself telling Little Red Hen and Clara (I’m not sure where Slutvana was) that Farmer Nyel says there will be no change in the weather for another two weeks.  Fourteen more days of gray!!  I wonder if there will be any colors left by the end of July — or will they have all been sucked away by the inland heat dome.  Perhaps we can prevail on the Disney people to colorize our world again.  Soon.  Before we forget what summer colors usually look like! Surely we’ve had enough of the gray.


Come to think of it — it’s not just spitting!

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021

It occurred to me when my friend Cate commented on my chicken-spitting-watermelon-seeds blog that there are several other things that our girls miss out on.  Take the significance of Lauren Bacall, for instance, and her remark to Bogie: “You know how to whistle, don’t you? You just put your lips together and blow.”  (And did you know that she tucked a whistle into his coffin at his funeral?)

Obviously she couldn’t have said that to Clara or Slutvana or to Little Red Hen.  Not a lip among ’em!  And I’m not sure if it would work with beaks.  Furthermore, are they even able to blow?  Or, when it comes right down to it, what about sucking?  (Isn’t that the opposite of blowing?)  I’ve never seen a chicken do that either.  Beaks may have their advantages, but they definitely can’t compete with some of the lip qualities we know and  love.

And what about lipstick?  “Yes” for us.  “No” for chickens.  Although… I did read somewhere that there are birds with bright red beaks, but not chickens as far as I know.  On the other hand… I doubt if they ever have a need for Chapstick or have any concept at all of chapped lips.  Lucky them.

Well, I think it all goes back to celebrating our differences!  Everybody’s.  Yours, mine, and the chicken people’s.   After all, they may not be able to pucker up but, on the other hand, it’s not so easy for us to fluff and preen, either.  Not literally, anyway.


The thing about chickens and watermelons…

Monday, July 5th, 2021

According to my Kuzzin Kris, the best part of watermelons are the black seeds.   “These wimpy seedless watermelons are no fun at all,” she told me not too long ago.  That’s because the entire point of watermelons are the seed-spitting contests!  Which she also believes every kid should learn about before they start losing their teeth.

I wish I’d known Kris a bit better when I was younger.  I grew up, much to the misplaced envy of others, an only child.  That meant watermelon was served on a plate with a fork and with several paper napkins.  Keeping the sticky juice off your hands and face and the tablecloth seemed to be what eating watermelons were all about.  I didn’t see the point.  Not much payoff.  I’d rather cool off with a glass of lemonade, thank you.

Of course, all of our watermelons had seeds in those days.  They were simply an annoyance.  I sure do wish I’d been a little younger and had known Kuzzin Kris and her seed-spittin’ comrades a lot better.  It might have changed my whole attitude about hot weather fun.

Now it seems a bit late.  And besides, we usually don’t have a choice — seedless is it.  Last night we saved all the rinds for this morning’s  chicken treats.  They gave a few desultory pecks and followed me back to the house.  Hoping for cracked corn.  Can’t say I blame  them.  It’s probably a sweet versus savory thing and they definitely prefer the cracked corn and meal worms  over watermelon.

I don’t even think the ones with seeds would help.  Chickens really don’t spit well.

Not Quite Up To Third Grade Competence

Saturday, June 26th, 2021

I can’t speak to now, but when I was in school and for the 39 years I taught young children, problem solving in math was introduced in third grade.  Like most other school-related learning situations, some kids loved “story problems.”  Some did not.  (I notice that they are calling them “word” problems today. Why?  More grown-up sounding?  Definitely not as intriguing.  But I digress…)

As we got to the chapters on story problems each year, more than one teacher said, “You’ll use these skills for the rest of your life.  After all, that’s what life is — a series of problem-solving events.”  I’m sure I said something similar to my third graders and now, the older I get, the more I agree with that sentiment.

In recent years, however, I’ve had far more opportunities to observe chickens than kids.  And, I have to say, almost all of our girls are good problem solvers. In fact, according to Chicken  Chickens are complex, inquisitive animals who form social bonds, understand their place in the “pecking order,” and have advanced problem-solving skills.

The article goes on to say: Decades of research have transformed the meaning of “bird brain,” revealing chickens’ “finely honed sensory capacities, their ability to think, draw inferences, apply logic and plan ahead,” according to Christine Nicol, professor of animal welfare at Bristol University.  And scientists have learned that, like some other animals including pigs, chickens are smarter than four-year-old children when it comes to skills involving math, self control, and logic. These birds can reason through deduction, a skill picked up by human children around the age of seven.

At birth, chicks already have a basic understanding of numbers and can differentiate between different quantities. Five-day-old chicks have even demonstrated a knack for arithmetic in tracking sets of objects of different quantities hidden behind screens. These birds perform similarly to primates in terms of memory, recalling the path of a hidden ball for more than two minutes.

The article goes on to say that chickens form deep bonds and can remember the faces of more than 100 other birds!  Among our very tiny flock — just three old biddies right now — there is no question about their recognizing one another, of course!  We are also well aware of some of their “24 different vocalizations” and of their understanding and acceptance of their roles in the pecking order.

However,  of all the chicken information cited, I was most interested that chickens are capable of deceit – for example, when males falsely announce the arrival of food to grab the attention of females and keep other males away. Females can quickly pick up on this deception, however, and ignore males who don’t tell the truth.    

I almost think that the same is true (only, perhaps in different circumstances) of third grade girls and boys and their various interactions.  Not that it’s only males who may not be telling the truth.  But I do think that little girls pick up the nuances more quickly than do the boys…  Or perhaps I’m confusing those third graders with the girls in the coop.


A ‘Me Too’ Movement Among The Girls?

Friday, June 18th, 2021

Do the girls think that Jackson’s on his way back?

Ever since Jackson-the-Lover-Dog made his intentions known to horrified Clara, Farmer Nyel’s girls have kept a low profile.  Granted, when we are allowed a glimpse of them, it’s easy to spot Clara with her one remaining tail feather and we are quite sympathetic to her embarassment over her missing plumage.

We are not so sure, however, why Slutvana and Little Red Hen are staying out of sight.  We suspect it’s a sign of solidarity in the coop and that the girls are plotting and planning some sort of protest movement.  Perhaps along the lines of the #Me Too social movement among the human women of their acquaintance.  It will be interesting to see how they work out the matter of signage and whether or not they are able to get other Peninsula hens to join them.

In A Garden Corner:
Hunkering Hens

Meanwhile, even though I’ve been letting them out of the chicken run and into the garden, they have kept a very low profile.  They may be hunkering under the house.  Or maybe in among the most impenetrable of the rhododendrons.  I’m not sure if they are staying out of sight in case Jackson (or one of his compatriots) returns or if they just don’t want anyone to know what they are up to.  Either way… life with chickens is always a bit of a mystery.

J.G. + C.S. — sort of.

Wednesday, June 9th, 2021

Jackson Gable

We love Jackson Gable!  He’s lively, polite, and darling all rolled into one short-legged, long-haired package.

And Jackson Gable loves Clara Stevens.  Apparently.  Yesterday, for the first time ever, Jackson made his affections known.  Before anyone could say “STOP!” he was headed down the lane, under the gate, and had grabbed Ms. Clara by the tail in an enthusiastic embrace.  Clara, like all older girls with a bit of experience in their backgrounds, burst free and hid among the day lilies.  And the hell with her tail feathers — all but one.

Jackson’s bosslady, Cate, was distraught.  The Espy cousins went on a hen hunt.  Clara was found with ‘nary a mark on her — just totally embarrased at the condition of her tail.  Little Red Hen and Slutvana had disappeared, entirely — probably under the house, we decided.

Clara and Her One Remaining Tail Feather

By bedtime, all three girls had returned to the coop and were on their roost ready to put the day behind them.  I told them that Jackson’s bosslady had called three or four times to find out how Clara was and if everyone else had shown up.  They seemed satisfied that Jackson had probably been taken to task for his overly exuberant behavior.

I kept them in the coop run today.  Clara was hunkering back in the corner, embarrassed about her unsightly behind.  When I reassured her that we loved her no matter what and that Jackson wouldn’t be coming to call again anytime soon, she relaxed.  But just a little.  One thing about chickens — they are vain about their looks.  Especially about those saucy tail feathers!

It ain’t easy being the CFW*

Saturday, May 15th, 2021

Headed for the Welcome Mat and Treats from Farmer Nyel

*CFW — Chicken Farmer’s Wife

Last night’s announcement by me:”I don’t think we should let our chickens Free Range for a while.”

Last night’s response by Farmer Nyel: “What!!!  Don’t be silly.”  Which coming from my husband-of-few-words meant “End of Discussion.”

It all came about as I was getting ready for our Friday Night Gathering — which mostly entails making sure there is ice in the bucket, booze in the bar, coasters and cocktail napkins on the coffee table.  But these days, it also means checking out the porch for the dirt from pecking in the flower pots and for assorted unwanted hazards  — as in chickens’ calling cards.  I had just finished sweeping off the porch, shaking out the welcome mat, and getting rid of the calling cards left by the girls as they wait patiently for the Farmer to bring them treats.

Evidence of a Chicken Visit to the Porch

“It’s our own fault,” the Farmer continued.  “They’ve trained us well.  If they wait long enough by the door they know that one of us will eventually bring meal worms.  Meanwhile… shit happens.”

“Yes!” is my somewhat surly and petulant response.  “And guess who gets to clean it up!”

I don’t think I half appreciated what my long suffering husband did “behind the scenes” in the BW (Before Wheelchair) years.  I’m ashamed of my selfishness (but still annoyed at those chickens) and am shortly on my way to let them out of their coop to free range for yet another day.

And P.S.  Little Red Hen was right on the threshold demanding her share of treats.  She seems to be almost recovered from her mystery ailment.  YAY!

Is it possible for a chicken to pout?

Wednesday, May 12th, 2021

Is she pouting?

By definition, pouting is “pushing one’s lips or one’s bottom lip forward as an expression of annoyance or in order to look sexually attractive.”  So, I guess the “lips” part effectively eliminates chickens from any serious pouting accusations, even if you were inclined to think of a chicken as looking “sexually attractive” with or without lips.  Unless you happen to be a rooster.

But, I could swear that Little Red Hen is exhibiting all the behaviors one might associate with a pouting teenager (though in chicken years she is well into middle age.)  When I approach the run, the other girls gather at the hog wire fence and prance around, eager for their treats.  LRH approaches slowly, maintains a wary distance, and is careful not to make eye contact.  When the treats are distributed, the others fall all over their feathers getting to them; LRH walks off in the other direction oh-so-slowly.  Disdainfully?

Little Red Hen and Farmer Nyel — In Better Times

On the other hand, she spends a good part of each afternoon (as do the other girls) waiting at one of the doors for Farmer Nyel to come with meal worms.  We aren’t sure why, exactly.  Though she has always been the one to eat out of  his hand — will fly right up onto the wheelchair and sit on his lap — she will only eat a few mealworms now and only off the porch.  She has left the hand-to-beak trick to Clara and Slutvana.  Is she sulking because he lets them eat from his hand now?   Is she jealous?

Farmer Nyel makes no secret that she is his favorite.  Slutvana and Clara defer to her in all matters of the coop and the backyard.  So what is her problem?  “Pouting,” I read somewhere, “is when we are having an internal pity party because we haven’t gotten what we wanted.”  That doesn’t sound logical — not for Little Red Hen.

“She must be sick,” I tell Nyel.  But I’ve been saying so for four or five days now and that’s a long time for chickens to be laid up (so to speak.)  Farmer Nyel is far more pragmatic than I.  “She’ll either get better or she won’t,” he says.  I take heart that Clara did get better when she seemed to be suffering in the same way, but it only took her three days.  Maybe tomorrow LRH will be perkier.   You never can tell with chickens.