Archive for the ‘Backyard Chickens’ Category

Hard to believe! Clara’s back!

Sunday, May 2nd, 2021

Movin’ Slow

She’s not talking.  Not so much as a cluck or a chirp.  And she’s walking ever-so-slowly.  Like it hurts to put one foot in front of the other.  When I offered her some scratch, she pecked at it disinterestedly.  Farmer Nyel and I were concerned.

Yesterday was Day Four of Clara Missing.  We were pretty sure she had joined Snow White and Ida Mae in the Great Chicken Beyond.  But… yesterday afternoon as I was working at my desk, my phone rang (no… it wasn’t Clara) and Nyel said that he was just going into the yard at the “Cannon Gate” and Clara was coming toward the gate to meet him!  Slowly.  Oh so slowly.  I went to the window to watch her progress and it was painful.

The conclusion of Farmer Nyel: she had no visible signs of injury.  Maybe she was sick.  And where had she been?  She wasn’t saying, but it didn’t appear that she had left the premises.  Nyel went down to the coop to let the others out and, though it took some coaxing, they eventually came up and joined her.  I gave them all a bit more scratch but only Slutvana seemed “normal.”  Both Clara and Little Red were less than interested and were moving slowly — like their hips were giving out.

All Three Together Again!

But… an hour or so later, there were all three on the east porch begging for treats.  The two sickly ones a bit more subdued than usual but… even so.  They were all there!  And, even later, when I went to say, “good night,” all three were huddled together on the roost — LRH on one side and Slutvana on the other side of Clara.  Like bookends, securing her between them.  Like good friends always do.

We are cautiously optimistic.




Looking for Clara

Wednesday, April 28th, 2021

The Three Friends – February 2020

Nyel’s eyes are sharper than mine.  So is his mind.  When he volunteered to go outside and have a look around for Missing Clara, I was all for it.  So were Slutvana and Little Red Hen.

The three of them traversed the the garden looking in all the hidey places, likely and unlikely.  No luck.  Nyel thought the two girls were just following along hoping for treats, but I’m not so sure.  I think they were counting on Farmer Nyel to find their missing friend.  No such luck.

Perhaps she went under the house.  “If she died there, will she smell?” I worried.   “Probably some critter or other has gotten her by now,” was the not-so-very reassuring answer

Dear, beautiful Clara.  We are so sorry.  We wish we knew what happened  We wish we could have helped.

It’s often hard with chickens…


Hooray (mostly) for the rain!

Monday, April 26th, 2021

My Leaky Rain Boots

As everyone knows, the importance of rain boots is keeping your feet dry.  When that function fails… well, what is there to say?

It’s not that my boots are all that old.  Pat Fagerland had a pair that she loved and I asked her where she got them.  I think that was about three years ago.  I sent for a pair to use when I am out in the garden.  But mostly for going back and forth to the chickens through the wet grass.  The grass doesn’t even have to be very long nor does it have to be rainy before the dew-soaked blades force the moisture right in among your toes.  That is, unless you are wearing “proper waterproof gear” as one of my friends calls slickers, sou’westers, and boots.

Howeever… following a chicken run a few days ago, I noticed that my socks were quite damp when I took off my boots.  “Couldn’t be!” I thought.  The next time, I shoved bare (not sock-encased) feet into those boots and, sure enough, I could actually feel the slight trickle of cold water on my toes.  Both feet!  Design flaw?  Factory defect?  Built-in obsolecence?  What the heck?

Clara Mae’s Fantasy

How could both boots fail simultaneously?  Three years might be too long to expect my money back.  Or even a replacement which is what I would prefer.  Pursuing it all seems like more trouble than it’s worth.  Maybe I’ll just settle for  three-years-is-good-enough and order new boots.

But… since when did rubber rain boots become a disposable item? Or does three years exceed the rule for “disposable?”  Life gets complicated for the conscientious — don’t you think?

Oh… and did I mention that the chickens have expressed some Rain Boot Envy on these wet days? I hate to disappoint them but I’m just not sure how to explain why we aren’t investing in rainy day footwear for them after all.

Farmer Nyel and Mr. McGregor

Saturday, April 17th, 2021

From The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

As I mentioned (or at least implied) in my blog of a few days back, I feel very much at one with Winnie-ther-Pooh when I am outside planting mastershalums.  While I have been busy at that endeavor in the South Garden, Nyel has been working on planting more traditional salad ingredients in containers in the Kitchen Garden.

Today it was romaine lettuce starts and  I wondered if he was feeling at one with Farmer McGregor.  Probably not.  And probably not with Peter Rabbit either, although I do know for a fact that he is considering some sort of fencing to keep his garden safe.  Not from rabbits, however.  From our chickens.  We know that they will not even stop to clap and cheer when they get wind of those lettuces and cucumbers and I don’t know what all.

Lettuces About To Be Planted

For right now, while we are planting all these tasty seeds and baby greens, the chickens have not had access to the greater garden.  They are shut up in their run — much to their disgust, no doubt.  But as I told them, they are really not to be trusted.  And, besides.  They have only given us three eggs in the last month.  Perhaps constant proximity to the nest boxes will give them the urge to leave us an egg or three.

Which also makes me wonder if they have become confused with all their backyard roaming.  Have they been laying eggs under the house?  I’m definitely not going to belly under there to find out.  But if we start getting eggs on a regular basis, I might send a visiting kid or two under there for a look-see.

There’s never a dull moment in Oysterville!

From Champagne to Salad Greens!

Thursday, April 15th, 2021

Nyel, Bill (my dad) and Noel Around The Champagne Table – 1988

Recycling, refurbishing, renewing.  Nyel is adamant about all of it.  Including repurposing.  Today’s (read “this week’s” or possibly “this month’s”) project deals with an old galvanized washtub.

Neither of us remember where that washtub came from.  Maybe it has been on the premises since my grandparents’ time.  Certainly, it has seen better days.  There are holes in the bottom and dents on the sides.  It definitely has character.

Getting Ready for the Salad Greens!

For years we used it to hold champagne bottles nestled in ice — a hallmark of our Annual Oysterville Croquet and Champagne Galas (1984- 2002).  For the past two decades, though, it has been sitting atop a metal storage cupboard in the garage and has been the repository for between-seasons Christmas tree stands and other sometimes-necessities of the household.

Today that old, leaky washtub is headed for Nyel’s new kitchen garden where it will be filled with topsoil and compost and planted with little green onion sets and several kinds of lettuces.  Salads-in-a-Tub within steps of the dinner table!  I don’t think as many people will be bellying up to it now as in its glamorous champagne past, though.

On the other hand, it’s likely to get a little too much attention from our girls.  Those chickens do love to peck and poke in the soil and I know they’ll be excited about a “new” container to explore.  I wonder if Nyel has a Chicken Discouragement Plan in mind.

Research, Reality, and the Color of Eggs

Monday, April 12th, 2021

Eggs in the nest boxes are few and far between these days.  Maybe one a week.  And, all of a sudden, they are the wrong color!

It happened again yesterday – a white egg in the north nest box.  We have only three chickens now – a Barred Rock, a Russian Orloff, and a Rhode Island Red.  They are all brown egg layers, according to all of the Chicken and Egg Experts.  And,  since we have had these girls – upwards of four years for the Little Red Hen and two-to-three for the others – they have faithfully followed the rules.  Until a month or so ago, all eggs have been in the brown tones – darker for Clara (the Barred Rock), a medium brown for Slutvana (the Russian) and Little Red (the Rhode Island gal.)

“Could a visiting chicken be sneaking into the coop?” one of my friends asked.  Highly unlikely, I’d wager.  The nearest chickens, as far as I know, belong to neighbors about a mile south of us – a long commute for a chicken.

“Do eggs change color as the layer ages?” someone else asked.  “Like hair or fur going gray over time?”  Not that I’ve ever heard of.  As far as I can learn from Farmer Nyel’s Chicken Book Library, one egg color for life is the rule for hens.  Generally, there are brown egg-laying breeds, white egg-laying breeds and two “Easter-egger” breeds who lay blue or green eggs.

And then the other day, Vicki sent me information about a gorgeous breed of black chickens who lay black eggs!  Seriously. Called the “Lamborghini of poultry,” the Ayam Cemani, a rare Indonesian chicken is completely black – black feathers, skin, beak, comb and all internal organs and bones are black, as well. The chickens are extremely rare and sell for $199 to $400 per bird.  A breeding pair recently sold for $5.000.  (And, no, we won’t be adding that particular breed to our flock.)

But, so far, I can find no reports of chickens changing the color of their eggs. Only in Oysterville, apparently.

My Current Parallel Universe

Thursday, April 8th, 2021

Mind-boggling Possibilities

When I went out to the coop with the girls’ breakfast this morning, I found myself talking to them about Mrs. Crouch, our resident ghost.  I was asking them if they’ve ever had occasion to speak with her.  They clucked and chirped a bit, but I think they were mostly telling me to get on with their morning treats.  I’m not sure they are into paranormal stuff.

Nor am I.  But, I’ve been in the  midst of going over the copyreader’s edits and stewing about the cover image for my upcoming book, Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula, so I’m traveling along some ghostly parallel plane just now.  Come to think of it, the chickens probably are, too.  Just not the same one as mine.

Which makes me wonder just how many parallel universes there might be.  According to an article titled “Parallel Universes: Theories & Evidence” written by Elizabeth Howell in 2018, the concept of a parallel universe “is a facet of the astronomical theory of the multiverse.” (And never mind that the multiverse term immediately puts my puny thought processes in a musical mode.)  Ms. Howell goes on to say, “There actually is quite a bit of evidence out there for a multiverse.”

She briefly expains five different multiverse theories — all of which are totally beyond me and none of which mentions Mrs. Crouch or any of the other ghosts in Historic Haunts…   On the other hand, Ms. Howell does point out that physicist Stephen Hawking questioned the multiverse theory shortly before his death. “We are not down to a single, unique universe, but our findings imply a significant reduction of the multiverse to a much smaller range of possible universes.”

I wish I’d had a chance to talk with Dr. Hawking about where Mrs. Crouch might be in the great scheme of things.  Unfortunately, the closest I ever got to meeting him was when he visited this house via his appearances on “The Big Bang Theory.”  Perhaps he noticed Mrs. C. in passing.  But whether he did or not, it all begs the question: Whatever will I tell the chickens now?


Hop to it! Easter’s on its way!

Monday, March 29th, 2021

Even the most recalcitrant chickens know that bunnies have nothing whatsoever to do with Easter.  Fluffy little chicks, yes.  Bunnies bearing baskets of colored eggs, definitely not.  And don’t ever bring up that discussion with Aracaunas or Americaunas or other “Easter Egger” chickens who lay those lovely blue and green and purplish eggs.    Talk about crossing their legs until further notice…

Right now, though, we have none of those colorful egg-layers.  In fact, for the past year or so we’ve wondered if our hens are over the hill, production-wise.  We have only three girls and all of them are approaching the slow-down age of three or four.  When they were producing, their eggs ranged in color from a warm beige to a dark brown.

So imagine our surprise these last few evenings when I’ve checked the nest boxes and have found, in the northern one, a light-almost-white egg — and getting lighter each day!  What the…?  My first thought was that one of those girls must be laying for the first time ever.  But after a lengthy discussion with Farmer Nyel and a review of past performance by each of the hens, we are pretty sure that’s not the case.  So the only conclusion to be drawn is that they are preparing the household for Easter.

Two out of three – suitable for dying?

Even chickens can figure out, evidently, that the lighter the egg, the more succesful the dying process will be.  We don’t pretend to know how they can adjust their internal spigots to a desired shell color, but that’s what one of those feathered ladies has done.  Apparently.

Unfortunately,  we have no little kids in residence so we aren’t planning on the dying-and-hiding ritual.  But please don’t tell the chickens.

An Awkward Time of Year

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021

Mr. Wirt and His Chickens c. 1900 – Before Daylight Savings Time

The chickens and I have talked it over and we are in perfect agreement, for a wonder!  This time of year, just after Spring and Daylight Savings Time have converged, is not the easiest time for any of us to co-ordinate things.  Not the humans, not the chickens and not the deer or bear people.  Our clocks — biological, mechanical, digital, and otherwise — are out of sync.

The chickens are still up even after I’ve eaten my dinner.  They will not be ready for their kiss-and-lie-down prayers until I am well-settled in front of the television.  Maybe even nodding a bit.  If neither Nyel nor I remembers to put Jeopardy on pause, I am doomed to go lock up the coop by flashlight.  There is no long twilight at this time of year and, with chickens, I’m either right on time or in the “big dark” as three-year-old Christian Hawes used to call the pitchy-black time of night.

October 2020 – Ms. Doe Eating Pears

I try not to go out at flashlight time.  That’s when the deer people come calling and their modus operandi is to freeze in place when they see me coming.  That’s okay… if I can see them.  But my night vision isn’t too great and I am more-or-less unaware of what lies (or stands) just beyond my little beam of light.  It makes me nervous.

It makes me even more nervous to think that one of the bear people might be lurking out there.  I know they come around at night, too, because they also leave calling cards.  Actually, I’ve never encountered a bear in the yard — not like my frequent meetings with Ms. Doe and Mr. Buck, especially during the fall and winter.

I read recently that deer spend their entire lives within a one-mile radius of where they were born.  That certainly helps explain why I feel well-acquainted with the current deer people of Oysterville and with their forebears, as well.  I don’t know the habits of our village bears, but I suspect their range is somewhat larger.  But it’s not the where of it that I worry about — it’s the when.  Especially during this awkward time of year.

When talking to chickens…

Tuesday, March 16th, 2021

Trying to explain Daylight Savings Time to chickens is a lot like getting them to fuggedabout the pecking order.  It ain’t gonna to happen.

Before the time changed, the girls were going to roost just when I was sitting down to dinner — 5:45ish.  It was still a half hour or so before twilight but no matter.  If I appeared any earlier, they wouldn’t go into the coop.  Much later and I had to use a flashlight and hope I wouldn’t smack into a deer.  Or worse.  So, I was always about ten minutes late for dinner.

Now that we’ve set the clocks forward, you’d think that I could have a lovely, leisurely meal and go do my kiss-and-goodnight duties about 6:45.  It should be perfect, right?  NOT!

“Did you explain it to them?” Nyel asked.

“Of course I did!” was my indignant reply.  Any woman who has taught her chickens that “Egg! Egg! Egg!” means “Get busy in that nest box tomorrow and start laying!” is obviously down with chicken-speak and has the Daylight Savings Concept covered.

So why do they just look at me with that one-sided-eye look and make me come back later no matter what time I arrive to tuck them in?  I’m here to tell you that chickens are very stubborn people.  And I’m beginning to think this property is Arizona and Nyel and I are the Navajos.