Archive for the ‘Backyard Chickens’ Category

Full of surprises is our Slutvana!

Wednesday, May 11th, 2022

Nyel with Slutvana’s (mis-shapen) egg

I read somewhere that common character traits of Russians (the people, that is) are, broadly speaking, generosity, resilience. and strength.  I cannot vouch, however, for those traits in Russian chickens — certainly not in Russian Orloffs and most assuredly not in our Slutvana.  Nor can I assert with any assuranee that Slutvana is a typical Russian Orloff or, for that matter, that Russian Orloffs (being chickens) bear any character resemblance to the Russian people, themselves.

Having said that, I would like to announce that Slutvana surprised the household and, indeed, the entire neighborhood, the other day by laying an egg!  YES!  We could’ve sworn that Slutvana’s egg-laying days were long over.  We haven’t seen one of her distinctive light-brown-oblongish-and-invariably-mishapen-eggs for months.  But last Thursday there one was — plunk in the middle of the north nestbox.  And since Slutvana now has the coop and all chicken accoutrements to herself, there can be no doubt as to the responsible party.

Slutvana Enjoys Her Reward!

Nyel sent her a grand reward — half an ear of corn.  Never mind that we had purchased four ears at Fred Meyer’s and had determined upon trying the first two that they were of ancient vintage — probably kept in cold storage since last summer’s harvest.  We set aside the other two for Slutvana and she laid that egg just in time for the corn to be given as a “thank-you.”

I doubt that she put two and two together, so to speak.  I’m not sure how good chickens are at understanding cause and effect in the first place.  And, even if they do, it’s probably a stretch to connect a half ear of fresh corn with a warm, freshly laid egg.  I did explain it to her, but she was already in corn-on-the-cob-heaven and could have cared less about how that came to be.

I know that because now it’s Wednesday and she has not repeated her performance.  Nor have we produced the other half of that ear of corn.  Maybe today…  One thing we do know: the age of the corn did not matter to Slutvana.  That’s definitely one thing you can tell about chickens (and corn) — it’s all good!


Blissful, Solitary Slutvana

Saturday, April 9th, 2022


We’ve probably all known girls like Slutvana.  Aloof.  Totally independent.  A bit pushy when she wants to be.  And the biggest flirt in the crowd.  Do the boys see through her?  See her for what she is? Who knows?  Most of those randy- rooster types don’t put a very fine point on proper behavior.

So, now that Slutvana has no competition in the coop, she seems quite content.  She still dashes out to be the first one to get scratch in the morning.  It takes her a minute or two to realize that there is no longer any competition, but even so she doesn’t linger over the morsels of corn.  Peck-and-gone! Peck-and-gone!  No use taking chances.

Slutvana at Work

It’s hard to tell if she really realizes that it’s just her and me now.  She isn’t kowtowing to me — not yet  When there were more chickens she’d come to me immediately — treats be damned — and “assume the position” in deference to my alpha (apparently male) status.  Never mind that it didn’t get her anywhere.  Those Russian Orloffs are bred to be submissive, apparently.

Slutvana on Patrol (“No new chickens in MY coop!”)

Well… yuck! to that.  And I’m not even tempted to find her a rooster.  We’ve had more than our share of bad luck with roosters.  Several people have offered but I can’t really think that they have either Slutvana or their struttin’ cock-o-the-walk foremost in mind.  I say that because I say, “No thank you regarding the rooster, but we’d gladly give Slutvana to you and your handsome chanticleer.”  So far: end of conversation.

But lest you warm-and-fuzzy chicken lovers worry, as does my friend Nancy, that lone chickens “don’t thrive,” don’t waste your time with Slutvana.  I wouldn’t be surprised if she starts laying again.  You never can tell with chickens, you know. Those backyard fowl can really be quite foul!


Goodbye to Little Red Hen

Wednesday, April 6th, 2022

Nyel with Little Red Hen, 2012

Last night
Oh so lightly
She was breathing
Nestled among the cedar shavings
On the coop floor.

That she knew
Farmer Nyel was home
I have no doubt.
Chickens know more things
Than you would think.

Nyel and Little Red Hen

Nyel raised her
From a fluffy ball of yellow
And for ten years
They had a special bond,
Little Red Hen and Nyel.

I brought her to the house
So they could say “goodbye.”
Slutvana came, too —
Maybe for treats.

It’s often hard to tell with chickens.

From the O-zones: O’ville & Oz! Days 17/18

Sunday, March 27th, 2022

Little Red Hen – Sunday Morning 3/27/22

If you’d have told me that I’d be writing on this day about…  but wait!  Let me start at the beginning.

When I went down to let the girls out and give them their morning treat, I found Slutvana pacing back and forth along the inside of the chicken wire fence, as usual, clucking noisily: “You’re late!  You’re late! You’re late!”  Little Red Hen, on the other hand was just standing there, beak to fence — not moving, not blinking.  I opened the gate, threw some scratch into the Cypress Garden and off went Slutvana like a shot (as usual.)  Little Red Hen remained, beak to fence — not moving.

I went back to the treat bin and brought her some meal worms (just for her) asking what was the matter and how could I help.   She expressed no interest — not in the meal worms and not in my worried questions.  She didn’t move a muscle or ruffle a feather.  Was she  sick?  Was she missing Farmer Nyel?  As you know, it’s always hard to tell with chickens.

Little Red Hen and Farmer Nyel In Plummier Days

I talked to her for a while, trying to reassure her that Nyel is in a specially designed coop for Farmer people who don’t feel well and that he’s slowly getting better.  I told her maybe he’d even be home by the end of the week…  Still she didn’t move.

So then I did what any good Chicken Farmer’s wife would do… I called Nyel, explained the situation and asked if he would talk to Little Red Hen if I held the phone to her ear.  Which he did when I did.  And that’s the part that never in my wildest dreams would I have anticipated doing…

She did move her eye toward the phone.  Just once.  Then she went back into the land of Catatonia.  Did she hear her beloved Farmer?  I don’t know.  What is her status now?  Again… I don’t know.  I haven’t yet had the courage to go see. I do believe in miracles, even among chickens, and I am surely hoping for one now.  Stay tuned.

True Love!!! (not just lust after all!)

Sunday, February 27th, 2022

Slutvana’s Egg – 2-27-2022

I’ve said it repeatedly and I’ll no doubt say it again:  “It’s hard to tell with chickens.”

But not this time.  Slutvana has let me know as plain as plain that she isn’t just lusting after illicit affection when she “assumes the position.”  She truly loves me.  And I know this because, this morning she gave me an early birthday present!  Yes!  An egg still warm and just a bit sticky waiting for me in the middle nest box.

On Friday – Flowers from Charlie!!

I went out to the coop a few minutes after eight.  I could see (and hear) Little Red Hen pacing back and forth inside the fence, waiting impatiently for her morning treats.  Slutvana was not to be seen.  But as I reached for the latch on the gate, here she came — bounding out of the coop to join LRH for her share of the goodies.

After letting them out and checking their food and water supply, I thought to myself, “Self,” thought I.  “Maybe you should check the nest boxes.  Just in case.”  And there it was! The first egg since August 14th!  Wow!

And the cards keep coming every day!

I can only think that Slutvana has been aware of the extra flurry and scurry at our front door these last few days.  Though my (ahem!) 86th birthday is not until Monday, the cards and flowers and even packages have been arriving for the past few days.   Only a chicken who really is in love would go to the lengths Slutvana has managed to get in on the Happy Birthday act!  What a gal!

(That doesn’t mean I take back EVERYthing I’ve said about her.  Just part of it.)


Once A Slut, Always A Slut…

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2022

Perhaps Slutvana thinks I look like this rooster?

I’ve had trouble in the past being mistaken for an alpha male rooster, but only by actual alpha male roosters who were so cocky they didn’t even get that I didn’t have feathers.  Or wattles.  Or a comb.  And since I wasn’t equipped with claws and spurs, I didn’t accept any challenges; I just boxed up my rival(s) and headed for the poultry auction.

But, for the last few days, our Russian Orloff hen has been “assuming the position” and offering herself to me when I go out to greet the girls in the morning.  She even lets Little Red Hen get a head start on the scratch that I scatter, hunkering hopefully by my feet and waiting… FOR WHAT?!?

Click, Clack and the Head Cluck – 2012

It is true that long before Slutvana — in fact it was our first introduction to chickens — we were “adopted” by two stray, very young Leghorn roosters.  They would “work” along side me in the garden;  I think that my red hat must have confused them into thinking I was a relative.  But they never acted as though I were a potential lady friend.

Of course, no one said that Slutvana is the brightest biddy in the coop.  “Can you not see that I have no feathers?” I ask her.  “Do I really LOOK like a rooster?  And just how horny are you, anyway?”

None of my questions seem to make her question her behavior.  Somehow, the boss is the boss is the alpha male.  At least when your name is Slutvana.  And, of course, we named her that for a reason.  She was introduced to the coop as a young pullet when we happened to have two very randy roosters in residence.  (Actually all roosters are randy and should be so named.)  Of all the girls we had then, and there were “quite a many” (as my mom would say), most avoided constant attention from the guys.  But not Slutvana.  Oh no.  Not Slutvana.


Perhaps some of my readers are under the misapprehension that hens need roosters to produce eggs.  That, of course, is not true.  To produce fertilized eggs which can hatch into chicks, yes.  But hens need no help from the male of the species to produce plain old everyday (don’t we wish!) eggs.  I’ve spoken to both Slutvana and Little Red about this since they’ve stopped laying. Somehow, though, I think the Russian Orloff has her wires crossed.  YIKES!


True Confessions of a CF*s Wife

Friday, February 18th, 2022

Nyel and Little Red Last Summer

*Chicken Farmer

Much as I hate to admit it, I have recently realized that my chicken duties as the wife of Farmer Nyel have become tiresome, burdensome and some other things, as well.  I place no blame on the Farmer and only a little on the chickens.  Mostly, it’s the time of year and the weather.

Between the autumnal and vernal equinoxes — roughly September 21st to March 21st — when daylight hours are diminished, my  chicken duties come at impossible times — during the busy part of my morning and (would you believe) right during the evening cocktail hour.  If I don’t forget one or the other, I can assure you that my mood is never enhanced by remembering.  Not a good attitude for the wife of a Chicken Farmer who, through no fault of his own, has had to give up his chicken duties.  Especially when it’s raining and his wheelchair tends to mire down in the sog.

Slutvana and LRH Wait On the East Porch

I do succumb to pressure (chicken pressure) and let the girls out to “free range” if the forecast is for under 10% rain.  Not always reliable, but I do feel guilty and they ALWAYS want out of their quarters — even if  a bit reluctantly during those snowy days.

The other part about letting them out is the habit they developed of hanging out on the east porch, waiting for Farmer Nyel to open the door and give them meal worms and other treats.  Nyel (or so he says) felt sorry that I periodically had to brave the sop and bluster and hose off that porch where the chickens waited patiently (and to no avail) day after day.

“They’ll forget about the treats if I don’t show up,” he assured me.  That was before Christmas.  And still they arrive each mid-morning (that I let them out) and there they sit until the cocktail hour…  Which brings me back to Jackie Polzin and her book brood in which she states that chickens have no memory and that by the time a snowflake hits the ground from on high, chickens have forgotten that it’s snowing.  I’m here to tell you  (and Farmer Nyel) that Little Red Hen and Slutvana have remembered for months (at least two) that Farmer Nyel brings treats to the east porch if they wait long enough and leave enough calling cards.

In April 2019

And, finally… it’s the no eggs business that puts me over the edge.  Since mid-May of 2020 when Snowwhite went toes up, the two remaining girls have produced fewer that two dozen  eggs between them and none at all since last July 21st.  They are probably just too old — each of them probably well beyond the five or six year average age for chicken productivity.  Realizing that they are old, as am I, just increases my feelings of guilt.  Perhaps I need to come to grips with the idea of a Long Term Care Facility for Chickens which is, after all, what we seem to have.

Bottom Line:  I’ll be glad when the days are longer and dryer and the girls can reunite with Farmer Nyel.  Then maybe the Chicken Farmer’s Wife will be less grumpy.

Suddenly… from frightful to delightful!

Sunday, January 9th, 2022
Sunshiny Blue Skies

Sunshiny Blue Skies – 1/9/2022

Eight o’clock this morning:  Chicken duty accomplished in shirtsleeves!  It’s hard to believe that just ten days ago I was slipping and sliding my way to Long Beach on icy, snowy. slushy roads.  In fact, in some places the roads were bare and dry.  Maybe there should have been a report that said:  Peninsula Road Conditions: Variable.

Long Shadows in the Morning

I think that the Old Farmer must have cut right to today when he was giving his Almanac predictions for the 2022 winter weather in the Pacific Northwest — “milder than normal” is what he said. I sure thought his crystal ball had gone funny on him during that nasty spell at the end of December.  I hope to goodness we’re all back on track now.  As Nyel says whenever the sun shines in mid-winter, “It’s practically tropical out!”  (Never mind that our outdoor temperature is hovering at 44°F right now.)  Looks like summer; feels like summer.

Chicken Toes in The Grass

And the chickens are ecstatic!  They are out poking around, looking for insects and grubs and maybe a few seeds or tasty bits of winter vegetation.   Mostly, they tell me, they are just glad to feel the grass between their toes — not that freezing white stuff.  And they didn’t much appreciate the bay water that flooded their coop run last week — way too salty for any practical purpose.  Like drinking.  I didn’t even need to remind them that salt isn’t good for chickens; they already knew it.

As much as I wish to get out and “enjoy a breath of fresh air,” my Spooky Stories deadline looms.  When Chaucer didn’t include weather in his phrase “time and tide wait for no man” I can only hope that he knew what he was doing.  Maybe the weather will hold until my January 17th deadline is over.  We can but hope.



Slippy Slidey on the Chicken Path

Sunday, December 5th, 2021

Chicken Coop in the snow – 2015

Well, we don’t really have a “path” from the house to the chicken coop.  It’s not all that far to walk and it’s just across the east lawn and behind the cypress trees — a spit and a holler, you might say.  In fact, I try not to follow exactly the same route day after day.  I wouldn’t really want a visible trail across the lawn.  Besides, my meanderings give me a chance to check out the new mole hills — my gawd, those critters are busy right now! — and see how Mrs. G.W. Leach and the  Honorable Jean Maries are coming along.  As in buds today, blossoms soon.

This morning the grass was coated with shiny white frost and it was SLIPPERY.  Not so much on the way out which is ever-so-slightly downhill, but on the way back.  Uphill is harder when there’s no traction.  Don’t mention it to my son Charlie, though.  He is concerned that, even under the best of conditions, I will fall on my way out to the girls.  I think it’s because he was here in 2018 when Nyel fell on his way out there — the beginning of his long journey toward life in a wheelchair.

Our Lower Meadow – A Favorite Coyote Hangout

And, also, please don’t mention to Charlie that our neighbor Sue is concerned about my being out after dark.  “Coyotes!” she says.  Actually, I very seldom go out after 4:30 p.m. these days and if, for any reason, it’s beyond gloaming, I take a flashlight with a very big, bright beam.  Besides, as I told her, I haven’t seen or heard any coyotes around for a year or more.

“Oh, they’re out there,” she said, and proceeded to tell us about one coming close to her porch recently and actually growling at her!  Yikes!  “Maybe it was growling at Ursa,” I offered.  But Sue was sure not.  So… don’t tell Charlie.  And my resolve is re-doubled.  Out to the chickens before 4:30 — though the girls aren’t likely to be cooperative about heading for the roost if it’s TOO light!

Ah, the trials of a chicken farmer’s wife.  And who knew that it’s all uphill from the coop? Literally, not figuratively.

A Case of Mistaken Identity

Wednesday, November 24th, 2021

Ida-Mae and Clara — In Plummier Days

Not that it makes any difference.  But, I have discovered that it wasn’t Clara who was feeling ill.  It was Ida-Mae, Clara’s almost-twin sister.  I’m embarrassed to admit it but, for almost a year, we’ve been calling our (now) missing hen by the wrong name!

I know that for a fact because yesterday, after seeing that beautiful black and white hen in such obvious distress, I looked up her history.  Not that I have ancestry.comforchickens (if, indeed, there is such a thing) but I do write about various chicken milestones in my blog.  I was curious about how long we’d had “Clara” and when her “almost-twin” had died, so I took a look in past blog posts.  Here is what I found:

June 20, 2020 – a pair of Barred Rock hens came from our neighbors down the road who generously answered my plea for a couple of hens to increase our puny flock of two — if you can really call two hens a “flock.”  They are beautiful, mellow additions and, for a while, are being isolated from Slutvana and Little Red Hen in the once-up0n-a-time “Broody Coop” …  Their former owners estimated them to be two years old.

In June 2020

June 27, 2020 – In the seven days since we’ve had them, they’ve give us seven eggs.  They are totally sweet, good-natured girls.  We are calling them Clara and Ida-Mae. 

December 14, 2020 – I had just finished writing my blog about chickens’ sleeping habits yesterday when I went to let the girls out of the coop and found Ms. Clara toes up just behind the roost…

And, apparently, without missing a beat, I’ve called Ida-Mae by Clara’s name ever since.  I’m so sorry.  It sort of reminds me of the Victorian habit of changing a living child’s name to that of a sister or brother who has just died.  My own great-grandmother Richardson, born October 30, 1856, was Christened Anne Maria Taylor but when younger sister Medora Law Taylor (1864-1869) died, Anne Marie became Annie Medora Taylor.  An odd custom I’ve always thought.  And  here I’ve done it to our chickens!

No matter.  Whether we remember her as Clara or Ida-Mae, she was still missing this morning.  Missing and presumed… you know the rest.