It’s the end of the diva reign. She graced us with her presence. She has now crossed over to diva heaven, gracing those that passed before her.
Ah, the sound of tweet tweets of baby chicks are here and they warm the cockles of my soul. Call me crazy. I do love my chickens. Besides the fact they’re beautiful birds and fun to watch, they serve a nutritional benefit as well. I’m talking about the eggs here, not the meat.
Snapping funny photographs of “the girls” has become one of my favorite pastimes. Any time I can capture a moment when their derierres aren’t stuck up high to the sky while their heads are down can be quite an accomplishment.
Chickens are very curious creatures. Take Lacey here for example.
Lacey is a Plymouth Barred Rock. The only reason why she comes running to me is she thinks I might have a snack for her. And if I don’t, she shows her expression of “Are you kidding me?” by way of her cocked head and blinking of the eyes. It’s fascinating how easy it is to interpret their thoughts. Or maybe I’m just delusional.
Instead of waiting for all of the leaves to fall, I decided to get out while a few days are left of sunshine to work in the garden. Things can pile up fast, so getting ahead of the game makes raking and garden cleanup a whole lot easier in the long run. I even had a few helpers.
Oh yes, the girls like to be a part of everything going on in their yard. Especially Mavis.
Mavis Mae tends to get underfoot when I’m out in the yard. She’s the old gal of the bunch, and is hearty as ever. She can out scratch the others, bustling about in the ground with her feet and beak, finding morsels of bugs and worms to feed on.
While Mavis and her merry maids wandered about the garden, I picked the remnants of the gourds. These are the cutest little forms of squash. Some I’ll be able to bake and use in recipes. The rest will be used for Fall decorating.
Call me crazy. Maybe even a wee bit on the eccentric side. The bottom line is I love my chickens. There’s a magical whimsy that takes over when I’m in their presence, like being in Alice In Wonderland. The inner child in me wants to go spend the day in their coop and just play. Even if just for a few minutes, being part of the “flock” can be fun. And heartwarming. Each one has a unique personality, complete with sounds and expression.
I suppose that’s why I decided to embark on a major remodel of their abode early this Spring.
Since the recent renovation, I’ve been on the hunt for decorative items to spruce it up a bit. After all, they like to feel right at home just like we do, right? I know. Crazy.
One’s imagination can get carried away with all of this chicken business. Literally. There are so many different things to do that make part of chicken-keeping so fun and entertaining. I was able to land a few cute tin signs on Ebay to hang on the covered exterior wall of the new addition. While I was at it, I pulled a copper hanging lantern that once hung in my kitchen out of the “to sell” pile for the upcoming yard sale. I really didn’t want to part with it, but during the kitchen remodel I had it replaced with more efficient lighting. Thank goodness I went rummaging in my own stash of disgards. This works perfect!
It adds a rustic ambiance to the outdoor run. Though I might have to call in that electrician after all so I can light the place up like a Christmas tree if I want. Hubs might take a stand at this point and rain on my parade. We might have to battle this one out. Not really. He will just smile with a grin and say “Whatever you want, honey.” And he means it. I think.
Those little signs are a good start, too. My quest for vintage signs continues as they provide for an interesting mix of color and sayings that add to the wall.
The girls seem to approve of the new enhancements to their little villa.
I think they need something to hop up on too, like straw bales. Maybe hubs will go to the feed store and pick up a few for the spoiled rotten divas. They’d like that. Uh huh.
The crowning glory would be a copper weather vane on the rooftop. There are so many to choose from online. It would be great to find one at an auction or estate sale. That will just have to go on the list for finishing touches. It’s like putting a cherry on top of an ice cream sundae, or icing on a cake. Which would signal an end to the remodel. Until I conjure up something else that needs to be done. See, I am crazy.
Do you share in the chicken fever? If so, I’d love to hear about it.
Enjoy the weekend!
Often times my husband will reminisce about his days of childhood. The best stories are the ones he tells about when he would run away from home with his cousin in search of a better life. Kind of like an old Huck Finn storyline. The best part of the tale is when nightfall would come. It got cold. They got scared. And they got hungry.
Sheepishly, the boys would return home, knowing they’d get a spanking, followed by a seat at the dinner table to eat leftovers, of which they ravenously devoured.
His Mamaw would always shake her finger at them and say “Crumb will getcha.” And it did, every time.
So this morning I headed out to clean the girls digs. I try to keep the nesting boxes and floor fresh with clean pine shavings. It’s always a good time to take notice if there are any problems going on, like parasites or runny stools that could signal possible illness. My motto is “A clean chicken is a healthy chicken.” That goes for the coop as well. Besides, the eggs we eat are a byproduct of their environment. Okay, enough said.
While I’m busy inside raking and sweeping, the hens chatter away in the run outside. A few of them like to be nosy about what I’m up to, so they come in under foot until I have to shoo them away. It usually takes two trips to the compost pile where I dump the litter. After the first cart was full, I headed out the gate. Unbeknownst to me, the door was cracked just enough for the most inquisitive one to escape.
That would be Mavis. She strutted around, checking everything out until she settled in to a pile of rich garden soil I had reserved for planting seedlings. Since I knew she wasn’t going anywhere for awhile, I continued to finish up with the coop chores. When it was time to herd her back with the others, she became quick like greased lightening, and there was no way I was going to get her to run back in on her own free will.
Then I remembered. “Crumb will getcha.”
I fetched a piece of day old bread and went in to the run with the others to feed it to them. As they gathered like guppies at my feet, Mavis was beside herself. She wanted in on the action, too. Now chickens aren’t too swift in the brains department. Even though I left the gate wide open, she just ran up and down the side of the fence in a quandary as to how she was going to get back in. Alas, she finally figured it out, and in no time darted from behind me in quest of the holy breadcrumb.
Mavis is the head chickstress, so there was no way she was going to miss out. As soon as her presence was known, the others stood in a quandary, like “Where did she come from?” Eva usually doesn’t sit still for a nano second. I was able to capture the look on her face.
After all of the hoopla was over, the girls started to preen with satisfaction for having had a good snack. Zsa Zsa took to herself in a quiet shaded corner to pluck at her plumage.
Lacey and Coco followed suit. It’s funny how they tend to have predictable habits.
With Mavis back in safe and sound, and all of the girls content, I finished spreading out the last of the pine shavings, filled the feeders, and topped off their water.
And with that, I’ll call it all good and head to the shower.
Thank you, Mamaw. Yes, crumb will getcha every time.
Rarely does anything go to waste around my house. It takes a lot of meal reinventions with leftovers and repurposing before I consider a toss to the trash. One of the great things about having backyard chickens is they will gladly take any and all of the scraps you give them. Borderline-turning rotten fruits and veggies, outdated dairy (oh yes, the girls LOVE yogurt!), and day old bread.
Once in a blue moon if I haven’t used up the eggs within a few weeks, I’ll scramble them up and they’ll eat those too! Yeah, it sounds weird, huh? But they really like them! Just a word of caution, don’t ever, EVER, give them raw eggs. Once they get the taste for them, the chickens get an insatiable hunger for them and you’ll never see another egg again! They’ll start pecking the freshly laid ones, and once they start that habit they will never stop. I had a Rhode Island Red that got her first taste from a cracked egg that landed on the floor in the coop and broke. She gobbled it up so fast, and from then on she thought the rest of the eggs that the girls laid were free game. I had to say “bye bye” to her.
Um, no, she didn’t land in the stew pot. She was humanely turned over to someone who wanted just one laying hen. She’s alive and well and doing just fine.
I recently ended up with too much salad mix that in no way hubs and I were going to finish off. It was one of those big containers from one of those big warehouse stores. So out to the girls it went.
As soon as it landed in the feed pan, the party began.
It’s quite entertaining to observe how they each jockey for position to take a scratch at the lettuce.
Mavis is on first!
Mavis goes for a nose dive, while Lacey sneaks up the rear.
And then there’s Coco. She is the sweet, quiet one that always settles for leftovers. There has never been a time that I’ve seen her try to compete with the others.
I tend to be like her. Avoid confrontation if at all possible. Smart girl.
Coco is a Silver Pencilled Wyandotte, bred for their feathers that are used to make fly fishing ties. It’s a good thing that I don’t fish. And if I did, I certainly wouldn’t pluck at her just to catch one!
They all dart around so fast that it’s hard to get a clear focus on any of them. So that’s what a salad party looks like!
There are some leftover potato skins from last night’s dinner in the fridge. It’s time to go out and say good morning with a treat in hand. It makes them feel special.
Have a wonderful hump day!
A remodel was inevitable. Late last summer, a hail storm pounded the you-know-what out of things. All of our fruit and vegetables in the garden were destroyed, tree limbs snapped, and window screens shredded. Luckily no glass was broken. The henhouse took a beating as well.
The girls took cover fast and furious, huddling inside the coop until the storm passed. The west side of their digs was chipped in spots, but was good enough to make it through winter. With all of the moisture we’ve had, the seams were starting to split on the exterior. At the time the coop went up, it was only a matter of time before reinforcements would have to be made.
In my quest for finding a handyman service for the “honey-do” list, the coop was at the top of priorities. It felt kind of funny calling and asking, “Oh, by the way, would you be interested in undertaking a chicken coop remodel?” The first guy that listened intently with a pause said “Sure, no problem! Yeah, we can do that.” Relief overcame me. I was determined to secure the girls nesting quarters before another storm comes along.
Here’s what LePoulailler (that’s French for Hen House) looked like before the work started.
You can see how it was truly coming apart at the seams in this picture. The chain link and shade cover were a temporary fix for additional run space for them. It served it’s purpose.
The guys showed up when they said they would (this is a sign of a good work ethic) and immediately began measuring and making a list of materials. It was no time at all before they returned with a truck load of rough cut lumber and all the screws needed to start the initial phase of rewrapping the exterior. The barn wood was a bargain and went up quickly.
With all of the hammering and other noises going on, the girls got a bit stressed out. They get scared when strangers come around. Within a few days they adjusted to all of the activity quite well. Except they refused to lay any eggs. I told them it was okay.
Once the roof material that had been ordered came in, the guys were able to build the addition for an enclosed run area.
It quickly passed inspection by the girls, and they couldn’t wait to flutter their wings and stretch out in their new playground. There was a lot of talkin’ going on amongst them when I opened the gate for the first time. Zsa Zsa, being the most inquisitive, took the lead and in no time the others followed. They seem to like their new Shangri-La.
I still have more painting and trim work to do, but I have to say this has been excellent progress. Even the inside has been fully insulated. Pictures and mirrors will go up on the walls, along with a cute little vintage chandelier to hang over their perch. I’ve even thought about hanging a strand of little lights on the outside to give the coop a twinkle in the dark.
You’re probably thinking I’m some kind of a crazy, eccentric woman. The fact of the matter is, I love my backyard chickens. There’s something magical that happens in the presence of these characters. It’s a sort of whimsy that becomes spellbinding and draws on inner creativity that has been dormant since childhood. At least that’s the way it is for me. And I have had the pleasure to meet other flock keepers who have had a similar experience and feel the exact same way. So I’m not alone in all of this perceived hysteria.
The day is marching on, and since rain is predicted for tomorrow, I better grab that paint brush. The spoiled rotten divas will delight in my presence, putting on a pageantry of drama that will keep me smiling from ear to ear.
If you share in my enthusiasm for these feathered creatures, I’d love to hear about it!
The poor gal. She was one of the best egg layers in the flock. Her name was Cagney.
I know, I know. “You named her?” you ask. Yeah, well. I have to call every creature I raise or adopt something. She was one I raised as a chick, a little bigger than the size of a walnut. Just coming onto three years of age, she had been pretty consistent in the production department.
There was a nice break in the weather, so I let the girls out to enjoy the sunshine. As with each day, morning and night, I check each one of them to make sure they look healthy and don’t appear to have any problems going on. She had seemed fine that morning, but as the day progressed, she wasn’t darting around with the others in her normal fashion. I thought maybe something had happened to her wing or leg.
I picked her up to inspect her, then turned her over. She looked like she could have been “egg bound.” That’s when a hen can’t pass an egg. I bravely pulled on a pair of latex exam gloves and probed the inside of her cavity to see if I could pull it out. But I couldn’t feel anything. It was so hard inside. I shouted out to my husband to bring me the phone.
Okay, this is where I draw the line with this “country living” thing. The chicken was obviously in pain. Her waddles were starting to turn purple. I immediately called our veterinarian. Yes, you heard me right. I called the vet. I didn’t want the poor thing to suffer. And there was no way in hell I was going to personally take her out of her misery by wringing her neck. No way. Not this city girl. The mere thought makes my stomach roll. Besides, Cagney was technically a pet.
So I crated her up and drove her to the vet, who was graciously waiting for me at the front door. Of course it was the weekend. An emergency call. Appropriate charges will follow. She pulled her out onto the table and could see there was no hope, so she kindly drew up a syringe of the lethal stuff to send her on her way, pain free.
It was such a relief to my soul. I could not have bared to witness one more excruciating minute of her struggle. Peace immediately came to my heart. On the drive home with the empty pet carrier in the back seat, I started to wonder if chickens, or any animal for that matter, go to the same place we humans do. They’re living, breathing beings.
Is there a chicken Heaven? What do you think? I would love for you to share your thoughts.
I’ve been raising and care-taking a small flock of laying hens over the past three years. They’re not just any hens. They’re special. They’re not your run-of-the-mill egg layers.
So what’s one to do with an ageing hen? That’s the dilemma.
They have names. Zsa Zsa, Eva, Liza, Coco, Myrna, Mavis, Cagney and Lacey. They’re drop-dead gorgeous. There are two French Favorelles, two Golden Laced Wyandottes, a Silver Penciled Wyandotte (her feathers are coveted for fly fishing ties), an Americana Blue Wheaten (she’s a green egg layer), and two Plymouth Barred Rock hens. Oh, I know, I should have never named them. Never, never, ever!