True stories of a small flock of remarkable individuals -- and other critters.

Friday, August 8, 2014


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While I dilly-dallied in my garden yesterday, mesmerized by a clean arc of sparkling water flowing from the hose nozzle, I was startled by a very small hummingbird who darted around my head and then hovered above the stream of water.

I held completely still, hoping that it would stay for a moment.  
It was exquisite, and especially tiny, even for a hummingbird. When I spied three shimmering red feathers on its chin, I knew it was a young male Ruby Throated.

I guessed he had come to take a sip, so I held the stream steady while he whizzed around it.
He examined the water from all angles, but he didn't touch it with his  beak. 
Instead, he extended his tiny talons and carefully lowered himself onto this beautiful shiny perch.
For a moment, even I believed it might work.

He raised himself above the flow and tried from another angle.   
His toes were so small there was hardly a splash.

He made a few more attempts to stand on water,

and then he retreated to a more substantial perch in the forsythia bush. 

To ponder physics, no doubt. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Daisy and the Broody Toad

The young Nuggets were terrified of Daisy. Her attacks were incessant.  
So in the interest of peace and safety, I decided to split the flock.  
Thank goodness I've built so many coops.

The four youngsters and Lucy continued to abide in the big coop, 

and I moved Daisy into the jailhouse where wicked Lil'White is serving her life term.

To make Daisy's transition more comfortable, I dragged her favorite little henhouse into the jail yard. 
When I built this house a few years ago, all the ladies were amused by it.  

Lucy checked it out first, then settled on the front porch. 

But Daisy decided instantly that this would be her own personal nest box. 
She marched right in and laid an egg. 

Daisy settled comfortably into jailhouse life, and continues to lay eggs in her white henhouse.  She and Lil'White get along just fine because they're both self-absorbed and aloof.  They kind of enjoy having their very own prison. 

Recently I discovered another resident in the Chicken Jail. 

I discovered it when I opened the back door to Daisy's white house to collect her egg, and nearly grabbed this:
Definitely not an egg. 
It was a toad.  
sitting calmly beneath a Daisy-feather.  

I quickly shut the door.  

I didn't know what to do.

If I left the toad, then Daisy would soon walk in and find it.  
I've seen Daisy kill frogs and shrews.
I love toads.  
Should I rescue it?  
Or should I let nature take its course?

I walked away... 

Later in the evening, I went back out to collect Daisy's egg.  
Expecting to find carnage and toad-chunks, I opened the door ever-so-carefully....
And there it was, Broody Toad, beside an egg.   

Daisy had stepped ever-so-carefully past the toad and laid that egg, then stepped out again.

Why didn't she touch it?

It's not because she likes the toad. It's because she's smart. 

She knows that toads have a secret power. 

Marky knows the secret of the toad.
He learned the hard way. He licked one. 

His mouth fizzed up like he'd eaten a bar of Ivory soap. 

So apparently chickens know, too.  But I'm not sure how.  

Last summer, when the Nuggets were mere youngsters, they met their first toad in the garden.  
They all shrieked and stared. 
I rushed over to see what the hysteria was all about, and found this tiny creature 
standing on its tippy toes, trying to look fearsome.  

Apparently it succeeded.  The ladies didn't touch it.  
It's been more than a month now that Broody Toad has been rooming with Daisy. And Daisy is careful and respectful of it still. 

She's a smart chicken, Daisy.

So where did the phrase, "dumb cluck" come from?  

Not my flock.

Saturday, March 15, 2014


A few weeks back, I went over to my friend Terry Golson's house for a visit, and to congratulate her on the publication of The Farmstead Egg Guide & Cookbook. I love to hang out at Terry's house. Her kitchen always smells of fresh baked treats, and she makes a great cup of coffee.    

Marky loves to visit, too, but Terry's dog Lily stresses him out a bit.  
Because Lily adores Marky.

On this visit, Lily adored him even more than usual.
You know how girls can be a little scary sometimes.

Marky attempted a few subtle cues, but nothing he did could change the way she feels about him.
Lily was happy to gaze at Marky from either end. 

  After coffee, we went out back to see Terry's critters.
Marky seemed relieved to have a little distance between himself and Lily, 

But soon she found him.

Pip and Caper lured Terry into their yard and put her to work
scratching butts and giving kisses. 

I, of course, made a beeline for the henhouse, 
to visit with Terry's lovely ladies.

Marky's nose caught the scent of Phoebe, 
the long-eared member of Terry's flock. 

He set off on a bunny hunt.

And Lily set off on a Marky-hunt.

Find Marky in this picture.  (click to enlarge)

By the end of our visit, Marky seemed to be coming to terms with Lily's passionate attention.  
 Because love really isn't the worst thing that can happen. 

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Win Terry's Book!  
This post is part of Terry's official Blog Tour to celebrate the publication of 
The Farmstead Egg Guide and Cookbook!  
Please leave a comment below (with your email address) in order to win, 
then head over to Terry's blog at  to find out more about Terry and her animals, and for a list of awesome blogs on the tour! 

Monday, January 6, 2014


Continued from the previous post, JAILBIRDS 
(click here to go there)

In the previous episode, I approached the chicken run to find Dorrie looking like this:

The whole flock looked up at me as if I were Jessica Fletcher suddenly appearing at the crime scene.

I didn't know what had happened to Dorrie, but I had a hunch.

My guess:  That Daisy had stirred up the youngsters into such a tizzy that Dorrie nailed her beak into the hardware cloth - the tightly woven fencing that surrounds the run. 

I was instantly furious with Daisy, although I knew I shouldn't be.

I scooped Dorrie into my arms to take a closer look.  Fresh blood and dried blood....this must have happened hours ago.  

I needed another pair of hands to clean Dorrie's wound, and I needed another human to tell me what to do next.  Since I was all alone and it was after 5:00 on a Friday and my vet, Rosario was unavailable, I packed Dorrie into an Epson printer box and drove her to Tufts Veterinary Emergency Room, only a few minutes away.

Two young residents attended to Dorrie. 
I was worried that the top of her beak was missing. 
Once she was cleaned up, we could see that the injury wasn't as bad as it looked. 
She had shaven off the front and sides of her beak, but it was not so bad that it wouldn't grow back eventually.  
Dorrie was the first chicken that the doctors had worked with. 
They thought she was very sweet.

They gave her some hydration and sent us home with antibiotics. 

That night I placed Dorrie on the roost with her flock. 
But first, I moved Daisy out. 

(to be continued)

Sunday, January 5, 2014


Continued from the previous post, " TORTURE". 

Those Pinless Peepers worked.   

They stopped Lil'White from pecking at Lucy, but still allowed enough range of vision for her to shoot me a spiteful glare.   

But I could tell that the Peepers were uncomfortable, and I felt like a real heel for doing this to her.

I gave her about two months - hoping that would be enough time for her feather-picking habit to become a distant memory -- or no memory at all. 

The day I removed the Pinless Peepers, Lil'White took a few steps back and gave me the full-frontal stink-eye. 

Then she shook her plumage indignantly, 
sauntered over to Lucy,  
and promptly resumed her bad habit.  

Sorry, Lil'White. That was your last chance.  

I scooped her up and took her to the mobile coop where the young Nuggets had grown up.  

I placed her inside and locked the door. 

And because Lil'White has no friends, and needs no friends, she settled cheerfully into her cozy private home. 

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

Meanwhile, back at the big coop, all hell was breaking loose. 
I had moved the Nuggets in with the old ladies, expecting them to sort out a pecking order and settle down as a flock.  

But the integration process had gone horribly awry. 

Daisy plotted to make all of their lives miserable. 
She stalked the nuggets from morning to night.
And when she caught them, feathers flew.

Her attacks were relentless. The screams and yelps of her victims were disconcerting.  I hoped that things would mellow out with time, but Daisy just didn't lighten up. 

Then one sunny day, 
as I spent long hours assembling this simple Ikea product on the back deck, 

I noted from across the yard that the flock was unusually calm and quiet.  There was no squawking, no running....  There were no feathers flying.  

Finally, I thought, they've reached an accord.  

That afternoon when I visited the gals, nobody came to greet me. 

Something was wrong, but didn't figure it out until Dorrie turned to look at me.  

Her face was caked with blood.  

Thursday, November 14, 2013


This was an extreme measure.

Let me explain.  
Lil'White had been pecking brutally at Lucy's neck. 
Lucy's neck feathers were all gone, and any new ones that emerged were promptly tweezed by Lil'White. 

This had been going on for months. It was horrible to watch.  
I tried everything I could think of to stop this behavior. I knew that Lil'White would create a bloody wound if she were allowed to continue.

With all options exhausted, I broke down and ordered "Pinless Peepers", a little pince-nez designed to prevent a bird from pecking flock mates while still allowing the bird to eat and drink.  

I had hoped for pink ones.  They sent blue ones. 

With a bit of a struggle, I placed the Peepers on Lil'White's beak, clipping them into her nostrils.
Lil'White would have thrown this brick at my head if she could have. 
She was livid.

But the Peepers worked. The Lucy-plucking subsided, and after a few days Lil'White seemed to adjust somewhat to the contraption. 

It took about a month for Lucy to transform from scraggly
back to glorious.   
But at what cost?    
I felt I had only transferred the torture of one bird to the torture of another. 

And Lil'White continued to despise me -- more than she ever did, if that's even possible. 
There had to be a better solution. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Chicken in Love

Until recently, Marky's job was a piece of cake.
He was in charge of three old ladies.
Lil'White and Daisy have never been much trouble, 
and Lucy hardly ever moves from her chosen spot.

This was a pretty cushy job.  
.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  

Then came the four young Nuggets.  
Four additional chickens shouldn't have been much of a challenge for a professional chicken-protector like Marky…. 

But these four chickens were unlike any that Marky had met before.
These four Nuggets adored the dog. 
They truly enjoyed his company.  
These little gals gleefully pushed the boundaries of chicken-canine relations. 

They stared at him.

They flapped at him.
They cornered him. 

They napped with him.

They stalked the poor guy.

Being friendly with the flock was not part of Marky's job description.

All this attention made him very uncomfortable.  
.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .     

Eventually, Marky felt pressed to teach each of the little ladies a lesson. 

Below, for example, was Phoebe's moment.  She came in from the left and scooted behind Marky.... just a little too tight a squeeze.

Don't worry -- she escaped unplucked.

Next, Dorrie pushed her luck 
She got a little too close.

Just moments after I clicked this photo, Marky expressed his feelings toward Dorrie.  She now demonstrates  proper respect for the dog's personal space. 

One by one, each of the little ladies learned the hard way that Marky's beak contains teeth.

Scarlett, the little Buckeye, had her moment with the teeth, too, but she was not deterred. 

Every day, Scarlett continues to risk her shiny red feathers….

to be near the dog.
She examines him from behind. 
She gazes deep into his eyes.

Marky just wants to be left alone. 
Scarlett just wants to be close to Marky.
Wherever the dog goes, Scarlett finds him. 
Marky has become extra patient with this little gal. 
Maybe he realizes that another display of fangs will be useless in thwarting her advances.

He tries to ignore her. 
And I try to fend off disaster.
It's Scarlett I'm scolding in this photo - not Marky. 
And still she doesn't get it. 
Thank you, Marky, for not killing the chicken today.

…'s not easy being Marky. 

But it's also not easy being a chicken in love.