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

Saturday, May 29, 2010


continued from the previous post: SPRING ROBINS

People ask me how we can tell Lucy and Pigeon apart.

Well, their feathers are the same, but the rest is totally different.
Pigeon's got a goofy expression on her face.
And you'll never see her just walking.

Lucy is slow as molasses.

Their conversations :

Pigeon ends every word with an exclamation point, while Lucy moans and laments.

I guess if I had 50 Barred Rocks, I wouldn't be able to tell them apart, let alone know them as individuals.

But with only two, the differences are like night and day.

In Sy Montgomery's new book, Birdology,
she talks about a study that was conducted to see how chickens tell each other apart. 

Scientists took a flock of chickens of a single breed and painted their feathers different colors, and the chickens still recognized their friends and flockmates.
But then they put little hats over their combs, and the chickens couldn't figure out who was who.


When my husband hangs out with the hens on weekend mornings, they all look up at his face, recognizing him as The Raisin Man.

..or The Breadcrust Man, or The Leftover Corn Man.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

The little gals, Daisy and Fern, are beginning to recognize me. 

Until recently, I was just THE HAND  to them.

Now Fern sees me as a comforting caretaker.

Daisy still has a bit of trouble with that concept.

Daisy also has trouble understanding that those beautiful hens sauntering around the yard just might want to kill her.
.  .  .  .  .  .  .Next post: BECOMING A CHICKEN

Friday, May 28, 2010


Continued from the previous post: GASP

We interrupt this chicken-blog to bring you
this robin

who bashed herself against this window 

day in and day out 

for  two weeks.

During brief breaks, she built this scruffy nest in a bush nearby.

She met herself a fella who liked her quirky ways, and in four days they had four eggs.

She tucked them in and sat on them.

Three hairy pink babies hatched on a cold morning, and the fourth hatched that afternoon.

Both parents cared for them tirelessly.

In a few days they started to look like birds.

Babies grew huge as days grew warm.
In two short weeks they were done.

Alert and ready, they literally popped out of the nest.
They each spent a day in the bushes around the yard while the parents continued to feed them.
And now they're part of the world.


Saturday, May 15, 2010


.  .  .  .  continued from the previous post: SILENT MORNING

Lil'White has a passive-aggressive streak.
Here's what she does to annoy the gals:
She hogs the nest-box.

She doesn't necessarily lay an egg...sometimes she sits there all puffed up and serious-like, and never lays anything.
Lucy and Pigeon walk in and look at her, walk out, walk in again, impatiently waiting their turn.

This just makes Lil'White sit there longer.

She's not broody.  The sound of a little chicken-scratch being tossed on the ground is all it takes to rouse her from the nest, and she forgets all about brooding.

But on a recent hot sunny day as I worked in the studio, I looked out the window and noticed Lil'White hadn't come out... for hours.  I went to check on her. 
When I opened the lid of the nestbox,

she looked up at me with her beak wide open, gasping.

It was really hot in there.
I lifted her out  and placed her on the grass, offered her some water but she could barely stand up, let alone drink.

So I whisked her across the yard to Marky's brand-new supersized water bowl and I plunked her feet in the cool water.
Marky wasn't sure he liked that.

I put her back on the lawn but she still wouldn't drink - she just kept gasping.
So I lifted her golden wings and patted water in her armpits.

Although I was concerned for her, I did enjoy this rare moment communing with my beautiful stand-offish Orpington... She'd never tolerate such attention when she's feeling well. 

After about 20 minutes Lil'White took a drink and began to perk up a bit, so I took her to a shady place where Lucy and Pigeon were grazing.
Lil'White just stood where I'd placed her. 

Now, Lucy and Lil'White have never been close.  They are flock-mates, they're cordial, but it's not a friendship, and they do not gravitate toward each other.

So I watched with interest when, as soon as I placed Lil'White on the lawn, Lucy limped slowly over to her and sat down beside her. It was clear that Lucy understood what had happened to Lil'White, and was showing concern for her.

Lil'White, oblivious to Lucy's gesture, turned and walked away. 

And that was o.k. because that was Lil'White.
I think Lucy is just.... different.
I have never met another animal, nor many other people, as sensitive, compassionate and dignified as Lucy is.   

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
As for the hot henhouse,  I solved the problem right away. I cut a new window for some cross-ventilation, and it's much cooler in there now.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

Next blog post:  SPRING ROBINS

Thursday, May 6, 2010


.  .  .  .  .  continued from the previous post: THE GREAT ESCAPE

Every night, I locked Roosterman into Lucy's old coop so that at dawn he could crow his little head off without waking the whole neighborhood.  Each morning I'd let him out, so he could crow all day.  

But this morning was strangely silent.

Roosterman was gone.

The predator had been swift and efficient-- 

Marky and I found no blood, no body parts... only a few orange feathers on the ground in front of his little coop.
I think it must have been a fox or a fisher cat that took him.

I regret that I didn't provide sufficiently for Roosterman's safety.

I had tried to get him into his coop yesterday evening but he wouldn't go without a fight, so I left him out in the yard in his little mobile cage.  I was going to return and put him in the coop at bedtime, because in darkness I could pick him up without much of a struggle. 
But I forgot, and left him out. 

I do, however, think this was the best ending I could have hoped for him.  I feel it would be an honor for his body to fill the bellies of a litter of fox kits.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  

Roosterman had a rich life spanning four lovely seasons.

He hatched last year in the warm summer. 
Lucy raised him and adored him.
He grew quickly, but remained quite the 'mama's boy'.

You could tell the weather by him:
He stood proud in the sun, and stood tall in the rain.

He was a manly-man, as roosters tend to be.

Very handsome, and chivalrous.

His singing voice was ear-splitting. 

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  

In recent months, he started to peck the living daylights out of me.  

Not because he was evil --
but because the hens considered me their rooster and protector.  This deeply offended Roosterman's totally macho manliness.

I understood, and I tolerated the abuse.

Roosterman never let down his guard.  He was a serious fella, with a mission to protect and win the love and attention of the ladies. He would have fought to the death for them, and they truly adored him.  I understand now why the rooster is a symbol of courage, virility and respect in so many cultures.

Roosterman was a heck of a lot of trouble, and my memories of him will not all be fond... 

But .... the silence in our yard today

is deafening.

.  .  .  .  next blog post: GASP

Sunday, May 2, 2010


...continued from the previous post: PIGEON: a complex and mysterious chicken

A gift from Pigeon -- the first egg she's laid in her new home.

So she finally did begin laying eggs---after two months of recuperation from her previous life at the bottom of the pecking order in a dusty old attic.

Pigeon now proudly holds position at the top of the pecking order, and continues to consider herself Lucy's very very very best friend.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
This morning.... 

when I woke up and looked out the window at the chicken coop, it was empty.

Needless to say, I was alarmed.

I came downstairs to find three fluffy chicken-butts clustered at the base of the bird feeder near the kitchen window.

I went right outside and fussed at the escapees, but
they showed no remorse.

I knew who the culprits were.

Lil'White has discovered that if she hurls her body repeatedly against the coop door, she can jar it open,

and Pigeon has learned to climb fences...

Together they are escape-masters extraordinaire.

Of course, my forgetting to latch the door might have been a contributing factor.

 Crabapple blossoms sprinkled down upon the garden as the girls flocked lovingly at my feet.
... or,  well... as the girls greedily demanded the chicken-scratch in my hand...

...a lovely morning no matter how you look at it.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

And now, some new faces:
the Rhode Island Red that will join my flock in a few weeks...
--she's entering her gangly teenage stage, but she's still beautiful in a pterodactyl sort of way...
And one of these little characters will be moving in, too. 
They're Ameraucanas.

Because change is a good thing,
and there's always time for more fun!

They're going to need good names --- Any ideas?

.  .  .  .  next blog entry:  SILENT MORNING