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

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Blizzard 2010

Marky squinted with joy -- he's a certified snow-dog.

Lil'White watched as I shoveled the path. But she knows all about snow and how it feels on her little pink toes.  Once the door was opened, she retreated to the dry leafy depths of the coop.

Pigeon and Daisy paused a moment to take in the wonder of it all.
In a burst of excitement, Daisy launched herself across the yard, 

and was stranded.

Fern seemed confused.

Pigeon went exploring for a bit.

But Lil'White and Lucy fluffed themselves up and mustered their patience. They know it's a long way til Spring.

Friday, December 17, 2010


She's an Ameraucana. Puffy cheek-feathers, little pea-comb.
She and Daisy were born this spring.  
Daisy started laying eggs four months ago, but Fern
has shown no sign of ever laying any stupid ol' eggs, 

Fern's just too busy to grow up.

She's always on her toes.

Fern is quick to warn the flock of danger, 
using the universal chicken-alarm that is reserved for hawk sightings, foxes and other very scary things:

She's a vigilant little chicken, on guard for any threat.
Yep, always on the lookout for danger.
.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 

Fern's at the very bottom of the pecking order. 
Normally you'd expect a hen in that position to be timid and to keep out of everyone's way.

But Fern -- she breaks all the rules of chicken-etiquette.      Never charge full-speed at your superiors.

This always results in a good plucking.


Never fly over the dog.

She's had some close calls with that one.

And this--- 
If you're unfamiliar with chicken-etiquette, this may look like a cute little dance.
But let me tell you.

This is Fern challenging Pigeon, the TOP CHICKEN, to a duel. 
This is so totally rude.   I mean you just don't do this if you want to live.
But Pigeon's not offended. She's amused. 
Pigeon adores Fern.
So she gives her a swift little tail-plucking and sends her on her way..

Here Fern's coming back for more.
.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  

With all this plucking going on, I've managed to collect some nice samples of her plumage billowing around the yard:

And here's how those feathers looked when they were still attached to Fern:

Another endearing little visual:

Fern's butt-feathers are in the shape of a heart.
.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

I let the girls out for some free-range time every day.
And every day Fern sprints from the forsythia to the bird feeder and back again - over and over and over.
It's an adorable sight. 
Took me a while to see exactly what she is doing:

She's chasing birds.

Chickadees, Nuthatches... 

What is going through her tiny little chicken-head?
Is she racing them?
Does she think she's a chickadee?

She's a free-wheelin' little mystery, Fern.

And Pigeon is a mystery to me too --
that she understands Fern's playful taunting.
Her sensitivity to all the individuals in her flock is uncanny. post: PIGEON: Blind Wisdom

Saturday, November 20, 2010

N E W C O O P !

I think this is the design my chickens were hoping for:

But this is the design I chose :

  --and they love it.

It's a lot like the old coop, but twice as big, and I gave it all sorts of nifty updates... two nest boxes instead of one, lots of ventilation for hot nights, little doors all over the place for filling the feeder, for changing the water,  for the girls coming and going..

I would be tearing down the old coop completely, but not until the new one was finished.

The mini-coop was staying put.  
It was a handy first-home for little Fern and Daisy, and I'm sure I'll be using it again.   
the mini-coop was a nice place to grow Heavenly-blue Morning Glories, my favorite.

Wow -- when I look at these photos, I think the construction looks kind of impressive.  
Honestly, I pretty much eyeballed the whole thing. There are no right angles.
But with a couple of power tools and a million drywall screws, anything's possible.  
These here building inspectors gave me the go-ahead, so 

here it is!  the new coop.  And the old dog house, and the little coop.
That little piece of string supports bird-netting that covers their whole yard and keeps out hawks, who sit in the trees all day, watching the hens and licking their lips.

The ladies are thrilled with their big new coop. 
Why is Marky dressed like a pumpkin, you ask?  
I made him a blaze-orange vest so he won't get shot while bounding through the woods.  
See, now he doesn't look so much like a bunny.

The little dog house in the chicken-yard used to be Marky's,

but he fancies himself a rugged outdoorsman, and refused to go inside it,

so Pigeon and Lucy took it over.
.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  

Autumn is molting season.  
This year it was Lil'White and Pigeon who decided to molt.

They each have their own molting styles.
Lil'White drops all her golden feathers in about a day.
The coop looks like a chicken exploded,
but Lil'White still looks as voluptuous as ever.

Pigeon's feathers fall out one by one.   She started two months ago, and there's no end in sight.   

Wherever Pigeon goes, she leaves a little stripey trail.

Little Fern's feathers are all over the yard, too, but not because of a molt.

Next post :

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Compact Life

In early September, in the house we call Greenestone,
a baby mouse tumbled out of a crack in the ceiling.

It bounced off the stove, 
and landed on the kitchen floor.

...rather horrifying to witness.

There was really nothing we could do for the little thing.
It was very young -- its eyes weren't even open.

We gently removed it and placed it outside in the bushes.

A few minutes later
another mouse baby fell.

Then another--

and another --

When it finally stopped raining mouses, we were very much relieved.

The next morning I found one of those little critters crawling on the path.  
I picked it up.
Its body was cold, 
but in my hands it soon warmed up.
I didn't have the means or ability to care for a baby mouse, but this little thing had survived the loss of its mother, a fall from the attic, and a cold night in the bushes.

I couldn't just leave it there.

One drop of cream on the end of a matchstick was the beginning.
The next drop filled her right up, and then she slept.

We didn't name her Dandelion.
We didn't name her Earl.

We didn't want to grow attached--- her survival seemed so unlikely.

We only called her "mouse baby".

Feeding got easier once she learned to lick.

But you know how messy toddlers can be---

a bath became a necessity.

The warmth of my hand put her right to sleep.

Caring for so delicate a creature was a real challenge.  
To keep her warm, I made her a little pouch to sleep in, 
and tucked it into the front of my shirt.

Sometimes she'd climb out and go exploring. 
I'd look down and find her clinging to my shirt like a little brooch. 

She had some adventuresome encounters with small fruits,

but really she preferred

simple warmth and safety.

When her teeth emerged, I became hopeful.  
I thought that if I could keep her healthy 
until she started eating solid foods, 
she would then nourish herself, and live a long mouse-life.

But one day she got a little sore spot on the bottom of this pretty little foot.
And the next day an infection set in.

Neither the care I could give her
nor her powerful will 
were enough.

The next day Mouse Baby died in my hand.

In the eight magical days that she spent with us, 
she taught us
about strength and fragility,
about hope, about comfort.

Thank you, Mouse Baby.