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

Saturday, April 24, 2010

PIGEON: a complex and mysterious chicken

. . . . . continued from the previous post:  VACATION!

She spends most of her time

totally invading

Lucy's space.

But occasionally,

Pigeon runs off in search of her own adventure.
She loves to run.

She finds mystery and intrigue just about everywhere.

Stepping over the garden hose is always a thrill.

And one day she met a rabbit who tolerated her for a few minutes.

She also has this habit...

...of stalking...

 ...the lady... blue jeans.

Does she adore me the same way she does Lucy?
or am I just 

the chicken-feed lady?

...good question...
.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   

Another question for Pigeon:

-------Will she ever lay an egg?------

After two months of good food, new flock, tons of fun, Pigeon has had more than enough time to get her egg-laying apparatus moving.  

What's up with that?

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
Next blog entry: THE GREAT ESCAPE

Thursday, April 22, 2010


.  .  .  .  .  continued from the previous post: PIGEON JOINS THE FLOCK

Yet another reason why chickens are the best pets:
you can leave them alone for days on end.

Yes, they'll be mad at you.
But they'll get over it.

Fill the feed bin.
Give them lots of extra water containers.
Enlist neighbors to collect eggs.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
Cape Cod, April
a good run

a sniff

a hunt

a prize

a mysterious creature

a good day

. .  .  .  .  .  next blogpost: PIGEON- A COMPLEX AND MYSTERIOUS GAL

Thursday, April 15, 2010


continued from the previous post:  PIGEON THE CHICKEN

From the day I got her, Pigeon said only one word.

It's not a word I'd ever heard from my other hens.

They all have different vocabularies -- 
Lucy chats a lot and kind of moans like an old woman with the gout.   
Lil'White isn't much of a talker, but she does give a good burp.   
Roosterman, of course, has a lot to say -- he has words for Food, Fox-in-the-woods, Hawk-in-the-sky, Let's-get-it-on, ..... 

But "oooWip?" --- I couldn't figure that one out.
.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  

After a month of quarantine, Pigeon was now healthy and happy and well-fed, and it was time to integrate her into the flock.  

She spent a day safe in a cage near the girls, where she could look at them and they could look at her. She watched them eagerly; they pretty much ignored her.

The next day I sprinkled chicken scratch on the lawn, put all three girls together, and stood by to rescue little Pigeon if necessary.

Pigeon puffed herself up and prepared for battle.  
She approached Lil'White and growled.

Lil'White turned around and made a beeline for the forsythia.

Pigeon turned to Lucy and growled.

Lucy sat down.

Pigeon pecked her on the head.

"oooWip?" said Lucy.

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

But Pigeon wouldn't take "ooWip?" for an answer.  She kept on pecking at Lucy.  
Lucy's feet were hurting her that day so she couldn't get away if she'd tried.
I just couldn't stand by and watch.... So I gently inserted my garden rake between the two. Lucy stood up and Pigeon darted around the rake and squeezed in to get another peck at her.  

Smooshed in there at Lucy's side, Pigeon looked closely at Lucy's plumage -- and began to preen her.
I think she mistook Lucy's feathers for her own.  

So that was about it. Lucy and Lil'White pretty much handed the throne to Pigeon.

No battle, no discussion, no nothing.
I never would have guessed that outcome.

As Queen Hen, first thing on Pigeon's agenda was to never go hungry again.  She marched on over to the feed bin in the coop and ate and ate and ate.   Lucy and Lil'White cowered in the corner until Pigeon was finished, which took forever.

At dusk, Lucy and Lil'White climbed the ladder to the henhouse and took their usual places on the roosts. 

Pigeon wandered around out in the coop down below, and found a stick on the ground to perch on. 

I picked her up and placed her in the henhouse with the girls.
Next morning, I gave her a little lesson on climbing the ladder.
It did no good.  Every night still, I go out to the coop and pick Pigeon up off the ground and place her inside on the roost.

After a few days, the girls all settled into the new pecking order, and Pigeon ceased to peck at Lucy and Lil'White.

Pigeon's an enthusiastic little hen -- almost giddy.  I attribute that to the hardship she's suffered.  Life now is good - and she is ready for fun.

Pigeon has decided that she will be Lucy's Very Best Friend.

Wherever Lucy goes Pigeon goes.

Yep, always.


At times, Lucy seems a bit annoyed by her Little Shadow, but hey...
Being adored and admired sure beats a peck on the head.

See the next blog post:  VACATION!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


continued from the previous post:  CHANGE
I'd just buried Hatsy the day before,  but seeing only two hens in the coop seemed unbearably wrong.

So, being the spontaneous type, I hopped in the car and drove to the nearest farm. No chickens available there, but the farmer pointed me down the road to a likely locale. A white house with one fat hen in the yard.     

I pulled into the deeply rutted driveway and got out of my car.
At the corner of a barn-type-garage sat an old man on an upturned bale of hay.  He wore dirty glasses, a John Deere cap, and a pair of giant hearing aids. Beside him were 5 or 6 caged roosters crowing at the tops of their lungs. A cacophony of chickens squawked somewhere out of sight. 

I walked slowly up to the old guy, told him my story and asked him if he might have a young laying hen that I could add to my backyard flock.
He scratched his head, looked down.  Said maybe there was one hen he could part with..   
He stood up and walked into the barn past a rusted old tractor and several more cages of chickens. He climbed a narrow dusty staircase in the back of the barn and disappeared.  Overhead, I heard flapping, scratching, squawking.. The old man emerged from a cloud of feathers and dirt, and descended the stairs holding a chicken upside down by the ankles.  Out in the sunlight, he flipped the bird right-side-up on his lap and started to smooth her disheveled feathers.  
"She's moulting," he told me.     
"Her comb's all mangled and bloody," I told him.  
"Rooster did it." he muttered. 
"Her toenails are really long," I said.
"Oh...uh, yeah," he said. He pulled a pair of toenail clippers out of his pocket,clipped her, put her down on the lawn.

She was just pathetic.
I felt sorry for her.
I gave the old guy $5 and he put the bird in a little box, tied it with twine and handed it to me.  

Back at home, I took her out of the box and had a good look.

Skinny and bloody, broken feathers, toes curled backwards.  She walked like a pigeon.

She was a fixer-upper.

When I gave her some food and water, she hesitated with every peck and every sip, standing up quickly as if expecting to be murdered at any moment.   She'd clearly been at the very bottom of the pecking order up in that old attic. And she smelled really really BAD. 

Not knowing what to do next,  I emailed my friend Terry Golson of  She told me to give the hen a good bath and to keep her in quarantine.  


Yep.  And a blow-dry.  Terry told me how. 
Pigeon actually seemed to enjoy her spa treatment, although it completely wore her out.

Afterward, she still looked really bad, but she didn't smell so much.

I  put her in the chicken tractor in the front yard for her month of quarantine. 

Over the next few days, Pigeon began to reveal her unique little personality. 

The big sky overhead frightened her... she preferred to hide under shrubs. 
Exploring in the bushes, Pigeon bumped into the tiniest azalea branch,

 and got stuck.

Hm.  Did she not know how to back up? 

One fine morning, Pigeon met her first tomato.

After some hesitation, she pecked it.

..and if a chicken can smile,  she did.

She nervously glanced around, fully expecting someone to come take this precious treasure....but no one did.   
She had found heaven.

Weeks passed.

Fear faded away.

Scabs faded too, and new feathers emerged.

Pigeon helped me build another coop.

Not that we needed one, but I really liked this design I came up with and I just wanted to build it.

 Pigeon approved.

After a month,  it was time to meet her new flock. I marched Pigeon around to the back yard and she followed me like a puppy.

In the distance, Lucy stared.  Lil'White ignored. 

Roosterman dropped one wing and did a little dance.

Pigeon puffed out her chest, lifted her tail and instantly she looked like a real chicken.  She  scurried on over to his cage to meet him.

The next day she would meet Lucy and Lil'White, face-to-face.  
I wondered if they would accept her.  Wondered if she'd just regress into the pathetic critter I'd rescued a month ago.   

But life is full of surprises, isn't it? 


Saturday, April 3, 2010


Continued from the previous post: CHICKENS AND A TERRIER 

She was our little dynamo.

Curious, energetic.
She was the undisputed and beloved leader.

Hatsy was quite the adventurer.

She was.......flexible.
(I love this picture.)

She was Lucy's dear, dear friend.

I'm so sad still.

Sad because to observe their beautiful friendship was to understand that we're really all the same.

I will miss witnessing the support and compassion these two showed each other.

Hatsy had suffered on and off from some sort of illness for several months, but she'd always perked right back up. I wrote about her symptoms in the post, MEET THE GIRLS: HATSY.
But this time Hatsy had been sick for a week, and I felt that she might be on her way  out. The morning before she died, Hatsy stood in the corner of the coop, face toward the wall.

I was watching the flock from the kitchen window, and noticed that something was different.  
Lucy and Lil'White stood close to Hatsy.  Roosterman in his little cage outside the coop was just standing too.  He didn't crow or strut. Lucy and Lil'White weren't scratching around, weren't doing anything.

The flock knew.   
This little vigil lasted an hour or two.   
Then they left Hatsy alone and resumed their business, quietly scratching around, looking for bits of corn...

Hatsy died the next day.  

I wrapped her beautiful little body in a blue and white dishtowel.  Lucy and Lil'White helped me bury her.
...well, I dug the hole while they ate the worms.    They showed no sentiment, didn't stop to look at Hatsy's body wrapped in its little shroud.   Lucy and Lil'White had already paid their respects the day before.  When they'd enjoyed the last worm at the graveside, they moved on.  

The next morning I moved on too.  

Two hens do not make a flock.  The girls needed a third.  And I needed to stop crying.
I hopped into the car and drove off in search of a hen.  
Returned an hour later with a little box tied shut with twine.  

Next blog entry: PIGEON THE CHICKEN