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

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.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Lucy and the Ghastly Nuggets

I had read about hens accepting young chicks and caring for them, and I was eager to see if Lucy, having already raised a chick of her own, might take a shining to these wee nuggets.

So on a nice warm day, when they were exactly two weeks old and their Marek’s vaccine was well-integrated into their immune systems, I scooped up the chicks and whisked them outside to greet the sun ---
and to meet an honest-to-goodness chicken. 

Once the chicks were situated on the lawn, I carried Lucy over to take a look. 
I placed her beside the cage.

For a moment, she ignored them  -  but only for a moment.
Then Lucy lifted her head, raised her hackles, and shrieked like a banshee.
The nuggets just stared at her. 

Lucy was terrified. I wonder if she even recognized them as chicks.
She turned and lumbered away from their cage, and scrambled to the safety of my lap. 

Only when she discovered the tag on my pants
did her hackles settle 
and her panic subside. 
After a while she glanced up to find that those freaky little nightmares were still there. 

Poor Lucy. The prospect of enduring motherhood again nearly sent her over the edge.

I carried her back to the safety of the coop and the reassuring company of her geriatric companions.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
Once the chicks had grown and it was time to integrate them with the old ladies, I worried for I always do.  Her disability is evident, and the youngsters might very well choose to pick on her.   

But Lucy held her own. 
She and Lil'White share the position of Top Chicken in the coop, and the nuggets have not contested their status.  
They stick pretty closely together, these little gals -  they're a sub-flock within the big flock. 
They don't aim to bother Lucy. 

But Lucy's peaceful afternoons beneath the forsythia
are no longer so peaceful.

And in the coop, I've noticed young Dorrie choosing to stand right beside Lucy --- 

---just because.

Dorrie reminds me of Pigeon.  
I told Danny this, and he replied, "Maybe she IS Pigeon."

Pigeon or not, I think Lucy's in for another big adventure.

Friday, August 16, 2013


Five years, six coops. 
How did this happen?
The first coop I built, as I recall, was pretty darn perfect.  It kept the young ladies safe and comfortable, and it looked rather adorable in the backyard.  
When Lucy's feet were damaged by disease, of course I had to build the Special Needs coop for her.  It, too, looked good and served its purpose.  

With no reason to build another coop, I started sketching and building chicken-tractors and play-structures and cage-things... 

....because you can never have too many tractors and play structures and cage things.

But when my little barred rock, Pigeon, came along, she and I needed a project. Pigeon inspired me to build just one more coop.
Pigeon was a good little helper.  

Here's Coop #3.
Pigeon never lived in this one. Nobody ever lived in this one. Though my heavenly blue morning glories lived ON it.... and it did serve as a handy jailhouse for Lil'White on the many occasions that she deserved incarceration.  

The flock grew, as flocks do, and I decided that my precious ladies needed a more glamorous, palatial space. I found myself sketching again....
and I found myself sawing and drilling and wrestling hardware cloth again.

Coop #4 was bright and spacious, 
with a 12' x 5' covered run and a big picture window.   A few months later, I added an 8'X8' back room.  This was it. This was perfect. I was done. Ta-da! 

But still, coops kept on happening. 
I don't even know why I built this little thing.  

Lucy does love to get herself wedged into the front porch, though, and Daisy once laid an egg inside.
.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  

Two years ago, when that freak October snowstorm hit New England, an oak tree crushed the little red coop I had built with Pigeon. 

No chickens were harmed, as it was still vacant.  But my confidence was absolutely crushed. From that night on, I lay awake wondering if my ladies were safe, or if they'd be the next victims of a plummeting tree limb. 

I wished I'd built my coops out of two by fours instead of toothpicks.

This spring I took the plunge and sprang for a solid prefab structure.   

It was a rather ugly 6X8 shed made of two by fours and pine planks -- but it was a structure that could stand up to the perils of an oak forest.
As soon as it was plunked down into the yard, I revved up the ol' saber saw and extracted that tiny front window.  No tiny windows for my gals.  They like lots of light and air and a good view.  I cut three more huge windows on the south and west sides, too. 

I added a nest box, then built the ladies a 16' X 6' covered run, filled with roosts and logs and feeding stations.  

Meet Coop #5!

Now there was room for the three older gals as well as my four new nuggets. 

....and of course I can always add on.

The new coop was complete. The ladies were thrilled. I was done.  
.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  

But the nuggets, having moved from my living room into a cage on the back porch, were homeless. They needed a bigger space, but they also needed another month or two to grow - in size and in smarts - before I tossed them into the big coop with those scary old ladies. 

I fought the urge to drag out the tools, but then I met a neighbor who had some nice windows to sell for $5 each. 
They were really nice windows.
I bought one. 

I designed a little coop around it, 
made with scraps from coops gone by.

Introducing Coop #6!
Daisy approved.

I put the little ladies inside, showed them where to roost, and locked them up for the night.  

The four little pullets slept in a piggie-pile in the corner. 

The next night: 
They still didn't figure it out. 

Night three: 
they discovered the roost.

Night four: 
Well done, little ladies!

Was I done?  
I turned their little coop into a chicken-tractor with a sidecar.  

Am I done now? 

...til my power tools recharge.