The life and times of Lonely Chicken

Our latest batch of chickens came home from the feed store as tiny, screeching fluffballs four short years ago. For a year or two we had five chickens: one Rhode Island Red (named “Brownie” because I am a brilliant writer of fiction and clever at avoiding tropes and clichés) and four absolutely identical Barred Rocks (or, hickory shirt chickens, as we like to call them), with no names at all.

I don’t remember what killed Brownie but it may have been old age: she predated the Hickory Shirt Gang by several years. This horribly hot and dry summer two of the girls were hit by something weather-related and distasteful that I’m not going to cop to because it makes me feel like a bad chicken-owner-person. A month or two after that another hickory shirt chicken got an impacted or sour crop (not her first – she was prone to this and didn’t seem to get enough grit if I force fed it to her). I did what I had done previously to make her better, but this time she didn’t pull through.

So that left us with just one chicken. She seemed happy enough and in good health, but we called her Lonely Chicken nonetheless.

The folks across the street, who I will call los Vecinos for the purposes of the blog , got chicks this spring which rapidly grew into a vigorous flock of three Rhode Island Red hens and two roosters (a Barred Rock and what I think is a Black Sex Link). They free range during the day and happily stomp about on the two adjoining properties that los Vecinos are rehabbing. But in the fall, now fully grown, they started to expand their territory to include my front yard and another neighbor’s front yard. When the roosters peeked through my fence and saw Lonely Chicken they went apeshit. And Lonely Chicken began to pace frantically.

Curious to see what would happen, I opened both the gate and the door to Lonely Chicken’s run. What happened at first was the the neighbor chickens fled in horror and Lonely Chicken wouldn’t cross her threshold. I did it again the next day and Lonely Chicken eventually left her run, but she stayed within a three foot radius of the entrance to her run. I expected her to gradually widen her horizons – but I didn’t take roosters into consideration. Both of them stopped by early on the third morning to “romance” her, and she followed them out into our front yard. By the next day she was hanging out with the whole flock over at Casa Vecino.

She started a daily pattern of going out with one of the roosters (we call him Romeo) in  the morning and splitting the rest of her day between one-on-one time with Romeo and foraging with the girls. If I am late in letting Lonely Chicken loose, Romeo lets me know.

He also did away with his competition.

A few days later los Vecinos told Matt that the roosters had had a real fight and Romeo had been the victor.

Not long after that came the night that Lonely Chicken didn’t come home. I went out just after dark to close the door to her run, but she wasn’t in her coop.

She stayed over two nights but then got the hang of the whole “it gets dark earlier every night” thing and she has been very good about at least being on our property at nightfall. When I go out to shut her in she is always either on her perch in her coop or right beside the front porch, waiting for me to show her the way home in the dark.

I still intend to get more chicks in the spring, because I want more eggs, but in the meantime it’s nice to know that Lonely Chicken isn’t lonely any more.

— Amanda

P.S. Hickory shirts are what the local loggers wear. They are thick (almost as thick as canvas) and striped with very fine little black and white stripes, the same material I think was once used to make locomotive engineer caps.

A nice day for a spot of painting

I have been picking away at recaulking the house’s exterior. A little here, a little there, then I paint over it the next day. Today I was painting both with both the house blue and the trim almond colors and since I was already out and had brushes going and the paint cans open . . .

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I finally painted the trim on the chicken coop. Actually, even compared to the photo below, from December, it looks quite spiffy.

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I have still not made the little curtains I keep threatening to put up at the frosted window, but it’s not because I’m ever going to admit that it’s a silly idea. Rather, it is because A) the frosted window will not allow me admire the curtains from outside and B) I am afraid the chickens will freak the f*ck out.

Be that as it may, it will probably still happen one of these days.

— Amanda

No more peeps in my bathtub

GENERIC CHICKEN IMAGE

GENERIC CHICKEN IMAGE

This afternoon the peeps were successfully transplanted from my guest bathroom to our niece Sam’s back yard. I had a lovely visit and neglected to take a single photo.

Sam and the chicks are well on their way to forming a bond so close that they could be construed as a single being. She will be an excellent chicken mom.

— Amanda

Bathtub peeps are getting huuuuuuuge

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Lookit ’em! And they’re almost completely feathered, too. Someday soon they will be on their way to their “real” mom, Sam.

For comparison purposes, I again present a picture of the chicks as day-old fluffballs:

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And one as half-feathered awkward teens:

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Boy, am I glad that phase is over. I think they’re going to be big, beautiful birds.

— Amanda

P.S. I have to confess that I may have accidentally named the chicks. You are under absolutely no obligation to keep these names, Sam – and it won’t matter to them if you call them something else because they don’t know their own names. But you have to admit they are clever names: the Ameraucana is Connie, the Buff Orpington is Buffy, and the Barred Rock is Barbie.

A very small update from a very sore blogger

Nothing of great interest going on here lately. Nothing blog-worthy, at least. But I do have one (sad) announcement:

  • Chesty, the Rhode Island Red layer with the chronic crop problems, took a sudden turn for the worse this weekend and we put her out of her misery on Sunday morning.

and one (exciting) teaser:

  • There is a chance in hell that, after 8 years in this house I may finally get the massive front flowerbed cleared. Matt’s new toy (a rusty old backhoe named Candy) has been a big help in this. But still, I’ve put in a solid week of work and I’m only halfway done. But when I am – and more to the point, when I get to start replanting – it’s going to be spectacular.

That is all.

— Amanda

P.S. Sore because of the week in the flowerbed and also because of the three day weekend in the woods with Matt making wooden sacrifices to a hungry and demanding industrial brush chipper.

Egg oddities

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We have five chickens. Usually there are 2-3 eggs in the coop when I feed them in the morning. This morning I was pleasantly surprised to find five! Every one of the girls pitched in. You can see that each egg is a little different: one is almost goose-sized and pink, three are almost brown (one fairly normal, one small, and one pointy on both ends). And then there’s the round one. One of the girls only lays about twice a month, and her eggs are always . . . well, interesting. More often than not they don’t have a shell at all. (Think about that for a second. Yech.) But when they do, they are almost white and usually translucent. They are generally huge and often are double-yolkers. Today’s, however, looks like it was donated by a turtle. It’s almost perfectly round, not much bigger than a normal egg, wrinkled, and only see-through in a few spots.

Since we have three Barred Rocks (which we call The Hickory Shirt chickens) and two Rhode Island Reds I have ass-u-med that the three brownish eggs come from the Hickory Shirt gang and the faintly pink ones come from the Rhodies. Given that, I am going to further ass-u-me that the Rhody with the bad attitude, grossly enlarged crop, and bizarre swagger is the layer of the oddball eggs. Despite her myriad foibles and what appear to be medical issues she remains perky, active and bossy.

Chickens: you never really know what you’re going to get.

— Amanda

Bathtub peep update

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The peeps are now three weeks old. In another three weeks or so they should have enough feathers to live outside. Right now they are about 50% feathers and 50% fluff.

The Buff Orpington, Ameraucana, and Barred Rock are happy and healthy and running madly about, but, sadly, the Rhode Island Red passed away unexpectedly and quickly this morning.

— Amanda