24.

Yesterday, I ended up taking the entire day off from work because I had an appointment and needed to take care of some other business.  So it really wasn’t that much of a day off.  It’s really just a matter of geography.  I was still working, but just not in my windowless office growing ever more translucent and pale from the lack of sunshine and Vitamin D.

As usual, I shlepped out to the coop first thing to check on the beak faces.  They were all standing at the door to the run when I unlocked the big doors to the coop, peeping sadly.  I’m sure chickens have no sense of time because they looked like they thought that they’d never see the outside of the coop again, which is something that I can totally relate to when I’m sitting in my office at 2 pm in the afternoon and I can’t leave for another two and half hours.

I explained that it was cold outside and that maybe they should stay in for the day and work on their clucking.  They were having NONE of that idea.  So I opened the door to the run and the mass chicken exodus began and ended in about 5.4 seconds, leaving me standing alone in the poof of dust they created as they went screaming out the door.

As I walked out of the coop and locked the door behind me, I turned my head to look at the run and there they all stood.

“Peep.    Peep.”

All of them were scratching around in the dirt but Vinnie and Oprah and they were standing at the fence peeping and looking at me with one eye.  Clearly, I had forgotten to throw the morning ration of scratch.  So, back in the coop, threw some scratch, there was a lot of excited peeping and by this time, my caffeine level was so low, I didn’t know if I could make it to the house.

In case you’re worried…I did make it the house…but BARELY.

So, I got all of the running around and “stuff” done in the morning, and when I got home I checked the chicken mafia and they were all doing fine.  OH…I left something out…while we were out running errands, seeing doctors and doing things of high importance (Greg and Tom were with me), it dawned on us that we needed to stop for dog biscuits otherwise there would be a mass uprising from the canine residents of the family.

They’re serious about their biscuits.

We think there’s crack in this particular brand of biscuit.

Anyway, Greg and I were nosing around in the live animal section of the pet food store we frequent (home of the moldy straw we bought).  The live animal section is your usual mix of fish, ferrets, chinchillas, surly rabbits, hamsters, mice, scaly things, and birds.  For some reason, for the first time, I noticed a large tank of crickets.

Crickets?  CRICKETS.

“GREG….Crickets for the CHICKKKKKKENS!!!!”

“You’ve got to get some!!”

I bought a double serving of crickets, which turns out to cost $2.00.   You can’t do ANYTHING fun for two dollars!

Unless you have chickens….and you buy $2.00 worth of crickets.

We finally headed back home…I balanced the clear, plastic bag of crickets on the console of Tom’s truck because they are CREEPY.  We decided to wait until chicken bedtime to have the cricket rodeo.  I carried the bag around with two fingers, looking for a place to put it and finally settled on the kitchen table, because everyone who knows us, knows the kitchen table is used for setting things on that you don’t know what to do with, but surely you’re going to use soon.

I kind of forgot about the crickets once they were out of my immediate view and thought I might do some baking.

Hell immediately froze solid.  There are trees down, electric went out and Satan keeps calling me asking me to knock it off because he had a soul barbecue planned for the evening and NO ONE was going to have any fun if the whole placed was iced over.

I rarely bake.  Greg has been so helpful and has crawled through a significant amount of chicken poop whenever he has to chase the little rascals back in the coop at night, so I thought I’d bake a new recipe for peanut butter cookies that I’d found online.

I’ve recently bought some cute, old-fashioned aprons to wear when I work in the garden and chicken coop to protect my clothes.  They’re just the half aprons that you tie at the waist and they go down to about the middle of my shins.  Adorable, vintage reproduction fabrics in tiny prints and lots of pockets.  I put one on and started happily to assemble ingredients for the cookies.  Then my daughter walked in…she’s 11…and if she keeps it up, she won’t see 12.

“WHAAAAAAAAT are you WEARING??????  Is that an APRON?”

“Yes. Why?”

“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH”

“What’s wrong with wearing an apron?  I’m trying not to wipe my hands on my JEANS which I’m sure a chicken has sat on at one point or another today.”

“HAHAHAHAHAHAH”

“Emma!”

“Well you just aren’t the type of PERSON who wears an APRON”

“What type of person wears an apron then?”

“Well…like an average mom.”

“What am I then?????”

(Silence)

“EMMA?!”

“Better than average mom?”

Good answer.  I stomped around the kitchen putting the recipe together while Emma tried for about 30 seconds to redeem herself, shrugged her shoulders and went back to her room.

About that time, Greg and Tom arrived home from the store with supplies for dinner.

I glared at them as they came in with bags of groceries…and then Tom made a fatal comment…

“IS THAT AN APRON?”

I had a small, but vicious, high-speed-come-apart right there in the kitchen.  I’ll spare you the details but Tom was immediately sorry he’d said it and frankly, Greg looked a little terrified.   And I was BAKING.  So they knew if they didn’t want a spatula where spatulas should NOT be in their bodies and if they wanted any of the cookies, they’d better just go along with everything I was ranting about and back away slowly.

Not only was I baking…but I was making dinner…which is usually Tom’s job because I work all day…in an windowless office…have I mentioned how pale I am?  Tom and Greg sort of scuttled out of the kitchen for a little bit while I ranted.

The whole thing was compounded by my mixer not working correctly and when I turned it on to cream the butter (2 sticks), brown sugar and white sugar together, the mixer jumped into WARP SPEED and butter and sugar exploded out of the bowl and all over me and the floor, much to the delight of the herd of dogs we have.

Now I was really grouchy.

I finally finished battling the mixer while throwing in swear words that I made up from combining other foul words.  Dinner was simmering on the stove top.  I had the first batch of cookies in the oven and I took them out and they looked like this…(insert choirs of angels singing here)…

984068_10204092493976423_7678072562721785004_n SUCCESS!!!  These are easily the BEST peanut butter cookies I’ve ever made and surely the best I’ve ever tasted.  I should bake when I’m mad more often because apparently a pinch of ranting about aprons being ADORABLE, some intense swearing, and a little violence while loading the dishwasher makes a huge difference.

We had dinner and Greg and Tom feasted on cookies…Emma doesn’t like them because they aren’t Oreos.  We intend to have her committed to a psychiatric facility next week.

After dinner, I actually loaded the dishwasher instead of just stacking the dishes.   I received an email from Hell that it had closed indefinitely due to ice accumulation.

I watered the plants that I still haven’t thinned (oh SHUSH) and rearranged the mail stacked on the breakfast bar (because I’m an Olympic Mail Stacker) and we watched a little TV.  Greg had already locked the chickens in the coop earlier, because it had gotten quite chilly and they finally mustn’t have been able to feel their scaly toes and had gone in on their own.  I received an email from Satan that he was going to Ecuador until things warmed up at his place.

At about 8:30, Tom mentioned the crickets and the chickens in the same sentence.  CRICKETS!!!!  Greg had a friend over and we all shuffled out to the coop while I explained to the crickets that they were going to meet a bunch of new friends.  The chickens were milling about in the pine chip bedding looking for left over weeds from earlier in the evening.  I’ll point out that THEY did not laugh at my 19th century style apron and I might take them all to Olive Garden this week because they were so considerate of my feelings and willing to overlook my craziness.  I waved the bag in front of Vinny, who, as usual was sticking his face through the fencing because being first in line and cute has its benefits is what he’s already learned.

When he saw the crickets I thought he’d come through the fencing.  I should have made popcorn and sold tickets to this.

Greg got into the chicken area and released one cricket.  It barely hit the floor before Vinny slurped it up.  The next five crickets met the same fate.  Greg took them out of the bag one by one and Vinny greedily inhaled them without chewing…do chickens chew?  Huh.  Not sure…anyway…we wanted the others to get a bit of cricket action so Greg finally just unceremoniously dumped the rest of the bag on the floor.

Holy moly.  What followed was like a carnage scene from a cricket horror movie.  I’ve never seen these particular chickens or ANY chicken for that matter move so fast in my life.  THREE minutes…or possibly less…and the crickets were GONE.  Obviously, $2.00 worth of crickets is not nearly enough for a full evening of chicken entertainment.  They continued to frantically look for crickets while making adorable low clucking noises while they darted around and scratched in the bedding.  They got bored with that pretty quickly.  So we moved on to the next phase of our usual evening visit…socializing.  Although I’m sure they consider it “PANIC TIME”.

Greg is bound and determined that he’s going to be friends with Cluck Norris, our rooster…well…one of our roosters…you have to read the whole blog.  He tried to look nonchalant.  Cluck eyed him suspiciously from the other side of the coop.  Greg edged his way over and Cluck took off for the run door…which was locked…MISTAKE.

In a flash of movement, a cloud of dust, a flurry of feathers all accompanied by frantic clucking, Greg scooped Cluck into his arms.  Cluck just gave up.  Greg held him and we petted his Easter Egger beard, admired his feet and told him he should try to be more social and less of a grouch.  Cluck made little noises in his throat and probably was planning how he’d kill us all once his spurs grew in.

Then something interesting happened.  Greg flipped Cluck over on his back while still holding him.  Cluck looked a little surprised, but just laid there.  He was completely relaxed and submissive.  So we checked out his drumsticks and told him he might want to not skip “leg day” at the gym so often.   Then,  Greg carefully turned him back over and set him on the floor.  Cluck just walked away like nothing had happened.  SCORE: Humans 1, Cluck  0.

We watched them for a little while longer while they tried to impress us with roost acrobatics (they seem to like to push each other off of the roosts) and then finally went back to the house.  I was worn out.

Next time I’m buying ten bucks worth of crickets.

Oatey.

Tonight was one of those nights that seemed to pass in an instant.  I had a mandolin lesson and Greg and Tom came with because they like to gaze lovingly at the Breedlove guitars in the acoustic room.  We have a pretend band that is called “Electric Bacon”.  I’m already looking for a dress for the Grammys.

Anyway, when things finally slowed down, it was chicken bedtime.  BEST time of the day.  The Peep Squad had been in the coop all afternoon because of severe storms moving through the area.  I had let them out this morning either in hopeless optimism or blatant denial that we were going to get more rain.  At noon, everything still looked okay weather wise so I didn’t rush home to put them away.  Also…I had on black pants.  Everyone knows you don’t go to the chicken coop with anything BLACK on.  Actually, I use black pants as an excuse for everything.

“Oh, open that door for you?  I can’t…I’m wearing black pants.”

“Do something productive today?  Sorry.  Black pants.”

I think it goes back to my mother telling me “DON’T GET ANYTHING ON THOSE BLACK PANTS”.  I’m sure that’s it.

square eggs and i

So, around two o’clock, I guess it started to rain.  I don’t have any idea really, because my office has no windows which also accounts for the alarming shade of white of my skin.  Greg was at home, so he ended up rounding up the damp crew and securing them back in the coop. They don’t like coming inside.  Have I mentioned that?  Of course, the Buff Orpington Rooster Brothers were their usual insolent, rotten selves and as Greg would round them up and put them in the coop, everyone else would run back out.  So he’d get them back in, and the BORBs would escape.  I’m glad I was trapped in my office working on my paleness.

Since they’d been cooped up all day, I thought I’d take them a treat tonight.  I’d taken them an offering of fodder earlier in the evening, and they were completely unimpressed.  Weren’t interested at all.  Finicky buggers.

Back to the treat.  I threw some stale Cheerios in a plastic container and added some raw oatmeal.  MMMMM…oatey deliciousness.  I headed out to the coop and as usual, Tom and Greg tagged along.  Tom took my usual chair and bale of straw and Greg and I went through the gate to the chicken area.

Everybody was standing with their beak pressed against the run door, peeping hopefully.  I don’t know how many chicken-eating-sasquatch stories I’m going to have to tell them before they understand that they can’t go outside in the DARK.

Greg and I each took a handful of Cheerios and oatmeal and crushed it up a bit and held out our hands.

cow crane

Holy Moly.  Remember that scene in Jurassic Park when they lower the cow using that big cow crane thing into the raptor pen?  Well, this was A LOT like that.  They LOVED it.  Vinny, the naughty barred rock, was eating oatmeal without breathing.  I swear.  The chicken never took a BREATH.  He was eating from Greg’s outstretched hand and when all the snack was gone, he looked up and he had a little oatmeal beard hanging from his beak.

At that point, we lost it.  We should sell tickets to this stuff…either that or we are quite simple-minded and easily amused…which is more likely.

What followed was a lot of beak wiping (which we always enjoy) and then more Cheerioatmeal eating (yes…I typed that as one word, no…it does NOT exist in the WordPress spellchecker) and then there was MORE beak wiping and some sincerely disappointed chicken looks when we finally decided we’d had enough of them pecking our hands with their pointy little beaks.  We packed up the rest of the snacks because everyone’s crop was getting a little too full.  The chicks seemed to take that cue to begin looking for places to settle down and we locked the coop and headed back to the house.

Pure joy.  Absolute and utter happiness. That’s what I feel when I’m with those silly feathered creatures.  I know how insane it must sound.  I’ve always loved animals, but this experience has taken that to a new height.  I love to see them excited about treats and happily preening and snuggling up together at night to rest.

I love their innocent curiosity.  I love the way they look at me with eyes that appear to be full of questions.  I wonder what they think…I’m sure it’s nothing like the way that we think.  It’s obvious though, they DO think.  Those tiny, goofy little heads, have something going on inside.

I was talking to a friend today who said “Their brains must be so tiny.  Like a pea”.

She’s right.  And those oatmeal beaked, pea brains bring me so much joy.

Bedtime.

Although chickens have existed in the world for probably thousands of years without human intervention (I’m not a chicken historian, give me a break on that guess), for some reason we, personally, feel that we need to tuck them in every night before it’s time for bed.   I don’t mean actually tuck them in with tiny blankets, but we always go out and check on them one last time and make sure that none of them have done anything silly, like hurt themselves or choke on a piece of pine shaving that they aren’t supposed to be eating.

purplecircle

Apparently, we’re over protective chicken parents.

Last night, they were all in the coop due to the rain yesterday.  Honestly, we could have just left them alone (I’m sure they wish we would), but around 8:30 I announced that I was going to the coop to put the chicks to bed.  The rain had stopped for a bit and my husband came with for his usual moral support.  I had closed the big door to the coop, so they were all comfy and cozy inside and we had put the roosts in that day so we were anxious to see if they were using them because we were convinced they would love sleeping 14 inches above the ground on the wide side of a 2×4…I mean, who wouldn’t love that?

We crept up to the coop door, I undid the lock and slowly opened the door expecting to see snoozing chickens on the roosts.

NOPE.  Every one of them had their beak crammed up against the door to get outside to the run…they are obsessed with being outside.  No matter how many times I explain to them that the Boogie Chicken comes out at night to steal their beaks, they remain stalwart in their obsession.

Which makes me feel bad because they have a really nice setup and if I were a chicken, I would totally dig living there.

I tried not to take their rejection of their newly finished palace personally, but I gave them a brief, stern talking to about roosts and that they needed to at least TRY them because it’s what all the cool chickens do at night.  They pretty much just walked around and peeped at each other.  I also told them that unless they start clucking, no one is going to take them seriously as a chicken.  So get with the program.

We stood in the coop for a while and watched them and nobody even TRIED one of the roosting bars.  Vinnie, the naughty barred rock chick, walked back and forth in front of the roost for a short time, looking at them with one eye (like chickens do), and then made an attempt at flight annnnnnd….perched on top of the feeder.  FAIL.

About that time, my son Greg showed up and said something about a delivery from Domino’s pizza at the front door with 15 meal worm pizzas and that Vinnie had asked if we could get it this time and he’d pay the bill next time.   I told Greg that none of them would even TRY the roosts, so we weren’t paying for anything.

Greg decided he would fix this situation and went into the fenced area of the coop where the chicks were scratching for left over fodder and Cheerios that they’d had earlier as a treat.  I like to call the treat “Fodder-O’s”.  The chicks KNEW that something was up because whenever Greg shows up in the coop he picks them up and holds them and says “Hey…YOU are a nice chicken”.  It’s good for socializing them and getting them used to being held, it has made them friendlier and now they all know they are “nice” chickens…and you know we’re all about their emotional development.

So they all ran back to the door to the run, complaining the whole way.  Greg scooped one up, petted it for a while and complimented it on its feet, “Hey…these are NICE chicken feet”.  He set the chick on the 2×4 perch.  Let me just point out that none of these chickens are going to be Olympic Balance Beam gold medalists.  The chick couldn’t seem to figure out walking on the four-inch board and stepped right off and landed on the floor.  Apparently, we don’t learn much from our experience either, because he tried this several times, with several chicks and they all were completely oblivious to what they should do on a roost.

Greg, being the brilliant evil genius that he is, sprinkled feed on the roost and then picked up Vinnie and Oprah Wingfrey, our two most outgoing chicks, and set them on the roosting bar.  We held our breath.

Now that FOOD was involved, the roosting bar was INFINITELY  more interesting.  Oprah and Vinnie pecked at the feed and forgot they were doing something new by standing on the roosting bar.  Then one of them shoved the other one off the bar and jumped to the ground.  So much for that.  So he kept trying with other chicks and suddenly everyone was showing interest (especially because there was FOOD…even though it was the same food they could get out of the feeder…not the brightest crayons in the box) and looking at the roosting bar with one eye…you know, the way chickens do.

This little exercise went on for about 20 minutes or so, which was good because there was nothing on TV and this was pretty entertaining.  We have a long tree branch that we’d propped up on the roosting bar so that they could just shimmy their way up the nice fat branch and wouldn’t even have to TRY very hard to get up there.  One of the Golden Laced Orpingtons decided that she would try the branch and made it almost all the way to the roosting perch and then the branch rolled and she fell off.

Chickens don’t have a graceful bone in their body, it turns out.

So, Greg, using his best Boy Scout training, used some purple rope that we had in the coop and started lashing the top of the branch to the roosting bar while reciting the Boy Scout pledge…and this would have gone well, but I forgot to mention that the chicks are OBSESSED with the purple rope.  Sometimes we throw the end of it outside the run door when we’re trying to get them inside and they’ll chase it right into the coop.  I don’t get it, but whatever.

As Greg was wrapping the rope around the branch and roost, the end of it was on the floor, he gave it a tug to pull more rope around the branch and felt resistance on the other end.  We were so focused on his Boy Scout skills that we hadn’t even noticed that one of BORBs (Buff Orpington Rooster Brothers) had grabbed the other end with his beak and was not about to let go of the prized purple rope.

He was like a big feathery trout.

By this time, I was doubled over laughing in my chair in the work area of the coop and Tom was leaning on the sidewall watching with more than mild amusement.  Greg finally finished lashing the branch to the roost with the prized purple rope.  Now the chickens were REALLY interested.  The ROPE was up there.  He scooped up a few more chicks and placed them on the bar.  They cocked their heads and looked at him with one eye…the way chickens do…and pecked the rope a little, decided it was all dumb and either flew off, fell off, or walked down the now stable branch and resumed scratching for Fodder-O’s.

It was clear that we weren’t really getting anywhere with this particular activity.

We finally decided to give up.  We made sure that they couldn’t possibly make a noose out of the rope and tucked in all the ends and got ready to head back up to the main house.  I started my usual baby talk “Night guys!  I love you!  Sweet dreams!” while Greg  yelled “DON’T STAY UP TOO LATE!” and Tom shook his head because Greg and I have reached some new level of insanity that isn’t classified in any textbooks.  We locked the coop and started walking up the path to the main house, while Greg went to his apartment above the three car detached garage.

So what have we learned from this?

Everyone should buy some purple rope, chickens can be caught like fish,  and you can lead a chicken to a perch, but you can’t make him roost.  Also, I’ve learned that “Fodder-O’s” is not in the spell checker at WordPress.

I think we accomplished quite a lot.

 

Chickentime.

If you have chickens, you know how to do chicken math.  I’ve never been good at math.  In fact, I refuse to do math after 12:00 pm.  If you need something figured out, you’d better get to me between 8 and noon, or I have no idea what you’re talking about.  Chicken math, however, came quite easily to me and I feel as though I could be a natural chicken mathematician.

Let’s work through an example.

Chris wanted 4 hens.  She went to the Rural King and the minimum purchase is six chicks. Chris purchased six chicks.  How many chickens does she have?

ANSWER: NONE.  Chicks don’t count in chicken math.

How about another example, just to make things more clear.

Chris has six chicks.  She went to the Rural King for supplies. There are two trains heading in opposite directions that have no chickens on them, traveling at 50 miles an hour. How many chickens does Chris have?

ANSWER:  Even though Chris purchased six more chicks, she has NO chickens…because chicks don’t count.  And who cares about trains with no chickens on them?

Okay, okay…one more.

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Chris wants 12 chickens.  She has 12 chicks (which don’t count) and three of them are roosters (which also don’t count), how many chicks does she have to buy to have 12 chickens?

ANSWER:  It doesn’t matter, she’s just going to keep buying chickens.

Got it?  It’s really not that hard.  What you have doesn’t count, hatching eggs are not even included in equations and no matter how many you thought you’d have, you discover that you need more because you really don’t have any.  Simple.

As I’ve been raising the chicks (which don’t count), I’ve also discovered the phenomenon of “Chickentime”.  It’s completely different than keeping regular time. it’s a bit more difficult to explain than chicken math, but let me give you examples and I think you’ll pick it up pretty quickly.

Here we go…Chris has 12 young chickens.  She feeds the chickens every morning and lets them out of their coop.  How long does it take Chris to do the activities listed in chickentime.?

ANSWER:  I don’t know, I haven’t seen Chris since last Tuesday since she went out to feed the chickens.

Still unsure?

Another example:  Chris has 8 baskets of laundry to do.  She goes out to take the chickens a basket of weeds.  How long will it take Chris to do the laundry?

ANSWER:  NO CLUE.  Haven’t seen Chris since last Tuesday when she went out to take the chickens a basket of weeds and by the way…there are no clean towels.  Take a chamois from the garage if you want to dry off.

Getting it?  One more example.

Chris needs to clean the bathroom and bedroom.  How long will it take her in chickentime?

ANSWER:  Cleaning is not allowed in computing chickentime.  I’m going out to the coop.

So the next time your family criticizes the huge pile of laundry in the laundry room that growled at them when they went to look for socks, or wonders why they haven’t seen the top of the kitchen counter for three months, explain chickentime to them.

Because you simply don’t have time for these silly extra activities in chickentime…but since they don’t OBSERVE chickentime, they most certainly DO have time and show them to the laundry room where they can start on the growling, quivering heap on the floor, or they can start working on Mount Dishmore in the kitchen.

If you need me, I’ll be on chickentime today…out in the coop.