Ugh.

Well.  Now I feel terrible.  We just returned from checking on the chickens and changing water.  As usual, we spent a little time cuddling with them (also known as sneaking up on them so we can grab them and make them let us hold them), and they were their usual charming (sort of stupid…but sweet) selves.  One of the BORBs that will be going to the 4H family tomorrow was eating from the feeder and I reached down and gave him a little pet…and he didn’t have a total meltdown.  So I picked him up and held him for a bit and let him stand on my leg.  He warbled and complained when I first picked him up, but then he seemed to calm down and seemed to enjoy being held and petted.  He relaxed a little bit and sat down and let me pet him all over, but never took an eye off me.  Before I set him back on the floor, I felt his little nubs on his legs and that caused him to complain a little too…but probably because we’d only been dating 5 minutes.

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He calmly walked away and I looked out at Tom who was parked in the chair with his feet on the straw bale.  Tom just said “He’ll be fine.”  Because he knew what I was thinking.  I was regretting selling them.  Tom tried to reason with me about how it would be better for the flock, etc. but all I could think about was that I was the one that got them and now I was getting rid of them.  That makes me feel bad.  I guess I’m just really a little too soft.  I worry about whether they’ll have a nice coop and the right food and if they’ll get their weeds that they love every day.  I hope that I can trust these people who are taking them to be good chicken keepers.  Even as annoying and aggressive as the BORBs are…I still raised them from chicks and I guess I feel a little maternal…even if they do peck on Vinnie’s head like they’re buff colored jack hammers.  He probably had it coming, knowing him.

I feel like I’m betraying them a little.  Like I promised to take care of them and then said “OH…Just kidding!  I don’t care where ya go but ya can’t stay here!”  UGH.  Queen of the Rotten Chicken Keepers.  QRCK.  That’s ME.

Tomorrow, I’m not going with to shuttle the BORB’s to their new people.  I sort of don’t want to know anything about it.  Tom and Greg have to go to Illinois anyway, so they’re going to take them and I’m going to stay home.  I have plenty to do here and I’ll help get them into the carrier tomorrow and wave good bye.

borb

And then I’m going to lay face down on the sofa all day…because I feel GUILTY.

Why can’t I just be one of those people who doesn’t CARE???

Because I wouldn’t like me very much if I didn’t care.

Good luck guys, you’re jerks but I still love ya.

Uh oh.

I’m out of scratch.  I know that puts me on the list of “WORST CHICKEN KEEPERS EVER”.  Actually, I didn’t know that until the chickens pointed it out.

Last night, when we went out to try to convince the chickens that it was time to go inside for the night, we did our usual routine.  I went into coop yelling “CHICK CHICK CHICK!!!  COME ON GUYS!” in my ridiculously high-pitched, sing-song voice and sat down on my usual spot on an upside down livestock waterer that we placed in the corner of the run to put nesting boxes on.   The chickens, came barreling into the coop (most of them anyway, a few INSIST on being holdouts) and led by the incorrigible Vinnie.   Vinnie looked at me with one eye and came waddling over to see what treat I had for them.  Usually, I sit there with a container of scratch or snacks to entice the little darlings to move their fluffy butts and get inside before they’re eaten by a Sasquatch.  Vinnie came over and looked at me expectantly and chortled and whistled.  I held out my empty hands which he inspected thoroughly with one eye and then he looked at me again like he couldn’t believe it.  By this time, I had several others waiting for treats too. They stretched their necks out very long and it was quite obvious that they knew it should be treat time and WHY didn’t I have any?  Vinnie pecked at my rings a few times, whistled and muttered to himself and finally went to check out the feeder because SURELY I had put something delicious in there because darn it…IT’S TREAT TIME.

No treats.  Out of scratch.  I tried to explain it to Opal the Buff Orpington who seemed to be watching and listening intently.  She finally gave a half-hearted few peep/clucks and she too wandered away to check the feeder.

It seemed that disappointment was hanging thick in the air.

I tried to explain and one by one, they all went back outside, completely disregarding my repeated “I’M SORRY!!!!”.

Apparently being eaten by a Sasquatch is better than not getting a treat.

So, I’m sitting in the coop…all by myself at this point…looking at my phone and trying to figure out how I was going to redeem myself and how I could convince them that they should come inside.  Tom walked into the coop as I was sitting there…with the place completely void of chickens…and kind of looked at me like I’d lost my mind because I was sitting in a chicken coop in a corner reading Facebook.  Hey…there’s important stuff on there…I have to keep up.

I explained the scratch dilemma and he went outside to suggest that they come (read as: SCARE THEM) back into the coop.

No dice. They merrily flapped and ran around the run.  No treat…no bedtime is apparently the thought process.   Can I use “thought process” in a sentence about chickens?  I’m not sure they HAVE a process for thinking.  I think they just have a big picture of a bag of scratch in their heads.

Anyway, I remembered a big bag of frozen mixed vegetables in the freezer.  Hmmmm….I mentioned it to Tom that maybe they’d like some vegetables!  I bet they come right in!  Tom stood there for a minute and then said

“Do you want me to go make them vegetables?”

“Oh…you don’t have to do that…”

And he trudged back to the house because he’s the worlds best husband (Hi, Honey!!).

I filled the plates with vegetables, so incredibly proud of myself for remembering that we had such a nice treat in the freezer and making a mental note to pick 543 more bags of vegetables.  I set the plates on the floor and resumed my “CHICK CHICK CHICK”ing…(maybe it annoys them too…maybe it’s not just the neighbors thinking a cat is being killed in their yard).

Nothing happened.  I looked at Tom, he looked at me.  I PROMISED him that once they saw the heaping plates of vegetables they’d scoot right inside.

Nothing.

Finally Vinnie stuck his head in the door and chortled with a question mark at the end. You know what I mean, right?  He spied the full plates and made another noise in his throat and eight chickens showed up and all tried to squeeze into the coop at once.

YESSSSSS!  I knew the other four would follow once these clowns came in.

They all stood in the doorway, crammed together, looking at the plates.  Vinnie took one step and suddenly became the world’s tallest, skinniest chicken.

I like to change the words of songs so they fit situations.  When we first got the chicks, we noticed that whenever they’re afraid, they get VERY tall and skinny, so I replaced the words to “If You’re Happy and You Know it” with the following:  (please sing along)

If your neck is long and skinny, you’re afraid.

If your neck is long and skinny, you’re afraid.

If your neck is long and skinny and your eyes are small and beady,

If your neck is long and skinny you’re afraid!!

My daughter thinks I’m a musical genius.  You should hear what I do with Pharrell’s “Happy”.

Vinnie eyed the vegetables suspiciously and took a step again while viewing the vegetables with one eye and whistling softly to himself.  The rest of the chickens that had followed him inside were also very tall and skinny and took a step toward the vegetables too…practically in unison.

chicken veg 1

They were AFRAID of the vegetables.

I couldn’t believe it.  I expected full-on chicken mayhem when they saw them and all they could do was view them from a distance so that they didn’t pass out from terror.  They circled the plates, edging ever closer…and closer…and then someone would move too fast and they’d all get tall and skinny again.  Sigh.  Always the weird animals.  Always ME.

I kept encouraging and coaxing and finally Vinnie stepped all the way up to a plate and got a good close-up look.  Hmmm…he took a corn kernel and scurried away. I watched him as he dropped it and looked at it with one eye and then tasted it again and dropped it and he soon had the undivided attention of the rest of the flock.  He munched it up with his beak and swallowed.  I held my breath.  He cocked his head back at the plate and went back to check it out again…hmmmm…he tried a carrot..and another piece of corn…and then more corn.   Maybe these weren’t the killer vegetables that he’d heard about after all.

The other chicks were now a little frantic because they were afraid of the new vegetables but Vinnie seemed to be enjoying them and WHAT the HECK should they do about that?  Finally, they all approached cautiously and started tasting vegetables.

chicken veg 2

What followed was like a scene from Hitchcock’s The Birds.  Absolute chicken hysteria.  They pounced on the plate like they’d never seen food before and that this was likely the LAST time they’d get any.  Corn, peas and carrots were flying, everyone was whistling, clucking and peeping, and if one ran away with a choice piece of the snack, you’d better believe there were two or three hot on the trail.  The other plate sat largely untouched because they were SO obsessed with this plate, that they hadn’t even noticed there were two.  I moved the second plate so that it was in view of the run door because there were still a few outside that were defying the odds that they’d be eaten by a Sasquatch.

All of sudden, a beak and two beady eyes appeared at the doorway, followed by the others in the run.  They watched the vegetable carnage occurring in the coop and didn’t take much convincing that they’d better hustle their downy butts inside RIGHT NOW or they weren’t getting any of WHATEVER that scary stuff was.  The vegetable madness continued (I was proud of myself for thinking of the vegetables and was all puffed up like a toad) and the others leapt right into the fray.  Carrots seemed to be the prized item from the piles of vegetables and so there was quite a bit of arguing about who got them…even though there were TONS of them still on the plate, obviously the BEST one is being held in the beak of someone else who is running away like their feathers are on fire.

As the last one stepped its scaly toes into the run, Tom quickly closed the run door.

AHA!  I triumphantly ran over to close the door tightly and the chickens realized for a moment that they’d been had and then went back to the carrot argument.  They were completely obsessed with the plates of vegetables.

We’d gotten them in early, actually, so we watched them for a bit as they careened around the coop chasing each other to try to steal each other’s carrots.

I’m always happy and content when I put them to bed at night.  I could have sat in the coop watching them for hours, but Tom reminded me that when we’d left the house, Emma was in the shower and by this time she most probably had used half the water in Evansville.  We gathered up the empty vegetable container and as I was leaving the coop, I took one last look back to where they were squabbling at each other about carrots and sucking down green beans.

I’m buying those things by the PALLET.

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Sneaky.

I always seem to get animals that have some sort of personality issue.  I was going to write “disorder”, but they aren’t really problems, they’re just….eccentricities.  Or, as my husband likes to call them “WEIRD”.

For example, I used have a show horse named Apollo that was the son of a world champion Arabian stallion.  Apollo was big and goofy, was afraid of mushrooms growing in the arena footing, and when we went to horse shows, he would get all freaky and need to have his tongue held.  No, no, you didn’t read that wrong.  He wanted me to hold his tongue.  He’d stand in his stall at the show with his tongue hanging out and he’d push his face against you until you held his tongue.  He’d then sigh deeply and close his eyes half-way in relief.  So there I’d be…standing next to the stall holding his tongue.  Son of a world champion…complete wuss.

We have a variety of dogs with odd behaviors too.  One insists on chewing on the strings of your workout pants and will basically drive you INSANE until you either change pants or give her what she wants.  This is why my pants that are supposed to have draw string waists, don’t have draw strings anymore.   Another not only insists on being carried to bed (thank goodness she’s a chihuahua) but then when you put her on the bed, she drags her back legs around like she’s paralyzed.  Not a thing wrong with her.  Just WEIRD.  I could go on, but you see where I’m going here.  We have our own little animal “group home”.

This morning (Monday…ruining my life since 1964), it was incredibly hard to get out of bed.  It’s only because I had to go to work which instantly saps me of any shred of motivation that I might have had left over from the weekend.  I walked around and drank Diet Pepsi and whined for a while and then figured that since there was no giant snowstorm predicted (that’s the only reason work would close and tell us to stay home) and the likelihood of one forming in ten minutes in 72 degree temperatures was remote, that I’d better get hopping if I wanted to make it to work by my usual 20 minutes late.

I scuffed out to the chicken coop, because I KNEW that they were in there standing and staring at the door to the run and wondering where the hole went that they normally went through to get outside.  I don’t think they completely comprehend the concept of a DOOR.  Yesterday while I was cleaning the coop, I locked them all outside and they stood there dumbfounded that the HOLE was gone and pretty soon they were all trying to stand on the ramp and pecking at the door itself as if that was some sort of chicken “OPEN SESAME” trick.

It was another gorgeous morning here, a few clouds, perfect temperatures, nice breeze.  I was sort of enjoying the short walk to the coop.  I’m sure the neighbors were enjoying it too because I was wearing black and white leopard print pajama shorts, purple Crocs and a Jimmy Buffett t-shirt.  I like to think I’m their morning comedic relief.  I sort of see it as a public service.

Anyway, the coop doors were all closed and locked, the run was empty and I always check for evidence of predators trying to get into the run or possible holes they may have made trying to get into said run and everything looked pretty good.  The ground surface of the run looks like the surface of the moon after being scoured by 12 chickens, but I told them they had to make the weeds last, so if they chose not to listen, not a thing I can do about that.  They were warned.

I opened the door to the coop and my jaw dropped.

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When we built the interior of the coop, we built a four-foot fence to separate my little work and sitting area from the area where the chickens hang out.  They’ve been out there for several weeks now and everything has been going very well…except for the preponderance of wasps or some sort of flying bad thing that seems to think the rafters of the coop would be a great place to set up shop for a nest.  I’m totally getting a Waspinator…look it up on Google…I had no idea…again someone is raking in tons of cash from an oddball invention, while I slave away in my office and losing every hint of color to my skin.  Anyway, nothing has been bothering the coop.  That wasn’t what I found when I swung open the door.

I unlocked the door, swung it open while singing “GOOD MORNING!” in my high-pitched chicken voice (the neighbors ADORE me) and there standing on the rail of the four-foot fence, looking EXTREMELY proud of himself was Vinnie…that darn Barred Rock.

Remember how the other chickens can’t even figure out how to get to the roosts and we went through “Roost School” (read the whole blog…it’s in there) one night?  Everybody kept falling off and acting like they were 100 feet in the air instead of just TWO feet?  Yeah.  I remember it.  That’s when I thought that perhaps I’d gotten a group of chicks that had been deprived of oxygen in the incubator at the hatchery.  You know, the hatchery worker just said “OOPS!  This group is going to be extra-stupid, but no one will know the difference because…well…chickens aren’t rocket scientists to begin with” (although it’s rumored).

Anyway, Vinnie strutted back and forth on the rail while I stood there with my mouth hanging open.  He fluffed his feathers, stretched one wing and foot at the same time, and whistled and chortled happily like he’d done something REALLY COOL.  He was more like “Aren’t you PROUD of me MOM???” instead of “UH-OH…busted”, which he most assuredly WAS.

All I said was “VINCENT MORTIMER” (that’s his full name).  He did a couple of gymnast-like maneuvers and whistled happily because he was SURE I’d give him a treat.  Then he fluffed his feathers again and sat down.  Like he was staying there.  Because he’s cool…and he obviously thought that I thought he was cool.

WRONG.  I snatched him off the rail and gave him a gentle scolding while he whistled and pecked at the “MARGARITAVILLE” on my t-shirt.  I placed him back in the coop with the herd of water buffalo…I mean, CHICKENS…who were preparing to stampede out into the run when I made the hole in the wall reappear by opening the door.  After the dust settled and they were all outside, I tried to figure out what he’d done to get up there, because FLYING is not his strong suit…neither is anything else, now that I think about it.

Vinnie 1

Last night, when we were turning off their fan and tucking them in for the night, Vinnie had shown a little extra effort and had jumped up on the roost bar…just two feet…I wasn’t as impressed as he thought I should be apparently.  We stood and watched them for a while and noticed that Vinnie seemed to be listening to the sounds of the toads drifting in through the open window which is covered with screen.  He walked back and forth on the roost bar and right about as we were ready to go back to the house for the night…in fact, I was walking out of the coop…we heard a crash and looked at the window and there was Vinnie, smashed up against the screen, standing on the window sill looking triumphant.

TAHDAH!!

For PETE’S SAKE.  I went back into the chicken area, scooped him off the window sill and dropped him next to a pile of scratch.  He quickly seemed to forget about his circus career as a high-window-sill walker and happily whistled while he stole all the sunflower seeds from the pile.  It all seemed under control…probably just a fluke that he ended up on the window sill…so we locked up and went back to the house.  I can see now, what he did. He got on the roost…flew to the window…and then hopped to the top of the fence rail.  I don’t think it was an escape attempt…although he does have a blue print of the coop tattooed on his skin (reference: Prison Break”)…I think he just thought it was something entertaining to do.

vinnie proof

So, now we’re going to take that fencing all the way to the ceiling.  In the meantime, we’ve done some emergency “engineering” and have put up this classy, Vinnie-barricade, because I KNOW he’ll do it again and not only will he do it again, but those other chickens are total lemmings and next thing you know, I’ll go to open the coop in the morning and they’ll all greet me at the big doors instead of being OCD about where the hole in the wall that used to be the run door went.

Apparently, when they were deprived of oxygen at the hatchery, Vinnie must have gotten ahold of a tiny, beak shaped oxygen mask because this was not the action of a dumb chicken.  This actually showed a little thought…and absolutely NO forethought on the part of the stupid humans who thought none of them would ever make it to the top of that four foot wall.

That’s a little scary.  I’m completely denying his request for internet access and a cell phone…I don’t need any international events started by a chicken and I’ve clearly underestimated Vinnie’s abilities.  I’m working on his Yale application right now.

 

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This blog is part of  The Homestead Barn Hop #158

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Free.

I one of those people who spends the whole week thinking about ALLLLLL the things I’m going to get done over the weekend.  While sitting in my deprivation chamber (office) all week, I come up with all kinds of grand ideas about cleaning out cabinets, organizing things and building elaborate ponds with fountains and koi in the backyard in a spot where we currently can’t get grass to grow.  I will promise myself a jillion times that THIS WEEKEND is going to be THE weekend to be productive.  All week I detail my grand schemes to my husband who usually just answers “okay”.  It’s not because he’s really all that agreeable.  It’s because he knows me.

Saturday mornings typically go like this. I’m the first one awake…or…well, maybe “awake” is too generous of a word.  How about, I’m the first one out of bed…that’s a bit more accurate. Yesterday,  I got up, scuffed out to the chicken coop in my pajamas and initiated the chicken stampede…which just means I let them out of their coop.  Remember that scene from “The Lion King” where Simba’s father gets trampled by the water buffalo stampede?  It’s pretty much like that.  How 12 chickens can make their feet hit the ground that many times that they sound like 1200 chickens is completely beyond me.  I just shook my head and scuffed back to the house while they scoured the run for snacks that might have appeared overnight.

I had planned to be REALLY productive this weekend.  Laundry, cooking, a little cleaning, some baking, chicken coop decorating, oh the list was long and impressive.  The weather was PERFECT and Tom had even called an equipment rental place to rent a large tiller to do the garden!!  I just figured I’d get that puppy planted too.  That sounds reasonable, right?  (NO)

When I got back to the house, Tom was still in bed, so I surfed around the internet, visited a favorite chicken site and swooned over cute chick pictures, drank some coffee and oh look!  The Today Show is on!  So I reasoned that since no one else was awake and there was coffee and Lester Holt, that I should just sit on the sofa.

Greg came stumbling in from his apartment behind the house and collapsed in a chair like it was the longest walk he’d ever taken…it’s about 40 feet or so.  At some point, after me making 53 trips to the bed and announcing what time it was, like a brunette version of Big Ben, Tom finally came out of the bedroom and sleep walked down the stairs to walk his mother’s dog (he’s the bane of my existence…the dog…not Tom).  Tom’s mother lives in another part of the house, on the lower level.   I was still drinking coffee, so I was still moderately happy.  As long as I have a cup of coffee in front of me, I’m pretty much stationary and content.

Tom finally finished walking all the dogs…I haven’t told you about the dogs yet….oh, my….that’s another story for another day altogether. He made himself a cup of coffee, sat down on the love seat and promptly fell asleep…or resumed sleeping…because I don’t think he ever woke up while he was walking the herd of dogs that we own that he calls “The Idiots”.

By this time, I was finished with  my coffee and had decided that it was time to do things.  Greg was draped over the overstuffed chair playing some sort of online game where you basically attack other people and steal their stuff…sort of like an animated version of living in Detroit.

Tom was snoring.  Which always makes me mad.  So I told him what time it was again.

“I wasn’t sleeping”

“You are SNORING.  You’re either sleeping or you’ve got something REALLY BIG caught in your nose”

“I’m going to get up in just a minute”

Okay…take that conversation and just repeat it 94 times.  Because that’s what always happens.  Tom used to tour with rock bands when he was younger.  Motley Crue, Aerosmith…you know…all those little quiet bands.  He learned to sleep through mayhem on tour buses or while leaning against a running air compressor in the middle of a crowded concert venue.  The guy can sleep through a box of C4 going off next to his head, I swear.  I finally got him semi conscious and drinking some coffee annnnnnnnd then he fell asleep several times holding his coffee.  I ranted and carried on…Greg kept playing his game…Tom kept snoring.  I kept getting more annoying.  It was pretty much a typical Saturday.

FINALLY, Tom got up off the sofa (read as: I griped until he got up off the sofa) at about 11:00.  I’d already decided that there was no way we could possibly get ANYTHING done because the day was half over.  Then Tom said those magic words that had started this whole chicken journey.

“We need to go to Rural King today.”

Suddenly, he’d redeemed himself.  If we were going to Rural King, that means we were getting more chicken and garden stuff because honestly, there isn’t much else there that I’d walk across the street for in the store.  Greg, on the other hand, got very excited because, remember, Rural King has free popcorn…and he apparently doesn’t mind that it’s made by a woman with a mustache.

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So we all piled into the truck and Rural King isn’t that far away so we were there pretty quickly.  I hadn’t even bothered to look at what I was wearing, until we were walking into the store and that’s when I noticed I had on my t-shirt that proclaims “CRAZY BUT FUN” across the front.

Fifty years old, people.  I am wearing a “CRAZY BUT FUN” t-shirt, in public, at 50 years old.

Greg and I always enjoy the parking lot at Rural King because there is a wide variety of things to be sarcastic about…which is our main gig.  One day, at the Rural King on the other side of town (there are two…who needs two? ), we were in the parking lot where a very nice church group had set up a grill and were selling the following:  Grilled Boneless Chicken, Grilled Boneless Pork Chops, and at the bottom of the sign, and I’m not making this up, Grilled Boneless Hotdogs.   I’m also not kidding when I say that this provided us with comedy material for the next several weeks.

Greg bypassed the popcorn area when we first arrived because there were a few too many people in line that were wearing camouflage and looked a bit surly.  I made my usual beeline to the CHICK NIRVANA waiting in the back of the store.  Tom was pulling a loud, rickety red flat cart behind him because we needed shavings for the coop.  I’m sure you could hear this cart in SPACE.

The chick area was kind of a drag.  You can tell that the people who work at the store are OVER IT.  At the beginning of chick season, everything was sparkly and clean and the chicks were tiny and healthy.  Now the stock tanks of chicks smelled badly of chick poop, they were terribly over crowed and the chicks were older and already sprouting their wing feathers.  Sort of sad.  I wished I could save them all and finally sadly walked away.  Poor things.

We got what we needed, including a bag of “Mother Clucker” chicken treats…pretty much because I think the name is hysterical. Next time I’m buying “CLUCK YEAH!”.  I also, thanks to my chicken decor radar, found an adorable metal welcome sign with a chicken on the top of it, that you stick in the ground.  SCORE.  It has a bell on it too…because I always look for opportunities to provide the neighborhood with noise, apparently.  Greg walked up happily eating a bag of popcorn and we paid and were on our way.

We ran a few other errands and now the day was REALLY trashed in my opinion and all I would be able to get done was possibly bake a batch of cookies.  Once I decide that I can’t get anything done…I’m done.  In other words, don’t look for any spectacular movement because I’ll probably be drinking a soda and writing blog post or staring vacantly at Pinterest for ideas about things that I should actually be doing.

I finally decided that I would check the chickens who were out in their run bemoaning the lack of edible weeds, which they mowed down completely in about two days and which refuse to grow back.  Greg showed up a few minutes later as I was trying to placate the chickens with handfuls of clover and chickweed.  Greg said, “We should free range today!”

Hm.  I wasn’t too sure about that idea.  We’ve got foxes that live in the woods and hawk screams are frequent in the sky above our yard.  Shoot, I won’t even take my three-pound chihuahua outside because I’m afraid she’ll get sucked into some sort of hawk vortex that will instantly form in the sky the moment she sets a paw off the back step.  Greg, started trying to get Vinnie, the Barred Rock, into the coop so that he could snatch him up and take him out into the big yard…the big unprotected yard…with neighboring foxes…and swooping dangerousness.  I reminded him that I’m OLD and that he better be able to catch whoever he decided to bring out.  Pretty soon he emerged from the coop with Vinnie under his arm, who was whistling and chortling because obviously, something very exciting was about to happen.

Tom was out in the “garden” (orange staked square of untilled grass) making final calculations and probably doing long division and figuring some sort of trajectory that involved square roots and quadratic equations.  Greg and I headed that way with Vinnie, where Greg set him unceremoniously down on the ground in a patch of clover.

Vinnie got very tall and I think his neck was about a foot long.  Tallest, skinniest necked chicken, you’ve ever seen.  He tried to take in everything at once, made a weak attempt at flying and crashed into the ground, and finally settled down to explore the huge open yard.  I think he was a little confused about where all the other chickens were, but interest in clover and other green snacks pretty soon caused him to care LESS where the other chickens were.  He explored the grass, insinuated himself into a big pile of branches that were lying at the edge of the woods (this when we started to talk like the crocodile hunter guy describing the natural habitat of the “WILD BUSH CHICKEN”), and then Vinnie seemed to get bored with it all and waddled back up to the area near the run where the rest of the chickens were eyeing him with mild panic.  He pecked at our walkway which is made of composite stone and must have looked like scattered seeds to him and then he looked at us like “well, that was good…now what”.

 

I scooped him up and feeling much relieved, deposited him back in the coop on a roost.  The rest of the chickens rushed into the coop to get the full story from him.  At this point, Greg scooped up Oprah Wingfrey, one of the Black Sex-Link pullets and headed back for the open yard.  As head chicken supervisor, I followed, wondering why he always seemed to pick the NICE chickens to put out as hawk snacks.

Greg set Oprah down.  She looked around and realized this was NOT the chicken run and started to HONK.  It was a cross between a raspy peep and a poorly formed cluck.  To calm her down a little, we sat down on the ground in the grass to show her all of the wonders she could find in the clover.  There was some worm eating (by her…not us), some clover nibbling, some pecking at Greg’s cell phone, more clover nibbling and some picture-taking.  It was a perfect afternoon to sit in the dappled sunlight and play with a chicken.  Honestly, how many times have you heard those words in a sentence?

 

We finally got up and started walking back to the coop and run area with Oprah following like a puppy and grabbing beakfulls of particularly tasty weeds along the way.  I scooped her up, introduced her to our outside cat, Wally…who looked at me like “WHAT is THAT?”…and put her back in the coop where she too was greeted by the entire flock.  We watched them for a bit and returned to the house.  It was time to start dinner.

So, basically, I got nothing done yesterday.  I have to say though…BEST. SATURDAY. EVER.

 

IMG_0061

 

downhome blog hop

 

homesteaders hop

 

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.

In.

So it’s been about four or five days since the Peep Squad took over the run.  Every night, we’ve had to chase them down in the coop or come up with a variety of noises that I’m SURE the neighbors can hear, to try to get them to come IN.   You’d think any self-respecting chicken would be packing up her beach bag and heading back to the coop at sunset.  Nope.  NADA.  ZIP.  ZILCH. NONE.

It’s frankly quite irritating and a little frustrating and soon you’re envisioning frying them all.

But I keep my cool.  Mostly.

So tonight I went out at dusk and my husband came with for moral support.   I picked a big basket of chickweed and headed for the coop singing “CHICKCHICKCHICK” at the very top of my lungs…I swear, the neighbors think I’m absolutely out of my mind and soon to be institutionalized.   The excited peeping started out in the run and there was a lot of running and hopping and tripping  over each others big scaly feet.

They KNOW that basket.  I KNOW they know that basket…and I use it to my advantage.

So I sailed on into the coop with my basket and they high tailed it for the ramp and door.  I threw big clumps of chickweed in several areas in the back of the coop and they all took a pile and started scratching and eating.  Perfect time to count fluffy butts.

Ten.  TEN.  I count again…TEN.  UGH.

eggsandisquare

Tom looks back outside and the two Buff Orpington Rooster Brothers are standing at the other end of the run looking insolently at the coop.

I’m in the coop “CHICKCHICKCHICK”‘n it up and talking baby talk and making peeping sounds and throwing grain around like a lawn sprinkler.  I could see two sets of scaly pink feet at the base of the ramp.  Eep!  They were considering making their move.

They came creeping up, drawn by their insane addiction to chickweed, and just when the first one was about to step in…Oprah Wingfrey, one of the black sex link pullets, rushed the door from the other direction.  I grabbed at her…which, in turn, scared the two Buff Orpington Rooster Brothers (it has to be capitalized…they’re like their own special ENTITY.  Want one?  Both?  No?) away from the door to the other end of the pen.

So Tom resorted to a series of owl noises that he thought sounded scary…but the chickens disagreed.

They came creeping up AGAIN.  I tried not breath…threw a little more grain…they were both standing in doorway…ANNNNND….Oprah rushed the door again, this time with the naughty Barred Rock in tow.

I windmilled my arms around and kept the two pullets in and the two BORB (Buff Orpington Rooster Brothers) flipped out in grand style and ran to the other end of the run.

If this wasn’t a semi-family show, I’d insert some colorful swearing right about HERE.

So Tom took it up a notch outside and scared them from that end of the run, toward the coop.  They were traveling at about a million miles an hour at this point.   They’re like little buff colored…cannon balls.  Jerks.

This time I had the rest of the flock examining a nice new bunch of chickweed that I’d placed WAY on the other side of the coop.  It’s not just a hatrack (points to head).

I trickled grain onto the wood in front of the doorway and the crazy little knot heads slowly climbed the ramp and stepped into the coop.  YESSSSSSSSS!

I was leaping through the coop I slammed the run door and I heard the ramp go clattering into the run outside. YAY!!!!

You know I turn fifty this year.  I would also like to keep living in this neighborhood without people running when they see me.  Someone needs to explain this to these chickens.

 

More.

So the twelve chicks…I’m sorry, what?  You thought I had six?  I told you about chicken math and Tom had to go back to the Rural King for something and they still had chicks, and pretty soon we were driving back to the house with another box of peeping fluff.  There isn’t a 12 Step program for this, I’ve already checked.  Anyway, the twelve chicks settled happily into their brooder box in the garage.  I checked on them roughly every 12 seconds for a while and then finally relaxed and only checked on them every 10 minutes or so.  I would go bounding down the stairs to the foyer, where the entry to the garage is, and I’d hear Tom yell from the kitchen, “THEY’RE FINE!”  To which I’d reply “I know!  Just checking!!”  Because, you never know what kind of trouble twelve chicks can get into when left to their own devices in a stock watering tub turned chicken brooder.  On one of my check the chick trips, I found post-it notes stuck all over the inside of the brooder on which chicken revolution messages had been scrawled by my 21-year-old son.  There were hand drawn chicks wearing machine guns and messages about overthrowing the humans.  The chicks were sitting around just looking innocently at each other and at me and I knew he’d put them up to the whole thing.

It also seems that chicks have a hobby of putting pine shavings in their food and water.  I started with it on the floor of the brooder box.  Nice clean feeder, Nice clean waterer.  I came back to six feet of shavings in each.  Okay…not six feet, but there were LOTS of shavings floating around.

chicks

This went on for several days until someone online suggested putting the watering device on a block of wood.  Genius.  So I put the waterer on a block of wood and somehow it STILL managed to look like they were soaking the pine chips to whip up a batch of homemade paper.  So I just resigned myself to changing water several times a day and making sure the feeder was cleaned out so that no one got a sliver in their beak.

The chicks grew….and grew….and grew….and soon the brooder looked like a mosh pit at a grunge concert.  One of the chicks, a particularly sassy barred rock and questionable rooster, found a new hobby of waiting until all the others were settled in a chick pile at the other end of the coop and then ran as fast as his scaly legs would carry him and then would LEAP into the chick pile.  This was not well received by the other chicks and there was quite a bit of annoyed peeping and scurrying about while the barred rock chick sort of stood around and seemingly enjoyed what it had done.  I knew I had to get them out of that brooder and SOON before the barred rock chick drove the rest insane with treating them like a pile of autumn leaves.

So we went to look at coops.  Apparently, there are quite a few people out there interested in this hobby, because SAM’S CLUB had a chicken coop…much too small, but who knew?  We checked several places and all of them wanted too much money and the chickens would have been far too crowded and I’ve heard bad things happen when you squish chickens into small places.  So back to the drawing board…or rather the backyard, where I had the perfect coop under my nose the whole time.

Behind our detached garage, are two storage sheds…the kind you find at farm supply stores and that so many people have in their backyard for lawnmowers and things.  Both were filled with stuff that we were “going to get to” that we’d placed in the sheds when we moved onto the property (read as: junk we probably don’t need).  We decided that one would be a great coop and my son moved all of the stuff in that shed to the other shed…which now can’t be opened without setting off an avalanche warning prior to opening the doors.  We cleaned up the coop-to-be and figured out where the yard would be and it was all terribly exciting…well, I was excited.  My husband and son were a bit more skeptical because they were the ones who were going to have to build all the stuff I wanted on the inside.  I had GRAND ideas.  This was going to be not just a chicken coop, but a really decked out chicken coop with artwork and curtains and chicken ladders, and cool nest boxes!  I started shopping for a chandelier online because I figured that these were classy chickens and they needed a classy place to hang out.  When I asked my husband about hanging a chandelier in the chicken coop, his reply was “Hang a WHAT in the chicken coop?”  It was going to take some convincing apparently.

So we had the weekend all set aside for COOPMANIA.  My husband then landed in the hospital with heart issues which was truly frightening…not only because it was his heart, but because all I could imagine were those chicks in that brooder box getting bigger and bigger and bigger and I imagined that one day I’d go out there and all of their heads would be sticking out of the hardware cloth top on the brooder box and they’d have murder in their eyes because the little barred rock chick had pushed them over the edge.

Fortunately, my husband did well with his heart issues and I never had to deal with murderous chicks.  The barred rock settled down a little bit and stopped using the others as a trampoline and soon my husband was home from the hospital and all was in order…except apparently my priorities which became clear when I asked when we could work on the coop.

I couldn’t help it…the revolution posters, the crowded conditions, the rapid growth…it was all ripe for a Chickpocalypse.