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.

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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.

 

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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.

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.

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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.