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Friday, February 24, 2006

A brief (I hope) hiatus from constant blogging

As many of you who read Rurality's blog may know, she and I are soap-makers. And craft show season is coming up waaay too fast. In between blogging and trying to get my company web site finished, I've gotten terribly behind on making,curing, cutting and wrapping soap. So it's now crunch time and I have to start burning the morning, noon and midnight oil gettting enough soap and stuff ready to sell next month, and the month after that, and....

Sam and the girls have resigned themselves to not getting as much attention during soaping season, but I think they secretly enjoy getting a break fom being my primary source of amusement...

I'll be back in from time to time to post their latest antics, just not every day. There was a possum on the deck this evening- if he hangs around there may be an antic or to two to relate, for sure.

Adventures In Chicken Herding

Another journal entry from last year:

I was up before Sam this morning. Thank Goodness I had my wits about me! Mr. G had to leave for a job extra, extra early, so I was up way before the sun. After I got everybody squared away and off for the day, I was piddling around in the kitchen setting up to make soap. The sun came up and Sam began to crow. But something wasn't quite right. I thought to myself, "He sounds a lot louder than usual, like he's right at the window or something."Well, he WAS at the window- he was up on the deck, along with the girls. AARRRGH- I had forgotten to close the run up last night! Now chickens will go to roost when the sun goes down, but once they've had a taste of freedom in the morning, it's a whole different story! They had no desire to go back into confinement- despite the fact that the dog was about to bust her bladder needing to go out (she and Sam hate each other and a direct confrontation would not be a pretty sight, I think).So, thinking quick (which is quite a feat for me at 6 in the morning, not being a morning person), I grabbed a scoop of cracked corn and marched out into the flock ( well a rooster and 3 hens CAN be considered a flock, I think). Sam immediately decided to assert his authority and ran at me with his hackles out, dipping his wing and doing his rooster strut. The girls just kind of fluttered about clucking. So I grabbed the broom in one hand to ward off an attack, and started shaking the dish of corn. That got their attention, so I led them off the deck, holding Sam at bay with the broom, and tossed the corn into the run. Sam and two of the girls made a bee-line for the corn, but poor old Emily ( who is not the brightest critter on the planet), was running up and down OUTside the run- watching the rest of them gobble up goodies and trying to figure out why SHE couldnt have any. So there I was trying to shoo her into the run, which caught Sam's attention.He decided he'd try to come out to rescue her from whatever evil he imagined I was trying to inflict on her, but I figured if he got out I'd never be able to get him back in. So there I was, at six in the morning, trying to confine an irate rooster bent on escape while trying to herd an intellectually challenged hen into the run. It was not pretty.Nor was it quiet. I figure the neighbors didn't need their alarm clocks to wake 'em up for work this morning, so they owe me one. Tonight, I remembered to close the chicken run- I don't want a replay of that episode any time soon!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Comb Credentials

Monique may be an imposter! All this time, we've believed her when she claimed to be a Dominique, chicken, but recent news articles about questionable credentials led me to wonder whether the critters I have are who and what they claim to be. So I began to investigate further.

Seems that Dominiques have rose combs, which are kind of flat and smooth on top. Now, does Monique's comb look like a rose comb to you?
When she was younger, her comb did look a lot different from Sam's and Henrietta's. But now she's older, her comb is starting to look kind of spiky- more like a single comb. Which makes me think she may be a barred rock. Monique has always been kind of stand-offish- like she felt she was better than the others. Maybe she figured if she claimed to be a rare breed she'd get better treatment or more attention or something- who knows what chickens think?

At any rate, she had us fooled. Maybe because she's such a refined, quiet hen who is very good at what she does. She lays eggs very reliably. She doesn't peck at Emily and Henrietta ( who sometimes peck at each other mercilessly, but that's another story). She does a yeoman's job at digging up grubs and other harmful critters who threaten my pathetic garden crops. And most surprisingly, Sam seems to respect her need for independence. In other words, he doesn't mess with her. He did try a few times a long time ago, but she was quite firm in letting him know that she wanted no part of him- and that she certainly was not interested in his amorous advances. So Sam keeps his distance and Monique busily pecks away in peace.

So even if she did lie about her credentials, I'm not about to call her to task for it. I figure maybe she was a poor orphan egg who was cared for by a surrogate Dominique mother, and she just never had any reason to question her lineage. Besides, she is probably the only sane critter among the bunch of us, and around here sanity is a very rare commodity.

But if any of you folks can shed some light on exactly what breed she is, I'd like to know, just to satisfy my curiosity.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The cover-up caper

I was wishing I had started seeds this year, wondering if it was too late. I guess I really should, seeing as how it was a real battle to reclaim the plastic cover for my seed-starting box. This is a journal entry from the recovery operation:

Poor old Sam! You should have heard him-- trying to crow, but so upset he sounded like he was crowing with the hiccups. And of course, that got the girls all excited, so they were running around making clucking sounds that sounded like they had the hiccups, too. And then they all decided to take cover on the deck and refused to get off. I was trying to get ‘em off, but that upset ‘em even more, so they got an attack of … well, we won’t say, but it made a humongous mess all over the deck, but there's a lot more fertilizer for the compost pile now!
See, what happened was- I have been using a piece of clear rigid plastic stuff on the top of their run to keep the rain from getting into their feed. Trouble is, it’s the same piece of plastic I use to cover my seed starting box in the greenhouse. Since it’s time to start seeds, I decided to reclaim it. Mr. G. said we had a corrugated panel left over from when he built the greenhouse and if we sawed it in half, it would be wide enough to cover the run halfway. So we hauled out the panel and plopped it up there to measure it (it made a real LOUD noise on account of we plopped it kind of clumsily), then commenced to sawing. Sam must have thought we were tearing up his house, because he started flapping his wings, and flying all over, making these weird hiccuppy crowing noises- and he would NOT stop. So there was Mr. G., sawing away, with Sam running around with his hackles out, like he was going to tear Mr. G to shreds. I shooed him away from Mr. G, which is when he ran towards the house and decided to strut and crow from the safety of the deck. So there I was trying to chase Sam and the girls off the deck with a broom, and them just fertilizing left and right. Now remember, this is all happening just at sundown when all the neighbors are at home- and my goodness, the noise level was horrible! We may have to move waaaay out in the country if these critters don’t learn to be a little quieter! Anyway, they finally calmed down, and went to roost, but I bet there won’t be any eggs tomorrow, what with the girls being so upset and all.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Sam is just axing for trouble!

I was busily working to fill an order the other day- had on my nice clean lab coat (part of my "mad scientist soapmaker" persona) and was sterilizing jars and stuff when I suddenly realized it was past time to let Sam and the girls out for their evening run about. So I asked Mr. G. if he would let them out and make sure they had food and water. He grudgingly obliged. Everything was going well, I thought, when there suddenly arose from the back yard a terrible racket- Mr. G was hollering "Get Back! Get away! *#@*!!" and Sam was crowing and the girls were clucking and carrying on- it sounded like pure mayhem out there. Just about then Mr. G came in calling Sam all kinds of really nasty names, and saying if I ever asked him to do that again he was taking an axe out there with him and Sam would be headless! Turns out that when Mr. G. bent down to get the water dish out to refill it, Sam jumped on his back and proceeded to spur him. Now Sam has some pretty hefty spurs- and even though Mr. G had on a heavy shirt, Sam managed to make some nasty marks and broke the skin. I just don't understand how that rooster can be so well behaved around me (well, most of the time, anyway) and such a menace around Mr. G. It is kind of funny, though, to think about how a little banty rooster can get the better of a grown man....

I reminded Mr. G that there was a chicken who became famous after he had his head cut off- it was part of the Natural History of the Chicken program that has run on PBS a few times. There's even a festival to celebrate Mike, the Headless Chicken. Sam would be just ornery enough to survive without his head, too, just so he could make Mr. G's life miserable.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Separation Anxiety

Nobody told me that chickens have the same anxieties as human children. You know how the child-rearing books tell you that sometimes, when you're potty-training a child, (s)he can get separation anxiety when stuff is flushed?(My kids never seemed to experience this anxiety- they loved to flush all kinds of stuff: socks, toys- you name it. One of 'em even tried to vacuum all the water out of the toilet once, but I digress).

Well,I was kind of late getting outside to let Sam and the girls out for their evening constitutional tonight. I took care of cleaning up their water dish and feeder and opened the whole coop instead of just the nest boxes, to check for eggs. Whoaaaa! Had they ever made a mess! So I went and got the bucket and little shovel and some fresh litter to clean things up. Usually, when I do this, Sam and the girls are wandering around the yard and don't even know what I'm doing. Tonight, Sam decided to hang around and watch me. He was fine when I got the eggs, but he got really, really upset as he saw me shoveling the other stuff out. He started making these really freaky noises, and got his hackles all puffed out, like I was trying to steal something really valuable out of his house. He was not even pleased when he saw me putting nice fresh shavings back in there.

Talking to him about how much cleaner and fresh smelling it was now did no good at all.He was still just strutting and carrying on- I finally had to shake a broom at him to get him to go away. Just wait until I tell Mr. G. that he needs to build some kind of droppings pit I can empty out without Sam being able to see me doing it. Mr. G. says between the lumber, the labor, the feed, the pasta treats and couscous and what-all we've already put into this whole chicken project,he figures the eggs we're getting are worth about 10 bucks a dozen...

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A house of ill repute

That first fall, Sam and the girls "matured" and found better ways to occupy their time than merely scratching up bugs....


I may get raided for running an indecent establishment or something, and corrupting the morals of little children!The people who live two houses down have children, but they're hardly ever outside. Today the grown-ups looked like they had friends and extra children over- the grown-ups were climbing up on the roof doing some kind of repair work while the kids were running about in the yard, laughing and hollering.
Sam saw this as a golden opportunity to let everybody know that his peace was being disturbed by going them one better in the noise category. He commenced to crowing- and once he got started he just wouldn't stop! I decided maybe if he was out running around the yard, he wouldn't crow so much, so I let him and the girls out early.
Now normally, they all stay up at the high end of the yard where there's a lot of plant cover and where the neighbors can't see them. Tonight, drawn by all the commotion the kids were making, Sam (who loves an audience) and Henrietta, who is normally a well-behaved hen, decided to put on an x rated show right out in the open near the fence on the low end. So there I am, on the far side of the yard, with my head stuck inside the coop trying to clean out some of the mess and gather the eggs, when I hear the kids hollering and saying things like "OOOOHHHHH- LOOK at those chickens! What are they DOING?!?"

Well, I knew what they were doing, and sure enough there they were- Sam and Henrietta - oblivious to everything except the task at hand - with all the little kids lined up against the fence watching. By the time I got my head out of the coop and had walked down close to the fence, it was all over, thank goodness, and the kids were heading off to play. Sam was strutting about like the cock of the walk, and Henrietta was demurely scratching in the dirt as though nothing had happened.
I gave both Sam and Henrietta a stern lecture about appropriate behavior and modesty and all, but I don't think they paid any attention. I dunno what the neighbors thought about the show- or the crowing and carrying on- and I hope they don't come around to tell me, quite honestly. But if they do, I have some nice brown eggs to give 'em as a peace offering...

Monday, February 06, 2006

We interrupt this program...

to take a break from Sam and his antics, and share some gardening stuff. We have winter storm warnings out now, and there's some freezing rain falling already. Such weather always makes me wish for summer.
One of my favorite summer activites is watching the Night Blooming Cereus (I'm not sure whether mine is a Selenicereus or an Epiphyllum purpusii) bloom. We've had it for several years, and most of the time, it is a really scraggly looking, homely cactus plant. But once or twice every summer, in June or July, it puts on a night show that is out of this world, as it unfurls the most exquisite, wonderfully aromatic flowers. The show takes place over several hours, beginning at dusk. By morning, the show is over- all that is left is a limp and wilted blossom. But, Oh- what a wonder it was for those few brief hours! And the scent is absolutely intoxicating!It's easy to see why it's sometimes called Queen of the Night.

4:10 PM- The stage is set
6:40 PM
6:47 PM
8:30 PM
9:30 PM
10:00 PM

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Green Eggs and Sam


One of the best things about chickens is that you don't have to call them in- at sundown they just head into the coop. Sam and the girls have always done that- they run around loose just before sunset and then head into the coop to roost. Not any more. Poor Sam is just traumatized beyond hope, it seems.
Mr. G just doesn't know when to stop. He built those nice new nest boxes for the girls, but he couldn't leave it at that. He'd read somewhere that if you put fake eggs in the boxes, the hens will get the idea that they should lay eggs there. Well, Mr. G. found some old plastic Easter eggs- not nice pale ones, mind you, but bright neon green ones- that's what he put in the nest. Those chickens must not have liked that egg at all, because tonight it was buried deep in the shavings. Sam must have thought one of the girls laid it and decided he doesn't want anything to do with hens who lay neon green eggs. Tonight Sam rounded up all the girls and made them go in, but he decided to sleep outside on top of the coop. I tried to get him to go inside, but he'd have no part of it- every time I got close to him he'd fly off and dash about the yard like a lunatic, squawking his head off. So there I was, after dark, chasing a crazy rooster all over the yard with a broom and a towel. I finally got him in, but he wasn't happy about it- and that stupid neon egg is still in the coop, thanks to Mr. G., who, I have decided, has a real mean streak and a warped sense of humor...

postscript: Evidently Mr. G was onto something, because shortly after the neon egg episode, Emily began laying. And she was trying her darndest to lay green eggs! Her eggs weren't bright green, but were a lovely shade of blue-green. She laid one a day for three or four days, then took a break and Monique and Henrietta picked up the slack with their lovely brown eggs. Here's a pic of those first eggs. They made a delicious omelet, by the way...

Construction conflicts

Mr. G finally decided (after much nagging and begging on my part) to re-do the chicken coop and make nest boxes I could access from the outside. Sam, of course, did not know what was going on except that Mr. G was tearing down his house and making a lot of noise in the process, what with saws and drills and hammers and such. Sam decided to deal with the whole mess by crowing alllll day long- every three minutes, it seemed. For most of the day, Sam and the girls were in the run, which is attached to the coop.Sam, curious bird that he is, kept trying to get in the coop- so we stuck a big flower pot in the doorway to keep him out. Suddenly, Mr. G saw the flower pot coming towards him with Sam right behind it, hackles all raised and ready to fly right at him. Mr. G. fought him off with the flower pot, replaced the pot in the doorway, weighted it down with bricks and went on about his sawing and nailing. I finally decided to let the critters out for their evening walk about. Everything seemed fine- except it was starting to get dark and Sam and the girls wanted their house back. But everything seemed calm enough, with Sam and the girls scratching around in the garden, so I came in the house. Then Mr. G decided he needed an extension cord, so he hauled out the big yellow utility cord, plugged it in the greenhouse and proceeded to drag it across the yard towards the coop. Evidently Sam thought that cord was some humongous snake and Mr. G was the snake's head. Sam ran full throttle at Mr. G, with his hackles standing straight out. Mr. G grabbed a hoe, and said he had to fight Sam off with the hoe, 'cause Sam was coming at him with his talons. When I went back outside, everything seemed normal, but Mr. G says Sam is a mean bird and if he runs at him again he'll end up in the stew pot. I told him Sam was just traumatized by all the noise and having his house torn up, but he kept mumbling stuff about Sam that I can't repeat here. I dunno why Sam gets like that around folks, but his days may well be numbered....Mr. G. didn't finish the coop today, he finally had to put a temporary closure on it to keep the chickens in tonight. I sure hope things go smoother tomorrow, when I'm at work. But I'm kind of afraid to leave those two alone together...

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Barking Chickens

I dunno what's going on- what with Sam acting really strange around the girls, and the girls squawking and carrying on and chasing each other and then flying around and swooping down on me while I'm trying to put their fresh food out and change their water. But the strangest thing happened last night. Sam, Henrietta and Emily were cavorting around outside the run at sunset. Monique marched past all of them, straight into the run- and I swear, she started barking! Now Henrietta tries to mimic Sam sometimes and sounds like she's trying to crow, but Monique really sounded like she was barking, just like a dog! Sam seems to have resolved his gender identity crisis (which I'm really not too happy about, since he's become a bit of a show-off with his new found knowledge of who and what he is), but this barking chicken thing is just more than I can handle... And I'm kind of concerned that the hens are about the age when they should start laying. I started the girls on layer feed, but they show no inclination towards egg-laying yet. That may be a good thing, though, because now I'm kind of concerned that a barking chicken might hatch a chuppy or a pucken or something !


I got home from work and hollered out "Honey, I'm Home!" But there was no answer. The back door was open, though, so I figured Mr. G. must be out back. And he was- with Sam in hot pursuit. Seems Mr. G., thinking it's gettng dark earlier and earlier, decided to let Sam and the girls out before I got home, so's they'd have time to run around and dig and scratch and stuff. But he should've known that when Sam sees that run door open, he expects spaghetti to be waiting on the other side. Mr. G. had no spaghetti, so Sam was chasing him back towards the house to get some. Mr. G tried to tell me that Sam was just ornery, and he'd chase me and nip at me, too when I went out, but I had the good sense to take spaghetti, along with some stern warnings about ornery roosters and chicken stew, and Sam was as meek as a lamb. But he refused to apologize to Mr. G, even though I explained that Mr. G was just trying to be nice by letting him out early. I dunno what's gonna happen when we go off Daylight Savings time and it really is dark by the time I get home...

The Diary continues: Summer is winding down- but Sam isn't!

Evidently, the heat has really been getting to Sam and the girls- they are getting more and more impatient to get out of the run and into the garden in the evening- but only after I give them their pasta treat. Mr. G. let them out last night on account of I was still celebrating Labor Day by laboring at cleaning up the den at sundown..but he didn't have their pasta treat ready. Sam really let me know how upset he was about that when I went out there tonight- he came at me with hackles raised until he saw the pasta, at which point he forgave me and jumped up in my lap as usual. So I told him about my trials and tribulations at work, and he got really sympathetic, or at least, as sympathetic as a rooser-hen can get. I told Sam he really didn't have any room to complain, given the horrible day I'd had at work. Then come to find out, Mr. G- who had said he was going to start on building our new compost bins today, had actually been watching TV- I know this because he said, "When you go on-line, check out Oprah's site and print out the recipes- she had Emeril on her show today, and he had a good sounding Gumbo recipe." So here I am, running all over like a chicken with it's head cut off, while the real chickens are living the life of Riley and Mr. G. is watching TV. Next thing you know, he'll be doing Martha-like stuff. At which point you'll prolly read about a woman in Alabama who went bersek and had to be heavily sedated before being carried off for intense therapy. And we won't even go into the matter of the dog who has gotten so jealous of Sam and the girls that she's taken to self-mutilation (we thought it was hot-spots and tried cortisone therapy, but that wasn't working) and is in need of a canine psychologist.... so now I have to give her extra attention on account of we don't have any canine psychologists in these parts ( the extra attention does seem to be working, though). Like I said, life around here is never boring...

Sam just hasn't been himself for the last week or so- he's been extremely feisty. This all started week-end before last when our grandaughter spent the week-end. We took her to a new Creek Indian Village exhibit that had just opened at the museum and then on Sunday we went to the railroad museum and rode the trains. Anyway, while she was here on Saturday, I went out to give Sam and the girls their pasta treat just like always. Kaitlyn wanted to come too- I told her to act normally and don't get loud or jump up and down around the chickens (which, come to think of it, is NOT acting normally for her, since she's usually loud and boisterous...). Everything was fine at first- Sam jumped up in my lap as usual to get his treat, then he noticed Kaitlyn standing behind the chair, so he hopped down to investigate. Evidently, Kaitlyn felt he was coming to attack her and started hollering- which got Sam and the girls all excited, so he started getting loud and running around with his hackles all spread out, which scared Kaitlyn even more so she started yelling louder that she wanted to go back in the house, but with Sam and the girls all running around cackling and crowing she couldn't get past them. It was horrible- and in retrospect, funny, in a kind of Funniest Home Videos kind of way. I finally got everybody calmed down enough to get Kaitlyn back in the house and Sam and the girls in the coop. But ever since, Sam has been showing a mean streak- every once in a while he'll come up behind me and try to bite my leg or something. He durn near followed me back into the house tonight, just raising the biggest fuss about nothing. I told him he's likely to be somebody's Sunday dinner if he doesn't straighten up. So now I have a dog who's jealous of a rooster and a rooster who's jealous of a grandchild. And a husband who's got vertigo from riding backwards on a train and watching kids and wives and chickens flying around the back yard! And I had so hoped we could all be just normal folks at some point...

Roosterhens make good listeners

In August of that first summer with Sam and the girls, I took on a temporary, high-stress job- one of those jobs that leaves you emotionally and physically exhausted and makes you wonder. "WHAT was I thinking?!" I would come home drained, then head out to the back yard to spend some time with the chickens. This is what I wrote back then:

You would be amazed at just how perceptive and helpful roosterhens (Sam in particular) can be. He sits on my lap and I tell him my troubles and concerns. Sometimes he just raises his hackles like he's ready to take on anybody who might be causing me distess. Other times he just cackles in a most agitated manner. And sometimes, he just sits there, without a sound, a hackle, or a cackle, knowing that the situation is just beyond words... Mr. G., on the other hand, has been known to fall asleep and start snoring as I'm relating the day's events. Now who would YOU rather talk to if you were me?

I drag home after an extra long day and get home at dusk. Hurriedly, I change clothes to go take care of Sam and the girls, and Mr. G offhandedly says, " Your girls are all huddled at the run door, waiting for you. Oh- and you'll find a major upheaval in the back yard when you go out there." Natural pessimist that I am, and thinking that Sam has been crowing louder, longer and earlier than usual this week, and remembering that Mr. G., in a fit of pique, had cruelly brought home fried chicken last week, I went out the back door filled with fear and trepidation, expecting the worst.
Sam and the girls were fine- but the arbor that supported the clematis and the mutant hyacinth bean that grew and grew (I think it must have cross bred with some kudzu)but never bloomed , had decided to give up the ghost. There it lay, toppled over on its side, one leg all mangled and broken, blocking the way to the chicken run. The clematis was stretched nearly to the breaking point and the hyacinth bean lay dejectedly all over the place. Sam and the girls ran over to it, clucking and carrying on, since it blocked their path to the choicest bugs and worms and such. I reckon the gully-washer of a thunder storm we had last night was responsible. I am really, really, seriously considering turning in my gardening license....

More crowing and commotion


First, she thought she was a rooster, what with crowing and all. Now she thinks she's a parrot. Yesterday, when I went to turn them loose for their evening free-range treat, she flew up on my shoulder and perched there like she was a parrot. When she starts to cackle out sea chanteys, I'm gonna ship her off to one of my shanty-singing friends so they can do a duet!


I've raised a bunch of jealous critters- the cat is the only easygoing one of the bunch! Son called today to see if we'd babysit grandson Brandon for a few hours. Mr. G was working and not due home until close to seven, but I said "Sure, bring him over." Little Bit, the paranoid cocker mix, has always disliked children- I have to put her in a room and shut the door when the grandkids are here. But I figured Brandon (he'll be one next week) would like to check out the chickens, so I carried him out in the yard (his parents forgot to pack his shoes) and sat down in the chair I keep by the chicken run with him in my lap. Well, Sam (who always gets in my lap for his bedtime couscous treat) did not like the fact that I was sitting in that chair with some other critter in my lap, and started getting very perturbed- worked himself up into a regular frenzy and started crowing and carrying on- which started Brandon crying, which got all the other chickens interested and they all started running around and clucking like chickens with their heads cut off. So I had to take little Brandon, squalling his head off, back in the house before the neighbors all got to wondering what the commotion was. Why can't they all just get along? It plumb wears me out trying to be all things to all critters all the time....A friend tod me that she thought Sam had some “problems.” Sam doesn't have "problems," though, Sam has "issues" - Sam is, after all, a 21st. Century roosterhen-a very spoiled, coddled, foo foo roosterhen, with gender identity issues, to hear Mr. G tell it!


We've been giving a lot of Sungold and Juliet tomatoes away- wish all of y'all were close enough to get some. Today I put up a lot of the roma type- made tomato sauce for the freezer, and will probably have enough to do it again in a few days.
The chickens do love tomatoes-especially the little cherry tomatoes- they kick 'em around like little soccer balls before they start pecking at them.
Sam and the girls get our kitchen scraps, too- and they love kale- I hang some from a string inside the run and they bat it around like a pinata, pecking at it till it's all gone- very amusing to watch. They don't care for collards, though (are these birds smart, or what) I'll have to plant some chard to see if they like that - we didn't plant any this year.


That silly roosterhen commenced to crowing just after five! SEVENTEEN crows- we counted 'em! It was nearly time to get up anyway- but I would have liked a little more shut-eye. Around eight A.M. I went out to the run to give Sam and the girls some kitchen scraps. They were NOWHERE to be seen! They had all gone back in the coop and were sound asleep. I woke 'em all up and gave Sam the what-for. If they're going to get the rest of us up at some ungodly hour, the least they can do is stay awake afterwards! I'm fully expecting to hear from the neighbors if this keeps up, by the way....I did ask one neighbor , and she said she never heard anything, so that's a good sign....

Learning new stuff- and surprises...

My chicken books came from Amazon today- and since it's been raining off and on, I've been reading 'em. Not only have I learned, complete with diagrams, how to clip a chicken's wings, I've also learned how to best kill and butcher one and how to perform an autopsy, should I ever need to do so. I think maybe I should have skipped over those chapters and just read the parts about autosomal and sex chromosomes and such...f'rinstance, did you know that a female chicken (pullet) doesn't get any of her mother's sex-linked genetic information(like color pattern, etc), but a rooster gets genetic stuff from both his mother and father? This is all soooo interesting I haven't figured out yet, though, why, when I let the chicks loose in the garden, they pass right by the beans and tomatoes and head straight for the okra-even jump up to nip at the leaves. Do ya reckon they are really and truly Dixie chicks? Now I've got to read up on what might be growing out there that could kill 'em. I think the butterfly weed is lethal, but I'm not sure what else.

My dear, sweet little hen, Sam, made a strange noise that sounded very much like crowing. I have absolutely forbidden her to be a rooster because we just can't have a rooster crowing all over the place and doing rooster-type things with the hens. I hope this was just a distorted cluck, otherwise there's a real problem

Sam is about 8 wks old now; s/he still Looks like a hen most days as far as the comb and feathers- and she acts like a hen, as far as we can tell, but every once in a while, Mr. G thinks he sees something "roosterish" about her. If s/he's a rooster, then his name is Samuel (as in Samuel Pepys). If s/he's a hen, her name is Samantha- we figured "Sam" would be a good name until we got the gender identity crisis resolved.

When I told my MIL that we thought Sam "might" be a rooster, she said she'd take Sam- and put him in the stewpot. I relayed this info to Sam, so s/he is aware of the gravity of the situation- and hasn't made any more strange noises all day.

So far this morning, no strange sounds, just a soft, gentle clucking. Mr. G has been working on the coop and run (that's him and our granddaughter putting on the finishing touches)Last night was their first night in the new coop- I figure they must like not having to wait for me to let them out into the run in the morning. I'm watching and listening to Sam very closely, though...

More chicks! The saga continues...


I had every intention of getting two Dominique chicks today, but ended up getting only one Dominique (we named her Monique) and a Rhode Island Red (aka Henrietta) on account of what I’d heard about red hens being excellent layers. But she's an aggressive little thing- only a couple of days old and she's already pecking at poor little Monique. It'll be interesting to see how they get along with Sam and Emily when they're big enough to introduce them to each other. At any rate, the flock is now complete.The last three were sexed- so there's a 90 percent chance they're all hens. Sam's the one we aren't sure about, but Sam sure acts more like a hen than a rooster, especially around little Emily, who thinks Sam is her mother and cheeps most forlornly whenever she loses sight of her. Yesterday, Sam taught Emily to scratch out a hole and take a dust bath (not that there's much dust with all the rain we've had). That is a most peculiar looking exercise- it worried me until I figured out what they were doing!


It is impossible to talk sense to a chicken! These four little chickens make the biggest mess! The two bigger ones have a regular big chicken feeding trough and water bottle, but the two little ones still spend most of their time enclosed in a big box with shallow water and feed dishes. They sleep in their food dish and do other unmentionable stuff in it, and scratch all their litter into their water dish. I have tried and tried to tell them that it's not healthy and that I'm getting really tired of cleaning their mess up, but they just don't listen. With all this rain, we still haven't been able to get the coop finished and it was too wet and chilly today to turn them loose in the pen/run, so I let Sam and Emily run around inside the greenhouse- I cannot believe the mess they've made! This is worse than having messy kids and teenagers! How do you ground a chicken? And what privileges can you take away from it for not cleaning its room?


Poor little Henrietta, the Rhode Island Red chick, has developed a nasty lump right above/behind one eye. I made the mistake of doing an online search for possible causes. Gadzooks- I had NO idea there were so many chicken diseases! Now I'm afraid they may all have been exposed to some horrible, incurable exotic disease like ENDS or something- poor litttle Henrietta- I should separate her from Monique until I find out what it is, but I'm afraid they'd both die of hearbreak if they were separated- they go crazy when they're apart. And I just got all four of them in the pen together, so they could all be at risk if it's a virus. Nothing is easy, is it?

The arrival of Sam the Roosterhen

Here are some excerpts from my "Roosterhen Diary"-- a sort of biography of my critters. We "adopted" Sam Pepys, our first chicken, not knowing whether Sam was a "he" or "she." We really didn't want a crowing rooster, but we did think fresh eggs would be heavenly, so we decided to take our chances and hope for a "she".

We brought home a little chick from my mother-in- law’s house yesterday. I took the little thing out into the garden with me while I was digging-he scurries right along behind me wherever I go- it's hard digging, though, because he gets right under my feet and is just about the same color as the dirt- I've nearly stepped on him a few times already. As soon as I move, he's right there behind me, occasionally stopping to peck at whatever strikes his fancy along the way- then he looks up and realizes I've moved on ahead and scuttles as fast as his little feet will carry him to catch up, cheeping all the way as if to say, "Wait, Wait- don't leave me!" He's a real hoot!


It is not a good idea to try to plant seeds with a little chick beside you. I'm not sure how many seeds actually stayed in the ground- he tried to scratch them all up and eat them! We may or may not have Malabar spinach to eat later this summer.... I also learned that it's a good thing to offer my neighbor extra tomato plants (I have waaaay tooo many to plant!) She came over with an armload of the most beautiful irises from her garden for me this afternoon- including a beautiful deep purple and white one. These spur of the moment plant exchanges are really great


Mr. G. got the frame parts for the pen/run section cut out and nailed together this afternoon. I'm painting them grey to match the house. I hope little Sam Pepys will enjoy it. S/He's been getting more and more independent- still stays fairly close to me but is beginning to explore everything and I can't be out there watching every minute, so the pen will give me some peace of mind and Sam some room to roam. S/He'll still have to go in the greenhouse at night until we get the coop section finished. Now we'll have enough room to get some more little chicks and won't have to worry about stray cats or other critters getting to them or hawks swooping down to carry them off. Better head out and finish the painting so we can put the wire on the frame- a new garden structure! Whoopeee!


Called the farm co-op today- they have a new shipment of chicks in- Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons and some others. I think it's time to get Sam Pepys some pals. S/He's been watching all the flying birds at the feeders and I think some of the cardinals have been giving flying lessons on the side-Sam doesn't follow me around on foot anymore- runs a few steps and then swoops up about a foot or two off the ground and glides in. Talked to MIL yesterday- she said Sam's dad (that's him in the pic)is heading for the pot-

seems he's been digging up all her flowers, didn't make any attempt to save one of the hens from a possum attack, and she thinks it's time to cook him- I don't know whether to tell Sam or not - s/he didn't seem to have that close a relationship with his father, but who knows what emotions chickens might have- what if he wants to run off and try to rescue the poor old rooster or something... Mr. G and son think I'm totally losing it...especially when I fixed a nice dish of couscous for Sam tonight- Sam loves a pasta treat when s/he's depressed. (I sure will be glad when I can quit this "s/he" him/her" business, though- I wish the chick would either crow or lay an egg so I'd know what I'm dealing with here


Poor Sam was sooo traumatized by the thunderstorms this morning that she didn't even want to come out of her box, much less the greenhouse (she sleeps in the greenhouse at night until we can finish her coop). Usually, when I open the door in the morning, she hops out of the box and straight out the greenhouse door, but this morning, she was just sitting there, looking all upset. She finally did run around in the greenhouse, but wouldn't go outside, even though it wasn't raining.

So we headed off to the co-op for a pal to keep Sam company. When I called yesterday, they said they had several different breeds, but when we got there all they had were white leggons and one Americauna (they're the ones that lay colored- blue, green, etc., eggs). The little Americauna was soooo cute, so we brought her home and named her Emily. She took to Sam right away- and they both headed outside.
Little Emily follows Sam around, and Sam is teaching her how to dig and scratch for bugs.That's Emily on the left. Isn't she pretty?