Sunday, February 28, 2016


As dusk moved to darkness last night, Ed and I realized that our old hens, Scotch and Butter, were not going to happily trot back to the coop, as has been their norm. The new chickens, Java and Henny, were easier to prod. But their dutiful march up to the roost incensed the older Scotch. She turned up the volume on her squawking and, as if in an act of civil disobedience, stomped back and forth in protest. We spent many minutes cornering the two old girls. Eventually, we ushered them into the safety of the coop.

In the morning, with hope but with not a small amount of trepidation, I make my way to the coop. Peering inside, I see some feathered forms stomping back and forth. And this is when it becomes clear that our two new girls are, well, different. For one thing, Java, not yet a year old, is nonetheless huge! Here she is as she steps out with Henny.

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Butter is willing to take on big Java, but Scotch is plain mad and she stalks away displeased with the new set up. Butter knows whose her loyal subservient buddy and so she follows. I can almost hear them gossiping.

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As for Java - she is in fact a docile girl who is trying to understand her new position in life in a calm and sensible way. She protects Henny (who is skittish and afraid, but oh so very pretty)...

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... but she is also bold enough to venture out for a crumb of food. When Butter pecks at her, she retreats to give her space, in the way that you do when a bully walks by and then she resumes whatever task is before her. An easy going girl.

Such are chicken personalities. Not bad! We pat ourselves on the backs. Not bad! This may be an easy adjustment. Big calm Java may move things in a good direction.

We clean the farmhouse and settle in for a late and relaxed breakfast.

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But when we go out again, we see that things are not that simple. First of all, our new girls are not adept foragers. We think back to the place where they lived the first nine months of life. There was a barn, there were chickens in it. But there were no chickens outside the barn. Likely they were not free rangers. Will they learn? We're counting on them to decrease our tick population. Get going, girls!

Nope. All day, they stay in and around the coop. Despite the fantastic weather, they have little interest in scratching the soil.

Worse. Sometime in the course of the morning, while she is foraging with Scotch, Butter damages two of her toes. Oh, it's easy to mess up a chicken foot: get it tangled in fencing or any number of things and boom! Trouble.

Ed looks up "damaged chicken toes" on the Internet.
We could either leave it alone or try taping toothpicks to the toes.
We can't even catch her. How would we do that?
In the evening she is more docile...
I just don't see this as a workable solution...
It is true that the person who suggested it has only done it for a couple of days.
Let's let her be. Maybe they'll heal. Or, she'll be like Oreo -- a chicken with a useless foot!

Did I really just marvel at how smoothly our chicken life was proceeding?

We went from having two reliably laying cheepers, to four, where no one is laying at the moment, two refuse to forage, one squawks and the fourth has what appears to be a damaged foot. Lord.

Alright: let's change focus.

There's an old Polish proverb that goes something like this: she who fails to rake in the Fall will spend Spring evenings rubbing salve on her blisters.

I don't know why, come Fall, I conclude that the chore of clearing a flower bed will be more satisfying in Spring. It is always hard work, made harder if you have as many trees as we do and especially ones with the gross seed pods. Spent stalks, fallen leaves, gross pods -- it's clutter that has to be removed.

I break a rake working outdoors today and even gloves do not prevent my hands from being rubbed raw from the effort.

Never mind. The day is warm and the work will reward us with productive flower beds. Ed is still trying to track down the knock in my car's engine and so he keeps me company outside, as do the two older cheepers. The new ones? Well, as I said: home-bound.

In the evening the young family comes to dinner.

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Oh, I know. You just want to see my granddaughter. Well you might -- she is at her finest. She runs to find penguin, but penguin is upstairs in her crib. That's okay. Bunny rabbit will do.

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Reaching then for the crazy toy that beeps and moves and makes horrible noises when you press an awkwardly positioned button, she fumbles, then manages to push that button. She is proud!

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At dinner -- she loves it all: chicken, brussels sprouts (her favorite!) and potato.

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We smile. She smiles. Life is good again. Tomorrow, we'll face the chicken squabbles, but tonight -- life is good.