rural living

A Year in Review at the Chicken Coop

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One year ago, I became a chicken veterinarian. Well, not really, but I played one on television. O.K.! That didn’t happen either. I actually became a self-proclaimed chicken doctor at home. I really did. You see there’s not that many Vets who will actually treat a sick pet chicken. (I did find a Vet that is about 45 minutes from here that will treat squirrels, chickens, turtles…you name it and they work to cure them for a price! And, I am sure that they have many stories to laugh at during dinner conversation or when they are driving to the bank!)

A little over a year ago, my beloved rooster, Thurston had been protecting his flock when he was attacked by the infamous chicken hawk. For three months I bathed him…in Bill’s bathtub. (Don’t worry! I cleaned it after each time. Trust me, that bathtub was cleaner than your bathtub on its best day! Yes, it was! And, that is a great husband who allows those kinds of shenanigans!) I even used my blow dryer to dry his feathers. He loved the warm flow of air and he’d coo. I treated his wounds with the necessary ointments and antibiotics. During the day, he stayed on our enclosed porch. (I cleaned that everyday, too!) He spent his nights in a crate in our laundry room. (Just so you know, I cleaned that everyday. Sheesh!) He was well cared for while he was sick.

Thurston would get better but then would reopen his wounds, as he would start to heal. It was so frustrating. To protect himself…from himself, I made a “cone of shame” for him. With this contraption around his neck, he wasn’t supposed to be able to reach his wounds. That worked for a while, but then the foam cone started to irritate his neck and it had to be removed. Eventually, he developed an infection. There was nothing I could do to make it better. Before he was put down, he actually came to the front porch and stood on the steps near where I was sitting and cooed at me. Running inside the house, I couldn’t stop crying…over a chicken!

When we bought Thurston and Lovey, we walked them to the car and we discussed names for them. Men who were there selling meat chickens suggested their own ideas:

Fried and Dinner!

Tired yet excited from our chicken swap experience, we stopped to pick up lunch on the way home. It wasn’t until we had the fried chicken in the car that I looked at Bill with the look of horror as they then rode in the backseat. (Maybe “those men” were right.) It just felt wrong.

Nature is not kind, my friend. In the last year we have lost our beloved Thurston and Lovey. We got them three years ago. They were our first chicks. I cried with each loss. I am not sure what happened to Lovey because she passed away while I was out of town. Bill said he didn’t want to tell me over the phone, but he had to let me know she was gone. A few days later Bill posted on Facebook that he’d made the BEST chicken piccatta that he’d ever had. (Discuss amongst yourselves!) I did ask if it was a Lovey picatta. (To clarify, he said it wasn’t!)

Having little living creatures to care for is not for the faint at heart. There’s loss because of other creatures and there’s the cleaning aspect. Oh, that’s not my favorite part of having chickens but I do it. Summertime is particularly difficult as the smell of chicken poo is at its full glory! Wow. It can be quite the experience. In fact, I was out cleaning on one particular day with my bucket and shovel inside the rather large coop that my sweet husband built for me. He was outside blowing leaves and didn’t know I was inside the coop but somehow noticed the latch outside wasn’t locked. He locked it and went about his chore of leaf blowing. (That machine is loud y’all!) I turned to open the door and to my dismay, I couldn’t. Looking out the beautiful antique window with chicken wire on it, I see Bill and begin screaming through the screen! (Imagine a man with earphones as he listens to his favorite music with a leaf blower while a woman in a chicken coop tries to get out of the tiny chicken door. Imagine her as she stares at a window that is covered with chicken wire and also only opens halfway. It was not calm, dear friend!) Finally, after about thirty minutes of looking for a way out, I imagined that the chickens were definitely safe at night. I also imagined ways I would punish Bill, if he ever figured out that I was missing. Then it happened. He eyes me from across the yard as I was jumping up and down in the window. I’ll let you figure out what happened next. The good news is that there was actually side splitting laughing on both of our parts! It’s part of my marriage that I love the most!

Maybe you’ll remember that last year at this time, I was asking Bill if I could start harvesting honey. Of course that involves having bees in our backyard. Bill is not a fan of bees, so we didn’t get bees. I even vowed not to get any chicks but to simply handle the animals that we had. That all changed after losing Thurston. Believe it or not, it was part of Bill’s idea. I never thought I’d want another rooster. I mean you don’t need a rooster for eggs. (I know that half of you reading this didn’t know that! Admit it! You didn’t! I didn’t know it until we had a rooster and a hen! I’ll admit that!)

It wasn’t until we attended the largest Chicken Swap I’d ever encountered in May that I considered more chicks. (Remember I said this was Bill’s idea!) This farm only hosts this event two times a year where they invite others from all over to visit their farm. They have every kind of animal you’d see on a farm that visitors could buy or trade. I mean there is an ark of a selection there!

Walking every aisle at the swap, I found him. He was lying on his back in the arms of the owner as she rubbed his stomach. (I couldn’t believe it either! I mean, who doesn’t like a good belly rub?) Every other chicken in the place was between ten dollars to fifteen. This little man was thirty-five. His breed wasn’t rare, but his color was. He came as a second generation from a famous farm. (Bill mouthed the words “rare” and “Gucci bird”, etc.) As soon as I held him, I wanted him. As soon as Bill saw me holding him, he asked how much for two birds because this rooster couldn’t be alone as we were raising him! And, well he knows me too well! We got two birds.

We’ll swing by to pick them up as we try to find a box to put them in.

These people weren’t giving us a chance to walk away from them without a sale. They had a box and they filled it with some shavings and as they handed the BEAUJANGLE’S FRIED CHICKEN BOX to us. In fact, we had to walk all the way through the swap to the car with this fried chicken box and two chicks poking their heads out of the holes! People stopped us. They pointed at us! They took selfies with us and laughed. (I couldn’t make this stuff up if I wanted!)

We named him Beau. It just seemed natural! The hen became know as Henrietta. That seemed equally as natural! After they’d grown big enough to blend with the rest of the flock, they stuck together like glue. Beau is not as large as Thurston was. They are the same Wyandotte breed. That said, maybe he’ll grow in the next year. Only time will tell his story, or I will relay it to you as it progresses!

Months later, I allowed the flock to free range. They typically will stay pretty close together. They don’t leave the property. During the day, the only predators are usually just hawks and dogs. On one such day, I stayed outside raking and cleaning while they were out running the property. I heard an unusual SQWACK! Slowly I turned, step-by-step, inch-by-inch and then into a run toward a man who had SaraAnne underneath his arm. He had jumped a four-foot fence, walked at least twenty feet and snatched up my beautiful white hen. Before he had a chance to get back over the fence, I tapped him on the shoulder and asked his intention.

I’m taking home dinner.

Needless to say, I grabbed her from him and informed him that I was taking back my SaraAnne. He looked to the left and right and I wasn’t sure of his next move and then he turned and left. By the urging of my neighbor, I called the police. Thankfully, he was a kind officer. He was a chicken owner as well, so he understood. His belief was that this chicken thief left because he saw the black SUV with state plates. The police officer said I was lucky. He asked why I confronted him and grabbed the chicken.

It’s my chicken.

In my mind, that guy was lucky…no one takes my pet I’ve never given consent for a play date for any one of them, by the way.

And here we are. It’s spring again. At least I think it is. We had snow last week! I found myself at the local feed store getting feed for our four dogs and our sixteen chickens. There was an entire display for harvesting honey. Here I am again. Every year I see this display and think bees are a good idea. Every year Bill says no. I suppose he’s right about that. I’ve had a few accidents along the way. And how would you name each of those bees? (You see my dilemma?)

“The chicks just came in today! I haven’t even put them out yet. Do you want to see them? I’ll make you a good deal! I know you want some!”

Like a deer in headlights, I said no. She seemed confused. My heart was saying yes, but my husband’s answer came out of my mouth. All the way home with two babies in the floorboard of my car, I kept thinking of how to explain this to Bill. Driving home, I called my sister to get her help and she confirmed that I was in trouble. I pulled into our long driveway that seemed like it was longer that day than it ever had been! As usual, Bill came out of the house. (He always helps me with groceries, etc. every time so I knew he’d be there. Now what?) I hushed the chicks. Bill immediately started getting the feed out and “peep…peeep”.

Summer….No.

They are Jean’s!

She is my mentor and she also has chickens. She mentioned that she’d wanted to get some chicks to add to her flock but she couldn’t raise them from the baby stage right now. In order to redact my lie to Bill, I texted Jean and asked her if she wanted two Speckled Sussex hens when they were old enough to add to her chickens. She was thrilled and asked how many I got for myself. I cried…none. These are just for her. She called this a blessing, I was thankful to God! (Don’t tell Bill!)

Several weeks later and I was again at the feed store. My favorite breeds of chicks were there that day. I got what I needed and left to go home. I was so proud of myself until I found the car driving back to take one last look at the chicks. Next, “peeep peeeeeeep” was heard in the floorboard of my car. I justified this because I knew my husband would (1) not be home before me that day and (2) wouldn’t be able to determine two more sets of peeps before he left town the next day! Hurried, I placed the other box on its side next to the other box in the bathtub upstairs. I got the larger water container along with the other large feeder. It was set and Bill wasn’t home. Free and clear, or so I thought.

Whew! He was gone. I was cleaning the tub all by myself as they ran the length of the bathroom and my phone rang. It was Bill. He calls to tell me his status on the road. He then said some other things that had me baffled.

You know, last night your chicks were making quite the ruckus last night. I decided I’d better go check on them.

Yeah?

Yeah, and you know what? They multiplied!

They did?

Yeah, and you know what else? They have quite the skills because they’ve built another condo, too!

Really?

Yeah. You don’t know anything about this, do you?

I know that it takes 21 days for an egg at optimum temperature to hatch. Those two that are up there aren’t even old enough to have eggs!

Hmmmm….This is a true mystery then.

Insert continuous laughing by both of us! I had tears in my eyes. I’m so grateful to be married to this man. Any other man would have run for the hills long ago. I don’t know that he hasn’t thought about it, but I’m thankful he’s still here!

So, consider this a cautionary tale. It’s not really a tale. It is my life, but consider this a caution and remember:

“Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. ‘But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”
~Matthew 10-:29-31

Since this is true. I must be really valuable! I’m truly grateful that God is in control.
I’m more thankful that God loves you and me more than I could actually love these beautiful fuzzy little creatures. THAT is love. You are loved. You are worthy. Claim that truth for yourself today! I know I will.

Until next time….Let me know if you have name suggestions for these two chicks!

Chick talks “Birds and Bees” A Cautionary Tale

It’s spring…kind of…and I’m thinking of the birds and the bees. We already have the birds, specifically the chickens, but we have no bees. We have fresh “free”eggs and wouldn’t it would be great to have fresh honey, too?

My husband hates bees. Hates…them! Every year the conversation between us goes like this:

“I’d like to get some bees.”

“If you got bees, who says they won’t just go next door? They sting. Why do I want anything that instinctively wants to harm me? For what?”

He had a point. (Pun intended.) So, I decided to table that discussion for next year…since currently we’re nursing our rooster back to health. (Soooo, we’re back to “just” having the birds!)

Thurston, the rooster is on my enclosed porch as he’s healing from a hawk attack. He was just doing his job to protect his ladies and BAM! He was scooped up and fought his way out of the talons of a bully chicken hawk. He’s now wearing a (custom made by moi) cone of shame to deter him from pecking himself to death.

So yesterday I went back to my second home, aka the feed store, to get medicine and food. (Just a reminder to those thinking of getting chickens for “free eggs”…there’s no such thing as “free”!) Since I knew what I needed I went directly to the order counter and paid for the goods.

“You qualify to receive 6 free baby chicks!”

“No…no…no. Oh, their so cute! I already have the heat lamp. My husband will give up his shower for another month, again. I’d just need a bag of crumbles….”

I slapped my own face and said…”NO!”
The sales lady said she understood and quickly walked away. (She basically dropped the chicks and ran!)

“I mean, I have enough to take care of right now!” (Did I just say that out loud?)

Feverishly I grabbed my supplies and exited the store. Surely someone else has had that same reaction…surely. Embarrassed, I scrambled out of that parking lot and insult to injury, my tires may have spun some gravel. (No one was harmed….that I knew.)

There’s so much to know when having chickens. Mine happen to be pets so I don’t cull them when they’re ill. I treat them. In fact, my husband almost died when he heard I’d taken Thurston to the vet…in my car. (I left the sun roof open. Gosh!)

I can’t believe I was able to walk away from then but sometimes you have to know your limits. I mean, they weren’t the kind of chickens I really liked so that helped! The saleswoman who knew me hollered as I was leaving the building.

“Next week we’re getting Buff Orpington’s!”

“Really?! I love these birds! Maybe next week.”

Did I really just say that? I was so proud I didn’t get the chicks and expressed my pleasure to the hubs in being able to walk out without a half dozen chicks. He was relieved, too. Then I told him about next week’s arrival of Buff Orpington’s and shockingly…he spoke…

“We’ll, since you’re not doing the bee hive…”.

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Chick Not Prepared for Pup Emergency, on the whole

Tired from work, I was in auto mode when getting home.

1) Let dogs out.
2) Let dogs in.
3) Feed dogs.
4) Let dogs out.
5) Put chickens in coop.
6) Once inside, notice tube of half eaten medicine container on floor. Wait. WHAT?! (PREPARATION H, to be exact…it was not my medicine, by the way…as far as you know.)

Shocked by this, I thought, it had to be our beagle-Lucy who had shredded the tube of Preparation H. She was known to get into stuff, specifically food, when left alone.

Panicked I called the poison control center for children.

“Um, Hi. What happens when a slightly overweight, um…child…I mean, a dog the size of a small child eats a tube of Preparation H? What do I do?!”

The phone fell silent. Well, I thought I heard someone laughing with her hand over her mouth until she said, “Ma’am, we don’t treat dogs.”

“Her name’s Lucy. She’s like a child to me. Does that count?”

There was that stifled laugh again….After she contained herself, she gave me the number to a poison control center for dogs.

I called. They needed my credit card number before they could speak to me. Although I understood, I tried to ask the question quickly…thinking they’d heard this before now and maybe she’d have a quick response. (Because of her snickering on the phone, I began to think the girl from the children’s poison control line was pranking me!) No such luck in getting help for free, so I just hung up and looked for Plan C.

Plan C: I knew my friend Pat had dogs…lots of ’em! She’ll know what to do.

After her uncontrollable laughter…and after explaining that the Preparation H wasn’t mine, she agreed to call her friend Bart, who was a Vet.

(Finally…Thank God! Relief was soon to come for Lucy…pun intended.)

Bart needs the ingredients for Preparation H.

“but the tube is in a million pieces….”

Pat could not stop laughing. Lucy followed me through the house just panting and carrying on as if she was about to get a treat. It really didn’t seem life threatening, but I didn’t want to wait and see what might happen if I didn’t act to find a solution.

The nearest pharmacy was nice enough to read me the ingredients over the phone. When I thanked her, she started laughing. (I’m glad everyone is having a good chuckle at my expense!)

Just after hanging up the phone, Pat rang me back since she’d spoken to Bart again. It turns out, his wife was pregnant and he found a tube of it “on his ‘wife’s’ nightstand”.

(Right…Apparently, “we” don’t use this medication…”others” do.)

Bart tells Pat to feed Lucy some rice. That would help bind her. He advised that this medication, if eaten could cause vomiting and diarrhea.

We immediately got the rice going. (Lucy was so happy. I could have sworn she was smiling!) We babied her. We loved on her. She even got the choice spot in our bed. She could not have been happier.

With four dogs, Lucy was the rival of the other dogs. They stared and wondered what they needed to do to deserve this kind of royal treatment.

It was 2 a.m. Lucy was laying on her back with all four legs in the air. She was in heaven.

At 2:15 a.m I heard a dog trying to hurl. It didn’t sound like it was coming from the bed…It wasn’t Lucy.

In the end, it was our dog Bud…old faithful. He was 10 years old. He never got into anything when we were away from home. This time, he got into some Preparation H. Who knew why?!

So, in the end, we learned that even an old dog may have a few new tricks up his sleeve!

It wasn’t my tube of Preparation H! (Maybe it was…) Do you believe this? Has anything like this happened to you? I’d love to hear about it. Leave me a note!

Chick has chickens until nature strikes

Moving to a rural community, my husband and I decided to attend a local Chicken Swap and imagine my surprise when I heard, “Hey Lady! Have you ever held a baby rooster?”

I knew this was a place where if you had an extra rooster or you needed or wanted a goat, you could find one.

The kid said if we took the rooster and the hen that we could borrow his crate for a week. As they fell asleep in my arms, I gazed at my husband and $30.00 later, we were carrying them to the truck.

On the way home, we were hungry so we stopped for fried chicken. I felt so guilty. We nervously laughed as we carried the fried “cousins” in the front seat while the 3 month old chicks were passengers in the back.

Over lunch, we concluded our need for a small coop. Back to the “Swap” we went to get the $300.00 coop for up to 6 chickens. That would be plenty of room, or so we thought.

My husband tells his fellow workers of our new additions to which one man tells him, “that rooster’s gonna’ kill that chick! You need more than one chick!” He calls me and says we better get a few more chicks, so I called to do just that.

It’s a rainy Sunday afternoon and “the chicken lady” says, “I’ll just pop ’em in your backyard.” I’m fine with that and my husband will be home to help me, so I’m not worried. “And I’m throwing one in for free!” (How nice of her, I thought!)

That evening in the rain, we chased them all from the woods into our newly cramped coop. (By the way, our “free”chick, named “JudEE”, has a hunchback. She’s no different but she does squawk and walk a bit sideways.) I’ve never been more soaked then I was after that little adventure.

Springtime came along and baby chicks were for sale at the local hardware store. I couldn’t resist.
We had to buy in quantities of 6! I then had to buy a lamp and well, they couldn’t be outside! The hubby sacrificed his bathroom and they were soon flying and pooping everywhere! I do mean everywhere, so I bought 6 more. It just made sense, to me. The more the merrier.

So, we built a coop for all 24 chickens! When I say “we”, I mean my loving husband aka domestic associate! That is love. He never said “no”. He loves my love of animals and he doesn’t even like eggs! Thank God, my neighbors do!

And, in time, I let them all out to roam the property or “free range. It was like a movie with all of these chickens of many colors out in the open. The trees were offering a glimpse of green. Ahhhh, I was in heaven. I took pictures and posted them everywhere!

Then, I started counting. Stupid chicken hawks took out 2 of our chicks. The following day, I came across two more limp bodies in the forest. It broke my heart. I dug graves for them and made little crosses to mark the spot. I sobbed while burying them.

A few days later all of the remaining chicks went to the gravesite and took their dirt baths. It was surreal and sad. And this was a daily ritual for days after that. It wasn’t until a week or so later that I learned we’d had a grave robber! They were gone. I didn’t dig the hole deep enough, apparently.

Interestingly enough, they didn’t discuss any of this “National Geographic” reality of nature in my “Chickens 101” class. And this was just the beginning.

That being said, the chick’s are coming to a local store next week. Will you be getting some? Do you think I’ll be getting more? Stay tuned.

Chick Strangles in shape wear

Recently it was reported that “shape wear” may be hazardous to your health. From personal experience, I know this to be true. Embarrassing…and true.

While I was home alone one day, I tried on several outfits for a wedding.
Determined to make a dress “fit”, I pulled out my shape wear. I (struggled to) put it on and then added the dress. Perfection! I thought. I photographed myself and sent it off to my sister via phone message in another state for approval. Done…or so I thought.

My husband was out of town. I live far from family. I attempted to remove the shape wear by myself.

As it was stuck around my arms and near my neck, I couldn’t get it off OR back on my body. HOLY! I couldn’t even reach my phone because my arms were in the air! I was breaking a sweat. I was breathing heavily. My heart rate was out of control.

What to do?! I decided to lay on the bed. Just breathe. Just relax. Just pray. God, help me. (And, admittedly, I was laughing there…all by myself!)

Thoughts of dying like this crossed my mind. As I was laying there with my arms above my head I just said,”I surrender!” Giggling…I finally relaxed.

And so…I’m here to confirm that shape wear may have an adverse affect on your health. It did mine. Thank God my humor and humility are in check! I guess this means there’s more adventures to follow. I hope so!

What has shape wear done to you?

Chick Can Do Bluegrass

As I have taken on a challenge to write everyday, I found some lyrics I wrote long…long…long ago!

If you want to make a girl’s day, set some bluegrass music to it and let’s make some music together. Tag! It’s your turn! I’d love to hear your creative melody…It would be sweet!

“Oh Sweet Collards”
By: Summer DeCoste

Oh how I miss you
It’s been only a year
Your butter bean – green eyes
In my mind…
and I fear…

You’ve found another
She stole you from me.
I miss you, my sweetheart.
Well, I miss your sweet collard greens…

No one makes ’em
Quite like you…
Mmmmm, they were tasty
Miss ’em, sweet Honeydew…
How did you do it?
Pulled me in with yer rod
Must have baited with yer collards
Cuz it wasn’t your charms

Sweet tea to chase it…
Life just isn’t the same…
But the sun has gone down on that missin’ you game.

How I’m missin’ those sweet collards now

Maybe it’s time I get rid of yet stuff…
Most of it’s gone
But that perfume
Ugh…that stunk!
Can’t rid of that smell
It won’t go away.
But a pot of yer collards
Well, those…they can stay.

So maybe it’s not you,
That I miss at all…
Them sweet collards…
Those sweet greens
Had my heart all along.

Well goodbye sweet darlin
I’ve had enough…
Of you and this silly sweet missin’ you stuff.

Farewell, Adios, & have a good life
Just leave me a note
With some collards sometime….

Chick Can’t Do Secrets: The Tree

Keeping secrets from my husband is not just a bad idea. It’s impossible for me.

A decade ago we moved to a rural area. I wanted a fragrant and live Christmas tree. He said to wait until he returned home from a business trip. (He didn’t think I could get it home alone.) Like anyone who tried to start our fireplace alone and ended up meeting our neighbor. (Meeting him because he spotted the smoke spewing from the second floor windows of our house and responded! This same neighbor, who subsequently put the fire out for me…burned his eyebrows & arm!) I decided I could surely get a tree home alone.

Stopping at the local produce stand, I chose a beautiful tall tree. The big bubble glass lights were twinkling. the Christmas music was blaring. The boys loading it laughed loudly but said they’d strap it to my beetle bug. While raining and cold, I happily waved and pulled out onto the rural road. As soon as I gained any speed, that tree shot off the top of my car like fingers struggling to secure an oiled pig!

Reluctantly, I pulled over for a quick cry. In my rain sweat windows I saw the boys laughing hysterically; but the scene wasn’t over yet. I stepped out of my car to drag the tree back to the side of the road…but not until after a semi-truck came along and ran over it…transforming my beautiful tree to “road kill”.

Returning to the produce stand, they could barely contain themselves with laughter and tears. I was crying too, but I was simply embarrassed. The owner said,”How ’bout I deliver it to your home?” Gladly, I accepted but only if he could do it before my husband’s truck was in the driveway. (I wanted the hubs to know I could do this without him!) He offered to bring it in the house but I declined stating that would be more than I could of handled “alone”.

For many years, this “adventure” remained a secret from him, until his mom said,”What about the tree that year?”

We don’t do secrets anymore. (At least, that’s waft he thinks.)