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