Chicken Obsessed on ChickenReview.com

Today’s post is an article I wrote for the Chicken Review website: Chicken Obsessed.

Surprisingly enough, they added a few sentences to my article. Can you spot them? Scavenger hunt!

Check it out, and leave a comment if you so desire.

Thanks for visiting my blog!

Aarrrr! I'm a pirate!

Aarrrr! I’m a pirate!

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Feathery Little Therapists

There is something amazing about nature, especially animals. I’ve always felt a spiritual connection with them. They’re simple; they make sense. Sometimes, I think they are smarter than people.

Job 12:7-10 (The Message)

“But ask the animals what they think—let them teach you;
let the birds tell you what’s going on.
Put your ear to the earth—learn the basics.
Listen—the fish in the ocean will tell you their stories.
Isn’t it clear that they all know and agree
that God is sovereign, that he holds all things in his hand—
Every living soul, yes,
every breathing creature?”

Growing up, we would occasionally raise a calf to sell at the livestock auction. The four of us kids would take turns getting up early before school, mixing a huge bottle of formula, and feeding it in the big red barn. When I was in a bad mood, I’d sit in the stall and talk to the calf. It was great therapy.

Time to burp the baby!

Time to burp the baby!

We would sometimes buy steer from the livestock auction and feed them out for beef. We named one of them Stanley. He would lie down in the corral, and my brother and I would sit on his back. He’d stand up slowly…he did everything slowly…and walk into the barn. He was also a great listener.

What's bothering you? You can tell me.

What’s bothering you? You can tell me.

Now, I have 13 feathery little therapists. Each morning, I intend to quickly feed and water them and get to work around the house. But I always spend more time with them than planned. Same thing in the evenings. My husband says I spoil them, but they deserve it. After my oldest son said something hurtful to me, I sat with the chickens until my mood was better. They always know just what to say.

Those cicadas are louder than Buffy!

Soon, we’ll have cattle, goats, and bees on our little farm. (Lord willing and the fence gets built.) I may never be able to leave the house again, but at least I’ll be sane and smiling.

Making Memories and Sexing Chickens

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My oldest son wrote about us in class today. So stinkin’ cute!

It’s little things like this make me glad we moved out here. He loves those chickens. He loves to chase them and catch them and hug them and squeeze them and call them George…er Lacey, DeeDee, Buffy, and the rest. (We can’t tell the Rhode Island Reds apart!)

He loves those girls!

He loves those girls!

They definitely have their own personalities. One is always the last to leave the coop in the morning. She lingers in the doorway, checking things out. Another hen won’t let me push her around. When I try to herd her in a certain direction, she does that chest-bumping move against my hand or foot.  She even pecked at me once.

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They were so little then!

Several of them think I’m a pirate and they are my parrots. If I stand still, one or two will fly up to my shoulder. They stay there while I walk around and take the occasional selfie.

I acted like I was going to eat her, so she turned around and pooped on me. Well played, Lacey.

I pretended I was going to eat her, so she turned around and pooped on me. Well played, Lacey.

They are fun to watch in the morning. I open the door and they dash into the yard. They fluff up their feathers and fight. If one finds a cicada, she picks it up and runs. Several chase her until she chokes it down. It’s hilarious. So I throw them in the chicken run whenever I find them.

Lacey loves corn.

Lacey loves corn.

Besides cicadas, tomatoes are their favorite breakfast. They also love the corn we left on the stalk too long, tolerate bell peppers, but don’t touch hot peppers. I snuck some in for entertainment value. No takers.

Recently, I noticed one chicken has a more-pronounced comb and wattle than the others. It hasn’t crowed but might be a rooster!

Rooster or butch hen?

Rooster or butch hen?

Are there any chicken farmers out there that can tell? Should I perform a crazy, chicken-sexing, voodoo experiment to find out? Supposedly, if I attach a needle to the end of a string and hold it over the bird, the direction of the circle should tell the sex. If it goes clockwise it’s male; counterclockwise for female. Or is that only with chicks?

I can just imagine trying this. I’ll have to catch it first!

They routinely make me look foolish. Last week, I tried to herd them into their house before it got dark, and they didn’t want to go. They dodged me, ran around me, mocked me with their little chicken laughs. So I lost my temper and chased them. Cussing. I realized how ridiculous it must have looked, but no one was around. Half of them got chased in, the other half had to be caught individually and tossed in the door. By the last one, I was feeling pretty smug. I probably looked like Rocky when he caught his chicken.

I hope you seriously didn’t watch that whole video. It’s the most obnoxious one I could find!

Check out my post on September 16th about my upcoming children’s book.

Hold My Snake and Pullet

One of our projects on the road to self sufficiency was a chicken house. Fresh eggs and fresh chicken without all of the ick in commercially-raised eggs and poultry sounded awesome. We turned an old shed into a freakin’ sturdy chicken fortress. We could almost use it as a guesthouse for extra company. … Hmmm.

After pouring concrete, adding plywood and siding, we were ready to shop for chicks. Pullets, to be exact. Little girly chickens.

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Working concrete is HARD! It’s so uneven, the girls get dizzy running across the room.

A trip to the local farm store later, we had 20 feathery little crap factories. They stayed in a big wooden box under a heat lamp. In my sunroom. Off the kitchen. I never knew such cute little things could be so disgusting. They pooped in their food, water, and on each other.

Cute and smelly

Cute and smelly

And they were terrified of us. It makes sense. They were infants in their most formative time being chased around store cages by grabby little-kid hands. Big featherless monsters daily squeezed them half to death with love.

The temperature warmed up outside and the girls were old enough to forgo the heat lamp, so they moved to their castle. Okay, they could have stayed inside for a while longer, but they were stinking up my house!

My husband was out of town for work. (Attention creepy stalker types:  I’m well armed with a dog who strongly dislikes strangers. The vet cringes when we show up.) I carried the chicks in a plastic container to the coop.

“Here ya go, girls! Your new home. What do you think?”

“Cheep, cheep.”

“I know, right?! It’s awesome.” I was pretty excited for them.

A chick's home is her castle

Queen Buffy and the Rhode Island Reds. Sounds like a band.

As I left them to explore and fight over who gets what bedroom, I looked at the gap in the peak of the roof. I had told my husband we should cover it before he left. A snake could slither down from the shade tree overhead. He didn’t think snakes were that smart. I’ve seen enough nature shows to know better.

The next morning, I opened the coop door and walked in. “Good morning, my chicky babies! … NOOOOOOO!” One of my girls was lying on the floor, unmoving. I looked around and found five more. My heart was breaking; I nearly burst into tears.

I gathered them up for a proper burial and hung them in a Lowe’s bag in the shade tree. Then I searched for the culprit. Nothing. There was no trace of the perpetrator. There was no crack big enough for the fox family, or any other critter, to have entered through. (Oh, yes. We built a KFC near a fox den. But our neighbor’s chickens were feeding them well. I figured ours were safe.)

I called the game warden and she came out. After examining everything just like I did, she too was stumped. The odd thing was that there were no teeth marks on the bodies, and two chickens had slobbered-up heads. We figured mammalian. We figured wrong.

A couple of hours later, I came to check on the survivors. Everyone looked content. Then I saw movement in one of the high nesting boxes. That’s when I saw the jerk who killed my babies. A very big rat snake.

I sprinted to the house to get my gun. Praying. “Don’t let it get ‘em. Please, God, don’t let it get ‘em!”

Normally, I favor relocation of pests. I moved an entire scorpion colony, for goodness sake. But I knew I couldn’t wrestle that 6-foot son of a b1t@h by myself.

Gun pulled from the safe, I sprinted back, hopped up on adrenaline and the need to save my defenseless chicks. I stopped outside the door. Cocked the gun. Jerked open the door.

Amazingly, he was still a few inches from the floor. (I must be faster than I thought!) He was slithering down in stealth mode to sneak up on my girls. Bastard.

I stepped inside. The girls ran to the corner after I barged in.

BANG!

Direct hit, a few inches from his head. That didn’t stop him from moving. He swung his head from side to side, mouth open, silently screaming at me for ruining his meal. And his day.

He had snaked his was through the chicken wire part of the door to ease himself to the floor. (See what I did there? Snaked his way to….never mind.) The bullet hole swelled his wound enough that he was stuck.

STUCK!

STUCK!

My boys ran outside. “Mom! What did you shoot?!”

“Huh?”

TV programs show people shooting indoors, but they do a serious disservice by not showing the inhabitants of the room going deaf. I instantly lost half of my hearing. Except for the ringing. It was like wearing earplugs and plunging my ringing head underwater.

I pointed to the snake. “Stay here,” I probably yelled at them. “Don’t go in. I have to get my earplugs and finish the job.”

I’m not a long-distance runner, definitely more of a sprinter. If ever chased by zombies, I’d have to sprint from cover to cover to stay alive. A former-marathon-running walker would get me in a quarter mile. Or less.

Ears plugged, I ran back. “Cover your ears, boys!”

I stepped in the coop and delivered a head shot. My baby girls were saved! Now to remove the body.

It's still moving!

It’s still moving!

I grabbed the creep by the tail, its muscles still moving under my hand. I pulled. He really was stuck. I pulled harder, ripping scales. My dad later told me the old saying that you don’t handle a dead snake until the sun goes down. That’s because their reflexes remain for about 12 hours. They can still bite when they’re dead. Creeps.

I threw the snake into the yard for the buzzards and called the game warden. Here’s the theory: The snake entered through the ceiling and hid in the nesting shelf until I found it. He was probably inches from our heads when we investigated. *shudder*

But its behavior doesn’t make sense. We still can’t figure out why the snake would kill six without eating them. Snakes normally just catch one and eat it, right? Then get another if it’s still hungry? I’ve been told snakes this size can eat a full-grown chicken. Everyone I ask is baffled.

The boys and I had a nice little ceremony in our new pet cemetery.

Here lie the bodies of our six chicks. That evil snake has crossed the river Styx.

Here lie the bodies of our six chicks. That evil snake has crossed the river Styx.

And I fixed the roof.

Me on a hot tin roof

Me on a hot tin roof

But don’t get me started on the copperhead stories. Those will come later.