Fowl

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Lacey wants me to hold still so she can find out whether the large black round thing on my face is edible.

The Chicken Hussies, I’ve been calling them. They are saucy and misbehaved. They are rarely home, running around the neighborhood bringing dishonor upon this house. They don’t come when I call them and I dont know where they are half the time. When they do show up, they run to me at first with joy of recognition. That turns into clucking complaints, demands, unceasing inquiries about the availability of grain. They peck my hands and my shoes, and mutter that the feed I give them is tiresome and they would prefer leftover oatmeal. “Remember that time when you fed us oatmeal?”

These hens leave their, shall we say, “fertilizer” all over the deck and the front porch, and in the equipment shed on the side of the house where they sleep. It’s a sure sign that they know where they belong. And yet do they stay here like proper ladies? Never.

I fear their reputations are ruined.

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“Oh, it’s a camera? Well, here, I think this side of my head is more photogenic.”
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In back, left to right, Lacey, Jamie, Phil. The red one is Tawny.

The once sensitive topic of reciprocity has become more of a common theme. Admittedly, I am the one who brings it up. I explain about the cost of hay, feed, fencing. I explain about having a full time job and getting phone calls from irritated neighbors who wish for me to spend my off time collecting chickens from their properties. I tell the Hussies I’ve resorted to forcing my evening visitors into chicken-wrangling, in which I throw a tarp over the sleeping group and together we haul them down the hill and put them back into their perfectly darling chicken house filled with dry fluffy hay. They reply, “We were wondering what that was all about.”

Then I cautiously bring up the topic of eggs. THE POINT OF ALL THIS.

They pretend not to understand. “What are these ‘eggs’ of which you speak? Forgive us, we are dumb chickens. Ooh! Over there, is that a spider?”

One morning after a successful chicken wrangling, I was out on my deck with a cup of coffee. I looked with satisfaction and pleasure, down the hill at my lovely ladies: Tawny, Lacey, and the twins Jamie and Phil. They were safely inside their fence, clucking contentedly, eating grass, scratching for spiders. I was filled with such love for them, I called down “Good morning my chickies!!”

All four froze and turned to see me for the first time, squawking “Mom!” in unison. As you would expect if there were four Harrier jets ready for a mission, the ladies rose into the air and shot toward me. One after another, they lifted straight up and over their four-foot fence, then rocketed through the air up the hill in military formation, directly to me standing on the deck. I’ve never seen chickens fly like that. I thought the appropriate response would have been to scold them to teach a lesson, but instead I was flattered.

Still no eggs. I looked up “hussy” in Urban Dictionary and one of the definitions was “chicken.” So I had to look up chicken, and one of the definitions is a female with attractive breasts and thighs. Do you think it’s time to remind them of what happens to chickens who don’t lay?

This morning a new kind of fowl caught my attention.

Something pure white in the pond caught my eye from the kitchen window. I stared and had mostly convinced myself it was a duck. Multiple ducks, from the appearance of movement. I got out the camera and used the zoom lens to confirm. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen ducks on the pond.

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Male and female Hooded Merganser moved to the far side of the pond when they saw me sneaking down the hill toward them.
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The group of six female mergansers also decided to scoot away when I showed up. Here I captured only one straggler.
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I think it looks like a proper pond for the first time. Ducks are an excellent accessory.

In the past I have accidentally startled a lone goose, who exploded skyward as soon as I was spotted. I would love to have some long term pond-dwellers. I crept slowly down the hill, hoping not to frighten them, I hid behind trees, and crept as close as I dared. I watched them dive for goodies underwater, then pop back up onto the surface.

If they decide to stay, I hope they don’t talk to the Hussies, or I’ll likely find myself building another ineffective pen and buying more pellets for ungrateful birds.

38 thoughts on “Fowl

  1. Oh my. Sorry to hear about the hussies. I was going to mention a farm blog I follow that is run by a sweet lady who is originally from NZ and all her animals have names and follow her or come when called. She has some interesting training techniques. I’ll give you the link if you are interested. I sure hope the ducks stay. Maybe they will teach the girls to behave. 🙂

    1. Training techniques for fowl? That is intriguing. I’ll have to pass in the short term, since I’m hardly ever home. …isn’t that how human children get out of hand too? When their parents are never home? But I love your suggestion that the wild birds could teach the Hussies some manners. Here’s hoping.

      I have to tell you a totally unrelated story: I am currently reading Janet Evanovich, Tricky Twenty Two, because of your recommendation. Lula has been hung up on onion rings for awhile, and tonight on my commute home I couldn’t resist any more, and stopped in at Frackburger on the Washington side of the bridge and bought onion rings for dinner!

      1. Isn’t Lulu a hoot?? I love her! I hope you like the book. I’ve read everything JE has written. Even TS likes her books. I love her sense of humor. And I get how little time you have and no time to wrangle the hussies. How much longer do you think you will have to do this commute? And yesterdays weather did not help it much I’d bet. Take care, Hugs. M

      2. It shouldn’t be much longer. Possibly a few weeks, or a month. My supervisor is very understanding and knows how much I want to go home, since I brought it up during the interview as a condition of accepting the position. Right now, I am the hold up because I do not feel ready to go solo. My co-worker, hired the same day as me under the exact circumstances, is ready to go, and has been released by our trainer. He will begin at home on Monday. I am a different kind of learner, and I take longer to feel confident. I ask a lot of questions and need to understand the concepts behind what I’m doing before it clicks into place. He is great at learning the steps, and then taking the steps. I’m still not grasping the steps because I’m trying to see my job and how it fits into the scheme of the operation first. Does that make any sense? It slows me down, but at least I realize it’s not that I’m a dummy, I just go about it differently.

  2. I’m smiling, I’m sorry. You make them sound so funny but I suppose it’s not so much fun in reality. Sounds like trying to get our two house cats and two stray cats to behave. Not a chance. It’s bedlam at feeding time; it takes about 10 times as long as it ought to.
    I’m glad to hear your pond is getting visitors. The birds around here have to be brave or stupid to spend much time in our garden. I had to stop feeding them because I was really just feeding the cats in the end. 😦

    1. No apologies necessary, I was trying to make them sound funny! Chickens are a funny bird. I keep getting visions of the hens in Chicken Run when I watch them run around.

      So sad about the cats. They are hunters, so what can you do? Luckily, the neighborhood cats here (and there are lots) seem only mildly interested in the chickens. My girls aren’t afraid of Racecar at all anymore.

      1. We had one cat who would climb the trees to get magpie chicks. He spent a lot of his time being dive-bombed by magpies. They made a noise that reminded me of boys when they pretend to be fighter-planes shooting at each other. It was very loud and unpleasant, and the cat had to avoid walking out in the open for fear of being mobbed. Silly boy. 🙂 It’s good that your chickens have got used to Racecar; that’s one less source of problems to sort out.

    1. Thanks Derrick! It is a relationship, isn’t it? I honestly do have entire conversations with them. Anyone watching would think I was a Crazy Chicken Lady instead of a Crazy Cat Lady. And yes, I am so excited about the wild ducks. Not just ducks, but beautiful ones. 🙂

    1. Really? At a restaurant? That is just wonderful. I would certainly order a “dook” egg because… no one’s ever asked me to choose before. ha ha! I eagerly look forward to the day when I need to choose between the dook and the hen eggs. hee hee

  3. The Hussies have your number Crystal. Do you really think you could chop off their heads and put them in a stew pot? 🙂 I cared for my neighbors chickens for a couple of weeks. Their behavior seemed about the same, especially at night when it came time for them to go to bed. Thanks for the laughs. –Curt

    1. You called my bluff, Curt. I think the Hussies know I wouldn’t hurt them either. They come right up to me and peck freckles on my hands. The little neighbor girl asked me how I catch them and I told her I just squat down, and when they run up to me, I grab them! Sadly, this only works once, then the other three get wise. Chickens are amazingly hard to catch when they think their human is trying to catch them. I’m glad you got a few laughs out of this adventure.

      1. About the time I was taking care of my neighbor’s chickens, Crystal, I read an article in Scientific American that chickens are one of the more intelligent creatures in the animal kingdom. You only had to trick them once. 🙂 –Curt

  4. Sheesh. This chicken thing sounds like too much work. For me, that is. But I knew that. My sister had them for a few years and she seemed to get through it okay, but there were always stories about coyotes and dogs and cats and…

    I can’t tell how long you’ll have patience for this. Maybe all of you will settle in after a while.

    1. Ha ha!! It’s ok, they seem to be resilient birds. They can fly, which is great when the neighbor dogs come over, but it’s no good when there is no roof on their pen. So far they don’t give me too much grief, because I have told myself that if I lose a hen, it’s my own fault for not building a proper pen with 10-foot walls and a roof. If the raccoons and owls discover them in the pen, they’d be dinner anyhow, so possibly their neighborhood roamings are keeping them alive for now. As long as I tell myself this is a learning experience, it’s all good. My uncle (who raised them from eggs to small birds for me) says they are probably laying now, but I haven’t discovered their nests.

      1. Well Crystal, when you decided that you were moving to the country, you meant that you were moving to the country.

        I like the owl part. One of my favorite birds. As for raccoon, what was that hound dog that chases them away? But then, who’s going to care for the hounds? It gets complicated quickly.

  5. It is going back 40 years now, but we had about 200 chickens, a chicken coop, and a bit of a field where they could free range. Sometimes they did get out , and we always kept them indoors at night due to predators.

    Love the fact they have so much freedom to move around. Hopefully in time some eggs will be on their way. Free range eggs are SO much better (and better for you) 🙂

    ~Carl~

    1. Thanks for the vote of support, Carl. I agree with you that the free-range is better. This summer they never left the safety of the house, so it didn’t occur to me that they would roam so far once winter arrived. Now that’s it’s cold and nasty out, and I don’t have the time or the daylight to build them a better pen, they are at the neighbors’ houses more often than at mine. *sigh* My next door neighbor thinks it’s great (thankfully), but the neighbor on the other side of them thinks I need to keep them home. She should be grateful for all that free fertilizer, am I right?!

      I grew up eating eggs from our own hens, and I know the difference between those and eggs from a store. It makes me feel good to see the ladies chowing down on grass and worms and moths. Hopefully one of these days I’ll get a pen built that will be the best of both worlds – nice and big so they can eat all the spiders they find, but still closed to keep them at home.

  6. Hi Crystal Baby!! When we, were growing up on the “Haley Farm”, in Crawfordsville Or. we had dozens of chickens & my Mom (your Grandma) had names for all of them….she was so perfect at being a “frontier Farmer, wife & Mother”. I started all this to SAY, she clipped each of their wings, so they wouldn’t fly AWAY (over the 6′ fence/ chicken yard fence) Taking care of all those chickens, was one of my daily chores & I really enjoyed it, & they ARE so smart, they recognize your voice very early in (their) life. I know you’ll love you’re “hussies”! Love you Crystal….Auntie .

    1. Hi Auntie Esther! Thanks for telling me the story about Grandma’s hens. I can totally believe she named them all. The Haleys are an animal-loving family, and it didn’t matter what kind of animal, huh? Clipping the wings is certainly an option I have considered. I’m trying to decide what is safer for them. As long as their home is exposed to predators, I’ll let their wings alone, so they can fly into the branches when needed. But when they have a safe home, I might clip the wings.

  7. Hi Crystal! I’m settling in for a good catch up. I think I’m 3 or 4 posts behind!
    Your writing just cracks me up! Those hussies bringing dishonor on the house 🙂 Your descriptions of their personalities and antics made me chuckle.
    And how wonderful that you have ducks on the pond!

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Laurie. Sometimes I’m in a funny mood, and I like when I can translate a little of my personality into written words. It really is the way I treat the ladies, we go out in the yard together and gossip and scold each other and they peck me and I tell them they need better manners. It’s pretty funny in real life, so I’m glad when I can match it in a blog post.

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