Category Archives: Writing

PJ the Hen

The boys have named our free-range hen Pecky Jr.

We call her PJ for short.

We pulled her out because the other hens had decided she was the weakest link. They attacked her, bloodied her and I was sure they would soon kill her.

Picture of PJ from August 16, 2017.

She now looks better than all of the other hens of her flock and she is much friendlier.

PJs vicious sisters

No hand pecking. No angry squawks. No vicious glares.

PJ on September 20, 2017

We haven’t done much to ‘domesticate’ her, but she comes running when we come outside and follows at my heels when I check for eggs.

She even eats right out of our hands if we approach her slowly and calmly whisper words of encouragement.

She has her own container of water, and we throw down a cup chicken feed when we are refilling the others.

That may sound mean, but she finds so much to eat in the pasture, yard and garden that we don’t feel the need to leave a dish of food out for her. The other hens eat less feed when they have new ground to peck and PJ’s diet is probably more diverse and nutrient-rich.

The only problem is…we don’t know where she is laying her eggs.

There have been times I thought she was gone. Taken by a coyote or raccoon. But when I head out to the coop to feed and water the chickens she suddenly appears.

I’ve started watching to see where she comes from but the moment I turn my back, she’s at my heels, waiting for scraps. She’s definitely coming from the pasture, so I am sure her eggs are somewhere in the wild grass.

Hopefully, a raccoon or other predator is eating them because I sure don’t want to find them by smell.

That is an experience I hope never to repeat.

Pecky Junior roams
Hoping for a tasty scrap
Circling our heels

 

 

 

A Boy and his Chicken

A boy and his chicken
Had a little chat
They pondered on the weather
And talked of this and that

To hear their conversation
You’d never even know
That only one was talking
A constant, steady flow

The chicken clucked and shuffled
The boy yakked on and on
While feeding Queenie bits of grass
He’d pulled out of the lawn

She stood and seemed to listen
She clucked and moved her head
But when the boy stopped talking
She quickly turned and fled

 

Spoiled Eggs

Skulking and sneaking
I thought she was dead
But here she is peeking
Now I’m filled with dread

She’s laying eggs somewhere
I watch her and wonder
Will I find them out there?
Which bush are they under?

I’ve looked in the tall grass
I’ve searched under sheds
I’ve peaked when I pass
All of my garden beds

But still I can’t find them
And I greatly fear
My sniffer will smell ’em
If I ever draw near

Softly

Happiness and joy abound
On quiet days like this
Sun sets softly on the ground
A bright and glowing kiss

The blue-sky changes orange then pink
The kids laugh, run and play
I walk around and ponder, think
How beautiful the day

All life’s sorrows, woes and fears
Are scattered in the breeze
No more crying, no more tears
On Summer days like these

Autumn’s coming, winter too
But I don’t mind at all
Plants will wither, die it’s true
As Summer turns to Fall

Until then, I’ll soak it in
I’ll hear the Summer sounds
Warm sunlight upon my skin
Wind rustling all around

A Little Nest

Nestled deep in tangled vines
We found a little nest
It was made of grass and string
For a little egg to rest

The egg was white and tiny
With speckled brownish dots
The nest was snug and cozy
A perfect cozy spot

A few brown birds were flying
Circling in the sky
They cheeped and chirped down at me
A panicked, startled cry

I smiled at them and whispered
I don’t mean any harm
I just wanted to say thank you
For visiting our farm

Cast Out

A day like any other
The old hens all went mad
They attacked a little chicken
She looked so weak and sad

They chased her round the henhouse
They moved in as a team
White feathers flew all over
A gruesome, horrid scene

I made a quick decision
I had to move her fast
Out she jumped so quickly
She was free at last

Once she shook and cowered
And trembled hard with fear
Now she chirped and strutted
As slowly she came near

The new ones saw her coming
They knew she was no match
Three of them could take her
And win without a scratch

Our lonely bird, deflated
Ran fast under the coop
And there she hides and cowers
Cast out from both the groups

Swallowtails

Four black swallowtail caterpillars found their way into Joe’s bughouse a few weeks ago. We fed them from the plant we found them on and watched them grow and grow…and grow!

The biggest one made a chrysalis first followed by two more a few days later. Our teeny tiny guy ate his way steadily through the dill we’d stuffed the house with until, tired from all his munching, he joined the others and made a chrysalis.

A few days ago, the first chrysalis started to wiggle and wobble.

We’ve been watching it off and on, hoping to watch the beautiful swallowtail emerge. We never did get to see them make their chrysalis. We turned our back and poof! it was made.

The chrysalis went from bright green to a faded dull pea green as it shook and twitched.

And then…

Wibble, wobble, twitch
A butterfly breaking free
Emerges and flys

The Big Molt

The new girls are now half again the size of the leghorns and their feathers are fluffy and shine in the sun.

They are truly beautiful birds, and the old ones?

Well, they are looking…pretty bad.

Their feathers are missing, they are pecking at each other and raw red patches of skin are showing.

They’ve become more and more bedraggled over the past couple of weeks. We change their water regularly, keep them in food and clean out their coop so what the heck is going on?

I was sure they were slowly murdering each other.

Ray thought they might be molting.

I liked my explanation better, but I looked up molting anyway.

Bingo. Our leghorns are going through a rather hard molt.

Great patches of feathers are missing. Some of the hens look fuzzy with odd looking new feathers growing through stubby old ones, while others look like they’ve been plucked alive.

During molting, all of the feathers fall and new feathers grow. Feathers are more than 80% protein so growing them takes a lot of energy.

Energy that is normally used to lay eggs.

Our egg production has not gone down that much, but it has dropped from 11-12 a day to 8-9 a day.

In order to balance things out a bit, we are going to start supplementing their diet with extra protein.

They’ll get mealworms, sunflower seeds, fresh herbs and maybe leftover scrambled eggs…maybe.

Few fluffy feathers
Hastily hobbling hens
Bare, bedraggled birds

Little Brown(ish) Eggs

The new girls have started laying eggs!

At first they were tiny and cream colored with titanium shells. Seriously, they took a few good whacks to crack. Crazy enough, every one has had a tiny yolk!

After about a week, they started to get a little bit bigger and the brownish hue deepened into a nice caramel color.

And then today I collected the biggest so far. It’s barely smaller than the behemoths the old hens lay. It’s not as brown as the others have been, but it still has a cream hue.

Old hen egg (left) vs New hen egg (right)

The new girls were pretty proud of themselves and were rewarded with grapes…their favorite.

Little brown(ish) eggs
Growing so slowly in size
Soft and creamy white

Regrowth

We came home from a long weekend and discovered something miraculous.

The kiwi had started to heal and regrow.

It had been ravaged by angry beetles for weeks, but it was coming back. Leaves were sprouting out, healing vines and kicking out the crunchy brown leaves.

The Japanese beetle’s 8-week reign of terror ended. Finally.

We were relieved that the pests had not done any lasting damage to the roots of the kiwi. It would have been depressing to have to cut out all that dead kiwi and start over again.

The grapes and hops are coming back as well, but it is the kiwi I am most impressed with. It had truly suffered and I had my doubts as to whether or not it would survive into next season.

I’ve never been more happy to be wrong.

The kiwi is coming back and we have a plan of attack for next year. A plan that will, with any luck, insure that the Japanese beetles lose the war.

The kiwi returns
To the homestead so bright, green
Leaves dance in the breeze