Another Day in the Country
© Another Day in the Country
I was listening to “The Takeaway” on public radio the other day. A woman was being interviewed about a book she’d written about chickens.
Of course, I turned up the volume. And you probably can guess, if you know me at all, that the next thing I mumbled to myself was, “That’s a book I could have written.”
Evidently, backyard chickens have really caught on in Portland, Oregon, as something new, earthy, and a must-have.
In Kansas, I tell myself we’ve pretty much always known about chickens. I feel a little smug and then castigate myself for always resorting to my big after-the-fact excuse when I hear some wonderful idea that someone else has actually done. I could do that. I should have done that. Why didn’t I do that? The variations are endless.
Perhaps, I’ll just content myself today by talking about chickens with you.
On Wednesday this last week, there was no wind in Ramona. The sun was out, and the temperature reached up to 70 — balmy, perfect yard-working weather.
I decided to clean out a little chicken house in my back yard. It’s a perfect one-person-with-only-so-much-energy job. And it’s very satisfying.
It’s wonderful that I can let my chickens out of their enclosure more often these days.
I enjoy watching them mosey around the yard, scratching in the mulch. When the flower beds are more advanced, all that dirt-flying, mulch-moving activity won’t be nearly as welcome, and the girls will be curtailed from unearthing seedlings.
Right now, I’ve been letting them out more often as a deterrent to what I call the Mongol horde that lives in my neighborhood.
Led by a bare-necked Turkish-looking rooster, the horde can empty a potential flower bed of orderly mulch in 60 seconds flat.
I’ve been trying my Grandma Ehrhardt’s characteristic high-pitched “Shooo! Shooo!” on them so they don’t get too comfortable on my side of the street.
So far, they have responded and headed home, but I’ve been letting my hens out more often, hoping this will encourage healthy boundaries for other flocks.
My backyard girls have no names since their original roommates are no more.
Their roommates were, as you may recall, the royal family — The Queen, The Duke and the Polish Top Knots. Those three are now all gone, having lived out their allotted time on this mortal coil or however you describe death.
My current Americana hens were ones I accidentally mistook, in the dark of night as I transferred chickens from one house to another, for the royals.
I had been taking pity and reinstating the royals to their own chicken house after they found themselves at the bottom of the pecking order when I tried housing them in an integrated neighborhood.
My current rather easy-going, lovely old girls get along, chatter to themselves (and to me if I’m outside) and pretty much carry on, giving me three lovely blue eggs every day or so, except when they are on vacation, which stretches into longer and longer breaks as they age.
This afternoon, they were a bit discomfited because I was messing around with the ecology of their home — rearranging things, so to speak.
Whenever I get a wagon load of fertilizer from the floor of the coup, I’d take it to my flower beds, and the hens check out my progress.
This fertilizer is a mixture of straw bits, manure, and chicken feed. I figure that the waste feed they scratch around in can nurture plants. If there’s still food value in it for chickens, the hens will find it.
“Is she taking all of it?” one hen asks the other two, peering in the door. “I hope she leaves a little. I’ve never been fond of bare floors.”
The more motherly of the three starts clucking with that “there’s snacks here, come and have a look,” sound as she checks out what I’ve accidentally dropped on the sidewalk.
The other two come running.
They watch me out of the corners of their eyes just in case I head for the back door, which may mean I’ll throw them more treats.
Whenever the back door opens, they come running. I usually have something for them — a stale cinnamon roll, a handful of raw oatmeal, vegetable scraps, or sunflower seeds that I usually feed to the birds.
I love the fact that they recognize me and come running, eager to see me.
I may not see another person all day except for the UPS man and Jess when she comes home for supper, but I do have chickens that are eager to chat all day if I’m out and about and willing to stop and listen.
Birds are singing more, Have you noticed? Red-winged blackbirds were trilling away in my yard this afternoon.
Maybe they are nesting over by the creek. It’s wonderful to have a creek running through town. All manner of creatures gather there, and in summer fireflies put on quite a light show.
There’s not always water in the creek, but the anticipation, the possibility is there. And spring, on another day in the country, is so full of possibility!