Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘chickens

Happy Chickens

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Our newest chickens are now about four and a half months old and have reached a size that has the two remaining hens from the previous batch mixing with them as equals. As a group, they are behaving as the happiest and friendliest of yard pets. Almost too friendly, in fact. They are showing no hesitation about racing up to us when we are walking Delilah, who would not hesitate for one second to grab a mouthful of feathers.

On an afternoon walk after our Thanksgiving feast, Cyndie made me stop to occupy the chickens while she hustled ahead with the dog.

She paused to look back and see me chicken-whispering to thank them for agreeing to wear face masks for my little photoshoot the day before.

They had been very accommodating, lining up politely for their fitting.

This morning, there was a new level of excitement because Rocky found his voice again and was crowing many times in a row after weeks of silence following his initial experiments.

Rocky’s coloring and sheen are launching him far beyond the splendor of his brood of adoring pullets.

We continue to visualize his protective spirit as one that will include us and any people visiting as non-threats. He could be our ultimate test of the power of our chicken-whispering abilities.

For now, we are thoroughly enjoying the present state of bliss caring for our growing chickens. They seem totally happy, which is making us even happier.



Written by johnwhays

November 28, 2020 at 9:55 am

Thanksgiving 2020

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Written by johnwhays

November 26, 2020 at 7:00 am

Glazed Labyrinth

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Our little mess of weather that couldn’t make up its mind about being rain, ice, or snow ended up being a little of all three earlier this week. It was a little intimidating at the time, but created some nice scenery.

At least I didn’t need to plow or shovel. It was a little crunchy walking the dog over frozen grass and leaves. I am reveling over the fact that for once we weren’t the zone that received the most snow.

Our chickens appear to have enough sense to stay under shelter in times of freezing rain. They hung out under the barn overhang for the most part. Looks like they’ll have at least one more break from full-time winter in the week ahead with daytime temperatures expected to rise above freezing.

So, in case you hadn’t noticed yet this morning, it’s Friday the 13th today. In the year 2020. That seems kind of redundant, doesn’t it?

Tolerating the reality of exponential numbers of spreading virus cases during a global pandemic makes Friday the 13th seem almost quaint.

It could be a good day to walk the crunchy labyrinth and focus our mental energy on positive possibilities. Peace, love, good health, absence of false accusations, full compliance to COVID safety practices by all people, and children able to learn in school full time.




Written by johnwhays

November 13, 2020 at 7:00 am

Australorp Succumbs

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And then there were two. Our beautiful Black Australorp chicken succumbed to her ailment overnight Tuesday. It became obvious she was shutting down for good when Cyndie could no longer convince “Asteroid” to accept offerings of electrolyte water. We made her comfortable in the barn under a heat lamp Tuesday night and Cyndie discovered the end had come by morning yesterday.

Our little three-some of adult hens were all that remained from a group of 12 we had started with a couple years before. Now, just a Buff Orpington and a Golden Laced Wyandotte are left without their third companion. On the bright side, maybe this will lean them towards becoming more friendly with the new brood who all keep getting bigger and more prominent.

Yesterday, as I pulled up toward the house when I got home from work, I spotted the two hens scratching through leaves with one little Domenique pullet right beside them doing the same thing.

Seemed rather quick to me that they would so suddenly pal up with a new friend on the same day that our “Asteroid” had just died.

That nick-name, Asteroid, happened after Cyndie misheard me when I was actually asking how our sick Australorp was doing.

Well, now she’s off flying with the real asteroids, no longer a prisoner to those wimpy chicken wings.

Shine on you crazy asteroid. Shine on.









Written by johnwhays

November 12, 2020 at 7:00 am

Clear Evidence

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As autumn dries out the growth across our landscape, all sorts of sights that were once buried in greenery are becoming revealed.

It is clear that our Wyandotte didn’t entirely kick her habit of finding places other than the nest boxes for laying her eggs this year.

Cyndie found these after several obviously old eggs began to appear in unlikely open spaces in the nearby vicinity. It seems as though some critters of the night had discovered the stash and were working on moving them to hiding places of their own choosing.

It’s a good thing we aren’t trying to subsist exclusively on the production of our layers. As always, I like having the chickens for their ability to control flies and ticks. Free-range eggs are a byproduct. Indeed, a precious bonus, but not a requirement we demand of them.

Still, it’s sad to find the bounty we’ve been missing out on that has gone to waste.

Silly chicken.



Written by johnwhays

November 10, 2020 at 7:00 am

Here Goes

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‘Tis the season. The aromas and the flavors of November have arrived inside our house. My ongoing challenge to control gastronomic excess for the good of my hemoglobin A1c and my waistline love-handles intensifies significantly as my childhood favorites show up in amazing succession.

Chex mix and pecan pie appeared this week to start the month with intensity.

I’ve noticed these hold a much greater draw for my cravings than all the scones and hand-pies Cyndie has been baking for the Berry Farm lately. As delicious a treat as those are, I wasn’t exposed to them growing up. That seems to be the key difference in the intensity of the attraction.

Oh, those childhood flavor memories.

Mmm mm good.

Yesterday, at sunset, I was tasked with tending the chickens into the coop because Cyndie wasn’t going to be home from errands until after dark. That’s not usually a big deal, except this time we have the ailing Australorp who had vanished on me.

Earlier in the afternoon, when I looked in on the brood, I found all the young ones romping in the vicinity of the barn. As I cooed at them and chirped my falsetto chicken-dad love-speak, I heard chicken feet running through the leaves in our woods. It was two of the adult hens coming to make sure they weren’t missing out on treats.

Only two hens.

Where was the Australorp? I searched and searched but found no sight of her. Uh oh.

Of course, I assumed the worst. When she didn’t return to the coop at sunset with all the others, I called Cyndie, in case she would know any other places to look. After begrudgingly closing up the coop for the night, I headed up toward the house. Since this was the direction the two hens had come running from earlier, I decided to detour behind the shop garage for one last look.

In the low light of dusk, the black silhouette of our Australorp stood out distinctly against the lighter background or our neighbor’s harvested soybean field. She was standing out in the open all by herself, poor little thing.

I have no idea if she didn’t return because she couldn’t or because she didn’t want to, but she obviously still isn’t well.

She didn’t warm up to my approach, but she didn’t run away, either. As I slowly talked my way closer and closer, she moved enough that I thought maybe I could walk with her back to our land. She got a few feet into the woods before I decided to just pick her up and carry her.

We’ve given her electrolytes with the hydration but didn’t have any antibiotics. Cyndie is heading to the feed store this morning to see what she can find there. We would like to offer our precious hens whatever support we can.

This morning, Cyndie pointed out the fact that this was the bird that survived an encounter with a fox a few months ago. We don’t know what internal injuries she may have dealt with at the time that might compromise her ultimate longevity.

My inclination this morning is that I might take some Chex mix down to share. She won’t have childhood memories of it, but still, it tastes like an elixir of love and life.



Written by johnwhays

November 7, 2020 at 10:15 am

Sick Chicken

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We’ve got a sick bird. One of the adult hens, our Australorp. She was losing feathers and then slowly started to lag behind the others in every way. Eventually, we noticed the color was gone from her comb and wattle. Cyndie decided to isolate the hen and made a space in one of the stalls in the barn.

She turned on the heat lamp for the poor girl since there were no other hens around her for warmth.

Since we are enjoying a period of summery warm high temperatures during the daytime this week, Cyndie has been moving the hen outside during the day, either in the brooder or our broody breaker cage, keeping the hen isolated in hopes of protecting the others in case the ailment is contagious.

The primary treatment has been hydration, which the hen has been eager to receive. After a couple of days, the color of her wattle and comb started to improve. Yesterday, the hen appeared to be regaining some appetite. We are hopeful that whatever was ailing her will resolve itself without requiring any additional interventions.

During my commute home from work yesterday afternoon, Cyndie and I were chatting on the phone. She was outside with the chickens at the time and decided to let the Australorp free-range and mingle again. Cyndie offered the birds some treats out of the palm of her hand. She reported the Australorp had wandered off by herself to scratch in the dirt a short distance away.

While we were talking and Cyndie was providing a narration of the antics playing out, she excitedly described an apparent “emergency response drill” that suddenly occurred.

She had been feeding treats with all the chickens around, creating an understandable competition for best access. One of them made a sound and in a blink, the birds all vanished into the trees. Cyndie didn’t notice anything that might have triggered the need to hide.

Then Rocky came out to take advantage of unfettered access to the treats she had been offering.

Cyndie reported it gave the distinct impression the cockerel had triggered the call for everyone to take cover so he could eliminate the competition and have a moment to himself at the treat trough. If that was truly the case, he has my admiration.

Last night, when Cyndie went out to secure the chicken coop for the evening, the Australorp was waiting on the driveway. Guess she wasn’t ready to rejoin the others yet. Cyndie took her back to the barn for another night.

Seems we might need to put some effort into merging her back into the flock when the time is right.



Written by johnwhays

November 6, 2020 at 7:00 am

Kitty Homed

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The result is in. Despite breaking Cyndie’s heart in handing off our little surprise visitor last week, the sweet kitty that peeked in our back door is now happily placed in a new home.

None of our neighbors reported missing a pet and our trusted pet-sitter, Anna, just happened to be looking for a kitty to fulfill the request of a friend. It was a match that fit seamlessly for all parties concerned.

One reply we received from a neighbor gave us pause. She texted, “Is this the first pet you’ve had abandoned on your property?”

We’ve been here eight years now, and this was a first. Her question implies it is something that happens with some regularity in the country. We are happy to have been spared this harsh reality of human behavior thus far.

Our attention is back on fifteen chickens who are busy learning how to deal with the increasingly wintery weather, as well as their own pecking order. We feel lucky to have avoided any real violence from the aggressors, but they do assert their dominance as anticipated. Happily, the young ones are not looking defeated by it in the least. They continue to ever so slowly expand their comfort zone of free-ranging our land.

In this time of the exploding COVID-19 cases, take advantage of the healthy excuse to stay home and hug your pets.

Except for free-ranging chickens. They aren’t so fond of that hugging thing.

Just throw them some scratch or mealworms and they’ll feel truly loved.



Written by johnwhays

November 1, 2020 at 10:49 am

Scrambled Fiction

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It wasn’t dark, or stormy, or even night, but that didn’t stop the hero from completing his appointed rounds. He was trying to figure out how to test his Halloween costume before the big night. It was the Emperor’s New Clothes, but would it work with a COVID mask? Probably wouldn’t matter. None of the classic costume houses were able to fulfill his request. Nobody would admit they couldn’t see the fabric.

There were no reasons left to seek an alternative. Half the people in the city would be sheltering in place. The rest would be out pretending there is nothing to worry about under the rare second full moon of the month. The only reason any of them would notice the mysterious greedy bastards had locked up the computers in all the hospitals was because it was all over the news. Filtering out the endless barrage of political ads allowed a few other strands of news to trickle through.

Nobody pays attention to that stuff anymore. After years of ridiculous daily distractions from the misdirection machine obfuscating reality, the masses have grown numb. Their stamina has been sapped. In is out and up is down. It’s easier to just make shit up than bothering to figure out what is actually going on.

Humans could take a lesson from chickens. They don’t get distracted by things that don’t matter and they won’t believe anything that isn’t visible to their glaring side-eye stare. There is a certain strength of character reflected in that.

All that character probably helps them to avoid the Halloween candy so readily available during the month of October. Now, mealworms, that would be a different thing. No chicken in its right mind could pass up that treat.

Things are a little twisted when you need to wait for snow to melt in order to finish raking leaves. But twisted is the new normal, so why not? The point isn’t to figure it all out, after all, it is to simply have a point. Otherwise, it’s all pointless.

Watch out for that guy in the Emperor’s costume. Make sure his nose isn’t hanging over the top of his mask.



Written by johnwhays

October 30, 2020 at 6:00 am

Peaceful Coexistence

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It is possible that the early arrival of snow cover this October is playing a role in the normalization process of our two groups of chickens. For the most part, they are getting along… separately, together, if that makes any sense. They settle down okay in the coop at night, randomly mixing positions on the two roosts, but during the day, there is no mistaking the obvious distinction of three versus twelve.

Cyndie has cleared a clean path from the coop to the barn and the group of young ones follow on her heels as she heads to fill enough pans of feed to foil the older three who try to lord over that resource.

The hens are coping with the reality of needing to share the coveted space under the overhang of the barn.

The young ones don’t show any need to challenge the hens. Just the opposite. They are quick to retreat at the first approach from any of their elders, but probably just as quick to return in exploration of their ever-expanding horizons.

We are satisfied with the present state of peaceful coexistence and thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to watch things develop before our eyes.




Written by johnwhays

October 25, 2020 at 10:00 am

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