Saturday, December 24, 2011

It Becomes Normal

When husband leaves for work, he calls home to check in on all of us. How's wife, how's Buddy, how are the chickens? It's sweet, and I'm sure most spouses do as such when traveling.

There's a new set of questions now that the chickens are laying. Did you collect eggs? How many today, what color were they?

And then my favorite (careful, not exactly appropriate for young children):

Did you sex 'em up good?

Yes, husband asks me that about the chickens. Because now that they are of laying age, they are also of mating age, and they instinctively crouch down to "accept" a rooster when we come into the coop. Silly me, I had kinda thought that they were just being friendly and suddenly very generously allowing us to pet them, but no. They are just being proper hens looking for their male counterpart.

Glennie, um, offers herself
Brendon takes it upon himself to not only pet them, but to kinda grab them and wiggle them a bit. He thinks that this will trigger something in their chicken psyches equivalent to mating fulfillment and thereby translate to more regular (and perhaps satisfying?) eggs production.

Who am I to argue? Am I any more chicken expert than he? So yes, I do it too. I mean, good heavens, I don't want frustrated chickens! And I was the one who gave away both of their roosters.

Admittedly I never expected to be crouched down in a chicken coop, roughing up a little hen according to my husband's wish that I sex 'em up good. Once again I find that we are making up a very strange set of rules by which we make our lives in this house, in this neighborhood, with these animals.

Does she look irritated to you that I am not Brendon? I don't think I'm imagining this.

So not exactly the idyllic image I had of a little backyard mini country farm. Our hound doesn't herd the chickens but rather tries to eat their eggs (he can tell how much we like them, so he likes them too). Our chickens don't come to us to be petted because they adore us. And we shake their little chicken rumps because we think it will stimulate egg production.

He could at least not drool when he looks into the coop, come on now

Yeah. Disney's not going to adopt this as a script anytime soon.

And the thing is, it doesn't even phase me when he asks. I just reply yes or no, depending on whether any of the hens were feeling, um, frisky enough to let me. Like the rest of the things we've done with the animals and the house, it's been a combination of what we think we should do with them and what actually works in reality.

So. It's normal for us to ask this question. And when I'm actually doing it, I look up at their warming red light in the roost and think, at least that's appropriate.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


It's finally happened.

After eight months of feathers and feeding and cleaning, after five months of searching the coop every day, we have been graced with some sort of tangible return.

An egg. A tiny, oval, brown egg.

I was just getting up to walk out of the coop this morning. I usually crouch down with the girls while they eat. Today, as the cold rain fell, I had picked up Lemon to pet her wet feathers. She has been wandering close to me lately, then crouching down like she's asking me to pick her up.

It's kind of a funny pattern: sidle up to me, stand very still, then squat until I pick her up. Not that the rest of the girls don't have their own patterns. Glennie still walks up behind me and pecks at my rear. Gertie still keeps her distance but talks up a storm. And Ruby just follows her twin and kinda does what she does.

Only now, there's a new element to the pattern. Lemon lays eggs.

Why do I think it was Lemon? Well, it was brown, so that means it was one of the twins. And I just think Lemon's putting back into the karma of our relationship. I propped her up and bandaged her legs for two weeks in an attempt to save her little chickie life, and now I'm certain she's giving us eggs and asking to be picked up in order to give us some sort of satisfaction in caring for her.

Or maybe chickens don't get karma and simply make eggs when they're good and ready. Due to, you know, nature and stuff. Less romantic reasoning, but perhaps more likely.

All I know is, I had a crazy dream two nights ago that our coop was teaming with eggs. Eggs AND chickens. In my dream, there were eggs of all colors everywhere and chickens were hatching from them and flying around.

Clearly some kind of omen. Because as I performed my daily peek into their little roosting box, there it was. The red light Brendon installed inside for these cold winter months illuminated it, like some kind of crimson spotlight. But there wasn't any other fanfare. I squealed at the girls, but none of them admitted ownership. Someone had just dropped that sucker and then walked down the gangplank for some breakfast.

I ran out of the coop, not too swiftly in my jammies, rubber boots, and rain jacket, and around to the outside of their roosting box. Brendon had built it especially for this function--so we could access eggs from the outside of the coop. Buddy could sense my excitement and jumped around. Probably because I was looking at him and shouting, "Budbud, we have AN EGG!"

I took it out and rushed it into the kitchen. I don't know why, but I was afraid it might break or just dissolve without my being able to document it. Buddy certainly tried to eat it. He was highly aware that there was something seriously awesome in my hand.

And now here it is. Our first egg. Oh man, I never thought it would be this exciting.

And yes, I know that sounds a little lame, and yes, I'm not ashamed at all. An egg just came out of our little Clark Ranch. This experiment with chicken ownership--heck, with home ownership--is not the utter epic failure I've been fearing. Perhaps we CAN raise critters. Perhaps we CAN make this funky little family and funky little home a functional one. I am renewed in my pioneering spirit! Brendon and I have made our mark upon this little chunk of earth we call ours, and in turn we have...ha ha, in turn we have THIS: