Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Are You Calling Me Chicken?

My love affair with animals started at a very young age.  I spent the summers with my grandparents on their ranch in South Dakota. They raised Hereford cattle and owned a couple thousand acres. Oh, how I wish I had that land now! Grandpa was the original "horse whisperer" and was considered the local vet. He had an amazing relationship with all creatures. Ranchers and farmers who lived miles apart depended on each other for various areas of expertise. I grew up traveling to visit sick cattle, pigs, horses, cats.... you name it, we took care of it. So, I was on a horse as soon as I could walk and sit up by myself. I still have my first pair of cowboy boots.

Rojo was my rooster.  I didn't realize it then, but it was a bit unusual for a rooster to follow a youngster around the ranch. He lived for a few years, and always seemed to remember me when I returned for the summer. Fortunately, I never learned if he eventually became dinner.

Portland, like many urban cities has a love affair with chickens. Unfortunately, people don't realize that along with the upside of wonderful fresh eggs, the required daily maintenance and care can be quite challenging. In addition, chickens can be loud and irritating to neighbors. Healthy chickens may lay eggs up to seven years – but that is a lucky average, and they can live as long as 20 years!! That's quite a commitment.

I live in the country and actually have the perfect set up for them. However, I really didn’t want the responsibility of a coop.... especially in the Oregon rain. To put it bluntly, I’m not certain I can visualize myself going out twice a day in the pouring rain to clean up chicken poop! So... no chickens.

Clockwise from top: Eggwina, Hennifer Lopez, Ethel & Lucy

Then one day, I received a call from a friend who needed to re-home his 4 girls. I totally surprised myself when I said “yes” to an adoption! And after a month and a few hundreds of dollars later, my free chickens are a part of the family.

Are they laying eggs? ...you ask. Uh... no, not really. I’m happy if I get one a day. The chicken whisperer says it’s just too darn hot these days, so we shall see when the rains start. In the meantime they delight me daily with their antics. Ethel has totally bonded with me and will sit on my lap. If she sees me inside the house, she pecks on the glass door wanting attention.

Hennifer Lopez
The Polish Frizzles are hilarious, but the poor things cannot see because of the feathers in their faces. They are sort of like those wind-up toys that run into the wall, bounce back and hit it again. I can’t let them out to roam during the day with the others because they get lost. I’ve played chicken search-and-round-up a number of times. Eggwina was totally in coyote territory last time I found her.  Not sure how she survived that adventure. Fortunately, I have an ample enclosed area for daily scrounging.

The dogs were curious, but now guard them. Fritz, the cat, thinks he’s a mighty bird hunter. He will stealthily approach, make a quick dash and when they screech, it scares the crap out of him and he runs the other way.  Daily entertainment at the cottage!

We shall see how the winter goes. I tell myself that hiking to the coop is good exercise. I am too unsteady on my feet and really need a sturdy handrail along the trail. And my dang wrist can’t even open a jar of peanut butter let alone carry a full bucket of water. So I’m trying to find a handyman to install a watering system that won’t freeze and is easy for me to operate, and who can also put up a handrail. A little easier said than done. So those are my main winter concerns for the girls, from my current chicken to-do list.

Other than that...what could be better than free chickens???


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