Monthly Archives: March 2018

The Story of a Beloved Chicken

And first off, let me reassure those of you who know her….no, Ellie hasn’t died. In fact, she is in perfect health. But she is a miracle hen in more ways than one, and it’s time to tell her whole story.

Ellie came to me about eight years ago, via a mail order delivery that went wrong in so many ways. Several of the chicks died, but Ellie was one of the lucky ones that made it.

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She was a teeny, tiny little Welsummer, who I thought was a rooster for a long time because of her super long legs and demanding voice. She used to stand on top of her water bottle and call for me to come pick her up. She knew, even before I did, how special our relationship was.

A few animals are just like that. Some people call them ‘heart animals’, those special one-of-a-kind beasties that touch you and connect with you in a way other animals haven’t. Ellie is definitely my heart animal.

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She put up with my costuming (although she was extremely leery of Captain Jack) and she quickly learned how to make a beeline for the back kitchen door whenever I let her out into the yard. She knows where all the good treats are!

She has perfect trust of me, and she’s the only chicken I’ve ever entirely trusted as well. I know she won’t try to peck my face, and before she jumps up in my lap, she makes a special point of pooping first – friends don’t poop on friends!

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Her one flaw is her insane jealousy – she doesn’t want to share me with the other hens. If I hold one of the other girls, she turns her back on me, and walks away, sadly.

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And then she stands in a corner, looking back over at me until I relent and put the other chicken down and pick her up instead.

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She has me trained, a peck on my knees means I should sit, so she can sit in my lap. A peck on my shoes means I should take her on a walk around the yard. I’m not even making this stuff up. None of my other chickens are remotely like her. They are sweet girls, but Ellie is special in so many ways.

When she was a little over a year old, she began to suffer from vent prolapses. I don’t recommend googling this unless you have a strong stomach. The pictures aren’t pretty, and most chickens don’t survive unless they have a very mild case of it. Ellie’s case, while not horrific as some, was incessant. It was happening continually, for months, every time she pooped or laid an egg. She was a very, very good girl, and would let me help her, and I got very skilled at returning chicken internal parts up where they belonged, but I was in constant fear and dread. I knew if this continued, one day she would either prolapse so badly that she couldn’t be saved, or one of the other chickens would peck her so badly that she got an infection and died. Part of the time, she was sleeping in a crate in my bedroom to protect her from the other girls’ pecking…but that wasn’t good, either. Hens need to be with other hens, and a hen separated too long from her flock can lose her pecking order status in the flock and become an outcast. I got a few months respite during the winter when she stopped laying…and I hoped the rest would let her heal, but the following spring/summer, she was back to where she was before, only worse.

I couldn’t bear it. I was spending hours, nearly every day, researching prolapses on the internet, calling vets, trying to find some solution, and the whole time I just felt this endless, oppressive dread pressing down on me. I seriously thought I was going to have to either put her down, or else I’d come out to the coop some day and find her a bloody, ripped-apart mess. I’ve had lots of animals I’ve loved and cared for, but none of them have ever torn my heart apart like this little hen

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One afternoon, though, I was sitting with her in my lap, and I was praying over her as I often did, and God answered me. I heard a voice, as absolutely clear and audible and separate from myself as it’s possible for a voice to be, and the voice said: “Stop being afraid.” And instantly – instantly – all the fear and dread I’d been living with for months just lifted away and was completely gone. Absolutely vanished. Then the voice said: “You don’t have to worry anymore. She will not have this again.”

And I believed. There was not the slightest doubt in my mind. From that second on, I knew Ellie would never have a prolapse again. And she hasn’t. Not for seven years. Seven years, from that very instant when God cared enough to reach down and heal her. And not only heal her, but actually speak to me. Because He knew, that if He didn’t explain to me what had happened, I’d still be fearful every time she started laying eggs in the Spring; I’d be constantly worried it would start happening again.  He spoke to me, because He didn’t want me to have that dread in my life. He just wanted me to be able to enjoy my summers with my chicken.

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This is our God. He is a God who still works miracles, and He is a God who not only cares about the sparrows, but also about one little chicken. 

 

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The Spring Garden

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The Nadia cherry/plum hybrid is blooming like crazy this year…for the first time! Hopefully, that means we’ll get at least a few fruits this summer. I’m really interested in what a cherry/plum tastes like.

The other young fruit trees are showing signs of a bountiful harvest as well. I think all the apples are going to bloom, and the pears as well.

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I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in the garden this year…if I’m still here on earth. And of course I’d MUCH rather be gone! (see my previous blog post to know why.) But only God knows what His plans are, and whatever they are, they are perfect. Love this new stepping stone for the garden I bought this month!

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I have my greenhouse (and my kitchen window) filling with pots of started seeds, but the primary thing I’ve been doing is building the last three major builds of my little urban farm: the meat chicken coop, the Bunny Bordello, and the wildlife garden corner.

The egg chickens don’t like the annual takeover of their coop by a dozen crazy teenaged Little Meats, so I decided to remodel the old duck coop into a coop that would work for the meat chickens.

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I took off the nesting area, added an enlargement to the indoor area, then reattached the nesting area to the right side. Until the Little Meats arrive (I have three dark Cornish coming April 23rd, plus I’ll get a handful of Freedom/Red Rangers) the egg girls are using it as a fun place to hang out and lay their eggs. They like variety, my hens. I’m desperately hoping that one of them will go broody in the next couple of weeks and save me the trouble of hand-raising these little meaties.

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Another view of the remodeled coop. The stepping stones lead through the mini “food forest” I’m planting, right to the nest box area.

Yesterday, I finished the Bunny Bordello. This is the male rabbit’s new home, right next to the does’ Bunny Barn.

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Sorrel loves it. Not only does he have more room to play, he can interact with the does through the adjoining wire door.

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A couple of weeks ago, I bred both the does to him, and they were perfect little angels about it…no issues at all. Since they’ve since stopped humping each other and started trying to burrow, I think the pregnancy took in both does. I should have babies the first week of April!

My third project (and this one will be very much on-going all Spring and Summer) is the wildlife garden. My first action was to build a fence on the back side, adjoining the neighbor’s fence. I still need to continue my fence at some point right alongside of his, because he built his far too short, and way too full of gaps. Wild rabbits can (and do!) waltz right through his boards to come eat my veggies. Temporarily, I’ve put hardware cloth along the bottom of his fence to keep the rabbits out. I do want this to be a wildlife garden, but the wild rabbits are taking over our neighborhood, and if I let them in, I couldn’t have any food left for me or MY rabbits! Also, in the front of the picture, where the pear espalier tree is, I will be putting up a shorter fence, just to define the area, and keep my wild corgi out.

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On the wall, I hung a set of mirrors my mom gave me. I adore mirrors in a garden.

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I’m building a set of birdhouses to line the lower fence on the left side. The first one had interested possible occupants the morning after I put it up! Also, notice the blue table. This is what you call working with circumstances. That blue table is actually an ancient washing machine that was dumped in a corner of my yard. It was filled with dirt and rocks, and really just immoveable. So I spray painted it blue, put on a wood top, and added a bowl of water for the birds.

I need to start working on planting things. I want to have some more fruit producing trees/bushes for the birds, herbs and flowers for the bees/butterflies, and some dye plants for me. I’ll be also putting in a very small wildlife pond. Very small! And look, I found this adorable frog sculpture to sit on my log. He looks so realistic I do a double take when I walk past him. Hopefully, once I have the pond, I’ll attract some genuine live frogs.

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I like having logs in my garden. The bugs like them, and as they break down, interesting things happen: here, a foxglove has actually seeded itself inside.

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In my April 23rd chick order, I’m also getting three bantam cochin hens. Besides being great broody hens for more fragile eggs, I’m going to put these smaller chickens to work in my garden, using a chicken tractor, and also some free-ranging in areas where I hope they will be less destructive than standard sized hens. These girls will be hand-raised by me, so they will be super friendly and sweet.  At first, they will living together in a small separate coop, but if they manage to integrate with my older hens, they will be able to move into the regular coop eventually.

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One last thing, a dear friend of mine just started a blog documenting her and her husband’s journey towards self-reliance, simplicity, and marital happiness.  I highly recommend you check it out: http://making-it-home.net/