Posted in Animals

Chicken Chasing—don’t miss out!

I had a weak moment recently and that’s how I ended up with two hens in my backyard. A friend of mine was having a moving sale and I thought I’d check out her deals. I had already picked out a lamp, a rug, a table, and a sack of polyfil when I passed by a large wooden chicken coop with a price tag that was too hard to pass up. I could feel my heart beating like a drum inside my chest. There is something about chickens that just gets me excited, you know?

I have had chickens. I love chickens. I want more chickens. But I’m just not in a place right now where I need chickens, if that makes any sense at all. We’re living back in town and although it’s legal to have a few backyard hens, I’m not properly set up for them. Regardless, I had to have that chicken coop because one day I will have chickens again. If there’s anything that brings me joy, it’s chickens.

Before I could even tell her I wanted the coop, she said, “I’ll throw in 3 of my hens too.” She was moving after all and she wouldn’t be taking them with her.

My heart exploded at that moment, my mind raced all over. I knew better, I did.  I knew better than to agree to 3 chickens. My head was saying no, but my heart was screaming GIVE ME SOME CHICKENS!

And that’s how I ended up with 2 hens in my backyard. Yes, it was supposed to be three but the third one caught wind of the chicken nabbing during the evening abduction and gave us some fits.

I brought those birds home after dusk in a cardboard box and tucked them safely into their new coop. They did fine that night, but the next day they started squalling to beat the band. I went out to check on them because they were so noisy. I carefully lifted the lid of the coop to take just a little peek when the next thing I knew, there was a flap of wings, a flurry of feathers, a caterwauling of clucks and the birds were flying out of the lid, up over my head and were out of the coop and clucking like someone was about to wring their little necks. They clucked and squalled for hours until I knew I couldn’t keep these birds. The noise was bothering me, and I knew if the sweet sound of chickens were bothering me, it would only be a short time until the neighbors complained.

So I called my sister-in-law, who has a few of her own chickens and she agreed to come take them. She arrived with my 6th grade nephew and a plastic tote to gather the birds and carry them to their new home. Well, they weren’t having any of that. We were running around trying to capture them when the next thing we knew, there was a flap of wings, a flurry of feathers, a caterwauling of clucks and one of the birds was flying up over heads, up over the fence, and into the next door neighbor’s back yard—the home of 3 dogs.

I swear I was tempted to just count my losses here, but my nephew wouldn’t hear of it. We left my backyard and rang the door bell of the neighbor to explain our predicament. She graciously let us in her backyard to collect the flyaway. But as for the other one, we decided to let her roost for the night and I would try to capture her in her sleep. So my sister-in-law and nephew headed home to await the call that I had captured the chicken. That call never came. That night she hid under a pile of limbs we had cut down and didn’t even move when I poked her with a stick. I knew she had injured herself in the fray and had crawled under there to die. My plan was to wait until morning and drag her dead body out and dispose of it.

The next morning, sure enough, she was out running around the backyard with our dogs Grace and Ozzie, and she had left me an egg under the limbs. Ah, I thought, what a good little chicken, and this one wasn’t near as noisy as the one sent off.  I was already getting attached.  I tended it that day as best as I could; feeding it watermelon and trying to trick it to go back into the coop. Hopefully it would roost back in the coop and that night I was going to capture it while it slept.

That night, it was nowhere to be found. A white chicken shouldn’t be too hard to spot in the dark, but even with a flashlight, I couldn’t find it anywhere. Not under the limbs, not in the coop, not in the trees, not in hidey holes. Well, I figured I’d just count my losses. She’d probably flown over the fence and was dog food by now. I went to bed.

The next day, there she was running around the backyard with Grace and Ozzie again. Okay, you little houdini, tonight you are out of here! I will not be outsmarted by a chicken!

I watched her all day, I watched her like a hawk. I tracked her every move. I fed her watermelon and tried to trick her into going back in the coop. I talked sweetly to her. All she did was run the other direction. That night I was planning to grabbing her up. Dusk rolled in. I went out for the capture. She was gone again.  Holy macaroni! Now I was starting to get mad. I looked up to the heavens to curse and that’s when I saw her. Up, up, up–way up—in a tree high above my 5’2″ reach, even on my tippy toes.

To heck with it. We’ll just live like this, I conceded. I’d only gotten one egg in 3 days and she wasn’t worth the trouble anymore! It wasn’t 30 minutes later, my sister-in-law and nephew rolled up. They were in the neighborhood doing a little business.  I sent him back there to see if he could get that bird. I was standing in the front yard chatting with Janene when the next thing we knew, there was a flap of wings, a flurry of feathers, a caterwauling of clucks and here she came, up over the fence and landed in the front yard with us.

And that’s when the chicken chase began.

It is one thing to try to catch a chicken in a confined space like a backyard, but let me tell you, it is altogether another thing to try to catch a chicken within a half mile radius.  I can’t be done, folks. Wanna guess how I know???

It began with my nephew Harley trailing her down the street. It was hysterical and I ran inside to get my phone to video it. That’s when she ran down the alley. I knew by the way he was yelling “Call in the reinforcements. Call animal control!” that he clearly needed my help. I grabbed a box and began the chase down the alley. We headed her off this way and that. She was back on the side street, then back up our street, then across the road, then under the bushes of many different homes, then back on our street, then up to the next street. At this point SIL Janene and little EK had joined in the chase. It was Harley in the lead, then me, then EK carrying my phone, then Janene in the rear doubled over laughing with a box in her hand. I’m pretty sure a few extra people got a good giggle as they walked and drove by as well.

We clearly were not going to be able to catch the chicken in an all out run, so I ran to the house and grabbed a couple of blankets.  We were going to try to throw them over her head and tackle her. Throw. Miss. Run. Throw. Miss. Run. That plan failed too. Our next plan was to corner her, surround her and hope for the best.

Darting here, darting there, she zigged, she zagged, she burrowed under plants. I think I even heard her say *beepbeep* when she ran past us a time or two. Finally, I don’t know what happened. But by pure luck or chance, we chased that girl right into our garage. I shut the door and she at least was in a confined space again. It didn’t take long. We squeezed ourselves around the vehicles, bicycles, lawn mowers. Harley got down on his belly and dragged her out, and stuck her in a box. We were tired and we were dripping sweat.

Good bye and good riddance. But honestly? I had more fun chasing that chicken than I’d had in months! Despite the frustration and challenge, I laughed and laughed.

The next day I was sore. Seriously sore. My inner thighs burned, my calves burned. It was a workout, y’all.  As I rubbed my sore muscles, that’s when I got the greatest idea of my life.

Chicken chasing—the next greatest and bestest fitness plan out there.  The benefits are practically endless!
*Burn calories
*Tone muscles
*Increase your heart rate
*Enjoy the great open spaces
*Raise endorphins from hysterical laughter while you and your friends chase chickens

Step aside Tony Little. Move over TaeBo and Salsa dancing. I’ve got a cardio workout for you. It’s going to be a sensation! I just have to find someone to sell this idea to.

The next time you can’t sleep and you’re flipping through late night channels, don’t be surprised if  you see me on an Infomercial promoting my workout plan.
And that’s not all! Because you are one of my faithful blog readers, I’ve got a deal for you!

If you want to be an early bird (get it? early bird?) and not wait for the infomercial, you can go ahead and send me 4 installments of only $29.99 each and reap the benefits today! Don’t wait!!! I know where I can find a chicken to chase!

 

 

 

Posted in Animals

The End of my Chicken Ranching Era

It happened yesterday.  The end of an era.  But yesterday was a joyous day of remembering the birth of EK, that I couldn’t allow it to spoil the day, regardless of how sad I felt about it.

I found my last one chicken dead yesterday shortly after dawn. Actually, dead is such a mild word when what I really mean is murdered.  Viciously attacked by a raccoon I am sure.

The chicken herd had been dwindling by about 3-4 chickens a year due to various causes of death.

I had my last two remaining chickens, one yellow and one black and white, for a good long while up until around Thanksgiving.  That’s when I found the yellow one eaten in the yard.  The dogs had been brought inside for the night, so there was no protection for them so I wasn’t sure what had happened to the chicken until the next night when we were awakened by a ruckus.  Drew Miller, AKA Killer, stayed outside and engaged in a terrible brawl with a raccoon.  JDub woke, put on his slippers and witnessed the entire battle royal, attempting to stop it but failing.   Drewby Doo gave that coon a run for his money as the coon did Drew.  Drew has some fresh new scars on his snout to prove it.  We surmised by all this, that the raccoon more than likely killed the yellow chicken while the dogs were inside the night before, then came back for more the next night, only to be caught off guard by the dog.

A couple of months have passed since the death of Sassafras.  In that time Drew and the black and white chicken, Freedom, have become the best of friends.

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Freedom and Drew

It was as if Freedom knew Drew, and only Drew had and would save her.  If you’ve been a reader for long, you’ll remember Freedom the chicken.  If not, you can read about her here and here, among others.  I’m not entirely convinced it was Freedom as I never tied a string around her ankle or anything, but in my heart I believe it was.

Two nights ago, I was driving home after dark and I saw the raccoon.  Big as a bulldog crossing the road at the river just a half a block from our house.  He must have forgotten the whoopin’ Drew gave him, and luckily for him Drew was inside for the night.  But unluckily for Freedom.

I cried when I found her.  I cried because she was my favorite.  I cried because she was my last.  I cried because of the savage way her life ended.

I sat with Freedom the day before she died.  I sat in a lawn chair and she jumped up on the arm and I stroked her and she pecked my shirt, making me all kinds of nervous as she always did.

I don’t know when I’ll get more.  I don’t know IF I’ll get more.

They brought me delight, truly they did.

I hope there’s a chicken heaven.  If there is, my girls are there.  May they be ever happy in a land of green grasses and big worms.

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Posted in Animals

The Chicken Chronicles: An Update and Addendum

The month of March is upon us and with that comes an anniversary. Or a birthday, rather. My chickens turn three years old. Happy, happy birthday girls!

It’s a landmark, a milestone, a big deal to have three-year old chickens. At least I thought it was until I googled the life expectancy of a chicken and found it to be 8-10 years for backyard hens and some have lived up to 20!!! What???? 20 years. I’ll be drawing medicare. Almost.  It’s only a big deal to be a commercial chicken and live three years.  Just chalk that up to my list entitled, I thought I did well, until I found out I didn’t.

Given that enlightening statistic, I am not doing so well with my backyard hens. I’m down to only 3. I know, I know. If you’ve been hanging around this blog for long you might remember I started with a lot more than three. More like 15. But you know, life happens. There have been accidental deaths, malicious deaths, unexplained deaths, and drownings. It’s been quite the ride.

And if you haven’t been hanging around here long, here’s the dealio.  These girls were raised in the house, yes you read that right, in the house! First in the bathtub of the extra bathroom then in the spare bedroom/office. A cardboard box served us well as a brooder until they were old enough to go outside. Looking back I realize I might have been a bit overprotective. They would sit on our hands and sit on the desk with me.  Looking back I realize I didn’t realize little chicks could put off so much dander.  Woowee, the dusting I did once they were outside.  Then as they got older, they were treated to earthworms bought from the bait store. I watched them grow from little fuzzy chicks to the awkward ugly teenagerish stage before they turned into hens.  They would fly on our laps, hide eggs willy nilly.  They learned to get along with the dogs or rather the dogs learned to get along with them.  One even hitched a ride with J-Dub to church and was walking around in the church parking lot.

These chickens have traveled with me, moving from Texas to New Mexico in the back of a truck because I couldn’t bear to part with them. They are dear to my heart. They have given me hours of enjoyment. Just the other day, I was throwing sticks for the dogs in the backyard and one of them attempted to fetch with them, running out behind them after the stick, hoping it was something a bit tastier, a Slim Jim perhaps. Of course I tried to get a video but by the time I ran to the house and grabbed the phone, everyone (dogs and chicken) had lost interest in my game.

These chickens are tough.  You have to be to live around here.  Just the other day I accidentally pelted one  in the head with a pine cone.  Pure accident.  Trust me, I didn’t miss my calling playing softball.

Recently we’ve been dealing with our new dog Ozzie, the chi-weenie, really giving the chickens fits. There is one hen in particular he likes to bully and we’ve taken to calling her mangled back because he literally will get on her and attempt to pluck her alive, leaving her down exposed. Her back is a mixture of yellow and white soft feathers. He is punished harshly when he is caught but he is proving himself to be a slow learner in regard to the chickens. I didn’t know what to do and I almost gave him away but J-Dub, seeing the distress it was causing me and EK both, built a portable chicken tractor/coop for the chickens. Before that, they roosted in an old well house but were free to come and go and roam as they pleased. With this new chicken coop on wheels they are enclosed constantly but safe from the terror of the chi-weenie.

I prefer them to be free range. They prefer to be free range. But it puts me at ease to know they are safe when I can’t watch them closely. Each day I  let them out to roam about and forage and I put the dog up.  All animals are treated equally.

J-Dub worked a long time on the chicken tractor and I am so happy with it. These contraptions range anywhere from a couple of hundred to thousands of dollars. We tried to be as economical as possible and also reuse things around the place. Upcycle if you will. We can actually call ourselves green now.

He bought the lumber new and built a 6 foot by 6 foot frame. He covered it all in wire, bolted  two wheels on the back (which may need replacing) and a handle on the front to push/pull/heave it around. There is a door to let the chickens in and out. On the back he built a box for them to nest in, equipped with their own little ladder to climb. The nesting box has a lid that opens up so I can reach in and get the eggs. He covered part of the top with tin and yes, he did, he added rain gutter which flows into the watering trough. On the opposite end is a feed trough with a trap door so I can dump hen scratch in easily.

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And no, I don’t have trick chickens that lay oblong, funky shaped caps of some sort.  That’s just a decoy.  It worked.

Basically it’s a chicken dream house.  And I’m really getting the itch to stock it with some babies.

Posted in Animals

A Broody, Moody Hen

I’ve got a broody hen.  In other words, she wants to be a momma.

This hen in particular sits in a wheelbarrow.  Day after day.  Night after night.  She won’t eat.  She won’t drink.  And if you go near her, she puts her hackles up and makes a noise that frightens me.   I’ve never been harmed by a chicken, and yet I still am frightened.  It is an unwarranted fear that I can not explain, especially considering the fact that my hens are darlings.  Perhaps it dates back to when I read a children’s book, “Junie B. Jones Has a Peep in her Pocket” and Junie B. was worried that the chickens were going to peck her head into a nub, and she would have to walk around in a pair of overalls with a nub as a head.  I’m sure that is it, since that is so very logical.

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So day after day, night after night, this yellow chicken sits in a red wheelbarrow hoping beyond hope that the egg she ISN’T sitting on will hatch.   Crazy chicken.

It is  impossible that she will ever set a nest and have a baby chickie because:
1) there is no rooster here to fertilize her egg, so no matter how long she sets a nest, it will still just be an egg.
2)  There is no egg that she is setting since we removed it from underneath her weeks ago, hoping she would be about her business.

No such luck.

Day after day, one of us, (mostly Ash, but sometimes me if I’ve had a shot of whiskey first) will pick up the hissing, pissed off chicken, afraid that her head is going to spin around and start pecking me to a nub and throw her out of the wheelbarrow, so she can get a drink of water and maybe a bite to eat.   And as soon as we do, she lets us know she is not a happy chicken.  And as soon as she can, she makes a run for the water trough, gets a drink, and before you know it, she is back in her wheelbarrow on her imaginary nest, dreaming of waddling babies.

But if you were ever wondering where the expression  “got her feathers ruffled” originated, my belief is it came from an insane broody hen after she was tossed from her wheelbarrow.

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Posted in Animals, Children, Faith, Family

The Hummers

I overheard them talking in the doctor’s office a few weeks ago.

You need to get ready for them.

They’re here.

We saw some at our place yesterday. 

Hummingbirds.

So I heeded their advice and went to The Walmarts to buy a couple of feeders.  I googled how to make sugar water (4 parts water to 1 part sugar), and I filled my feeders and hung them on the patio.

I doubted they would come.  Just because I doubt most good things will come in my life.  It’s a huge weakness in my character.  But lo and behold, as Emma Kate and I were outside enjoying the day, the dogs, and the chickens, they came.  They did!  Two of them hummed their way over to the feeders and got a drink.

I was thrilled.  Absolutely thrilled.  I ran to get my camera and of course, as in the way things happen, they flitted away to the trees.  I could still hear them tweeting and buzzing around, but they wouldn’t come to the feeders again.

I waited and waited and waited.  Some might find waiting on the hummingbirds tedious and boring, their minds filled with a laundry list of to-do’s that they would rather be doing, but the simplicity of the afternoon overtook me and as I waited on the hummingbirds, I sat in the sun and let it warm me all the way to my insides.  There’s something healing about a little sunshine warming the innermost.

I watched my darling daughter play in the animal’s drinking water.  We have a waterer for the chickens and a big bowl for the dogs, but they don’t seem to understand the distinction, so the dogs drink after the chickens and the chickens drink after the dogs, and Emma Kate drinks after both.  It’s good for the immune system I say.

She got pine needles and dunked them through the water and sucked the moisture off, she splashed, and she laughed.  And the laughter from a little child on a sunshiny spring day is music to the ears.

She herded chickens and hugged them from behind and Grace, our heeler dog, herded right along with her.  Ever vigilant to protect Emma from chicken danger.  Meanwhile, Drew, who’s a couple milkbones short of a full box, chewed on a pink bone and didn’t ever once feel his manhood threatened.  Real dogs chew pink bones.

And finally as the day drew to a close, and the sun dipped behind the house, and the shadows grew longer, I got a halfway decent picture of a hummingbird.  But my true treasure is the several decent pictures I got of a simple day in the backyard that soothed and healed my soul.

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Posted in Animals, Family

A day in the backyard with 5 chickens and two dogs

Today the weather is agreeable.  The skies are a cobalt blue with an occasional fluffy cumulus cloud in the distance.  The wind is slight. It’s still chilly enough to need a coat, but when you find a good place to sit in the sun, your insides begin to warm and your heart smiles.

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As does your mouth.  Me and little britches went outside to enjoy it for a while.   The chickens were making an awful ruckus earlier in the day and I thought we’d better scout for eggs in case they’re laying willy nilly as they are prone to do.

In case you’re new here, my backyard is home to  5 wonderful chickens, two dogs and an occasional visit by me and my girl, EK.

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That’s Drew, wanting his belly rubbed.  It’s a dog’s life.

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The dogs are sweet, albeit a bit rambunctious.  And EK is a bit leery of their wagging tails, licking tongues, and overall ambitious nature.

Our girl dog, Grace, is a heeler/shepherd.  A tad on the hyper side, a herder of all chickens,  and may I add that she also is in heat.  It’s important to the story, trust me.

She loves Emma.  She just doesn’t understand her boundaries.

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She wants to love on her but outweighs her by about 25 pounds.

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Emma is always glad to see the dogs, as long as she’s in someone’s arms, safe and protected.  I set her on the ground and told those dogs NO, and allowed the morning to progress.  Drew is content chewing on a stick but  Grace wants to see EK up close and personal and Emma was happy to see her.

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Right until Grace rolled over on her back begging for a belly rub, bumped Emma and made her fall down.  I of course, did my parental duty and ran right over to brush away the tears and scold the dog, but not before I snapped a picture or two.  Not to worry, she was unscathed.

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Time passed.  A chicken wandered over, Grace followed.

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Emma fretted, but was relieved when Grace herded the chicken along and ignored the need for a belly rub.

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It’s okay, Emma.  It’s ok.

Later, a new dog entered our backyard through a bad spot in the fence.  A small black, high jumping dog.

We had gone inside but spotted him through the window.  Was he after the chickens?

Nope.  Just Grace.

We (as in J-Dub)  ran him off twice, then we (as in J-Dub) fixed the bad spot in the fence.

Who knows.  In a few months, the backyard may be home to five wonderful chickens, two dogs, and a passel of puppies.

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All wanting their bellies rubbed.

Authors note:  I started this post when EK was asleep, then she woke up and sat in my lap here at the computer.  I showed her the pictures and she said “Emma”  “bock, bock” “Drew” and when she saw Grace she said, “NO, NO, NO”.    And then “night night”.  She’s so precious.

Posted in Animals

The Chicken Ranch Case #378—–A Mild Case of Chicken Discrimination

For all my beloved followers who have stuck by me through the “adoption” of my 14 little chicks way back in March of 2011, who watched me nurture them, watched them grow, loved them, and cried through their misfortunes, I have yet another tale to tell.

But first, for old times sake, remember them when they looked like this?

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And this?

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Now they’re just a lot of five little old hens.  Yes, only five.  The herd began at 14 and I’m sure there would be many more with me if I had cooped them, but I allowed them to free-range and wander the world as all chickens long to do.  You must watch your tail feathers when you’re a free range chicken, as other things range freely as well.  Like coyotes and wild cats.    And of course there are the freak accidents as well, horse trough drownings and mysterious disappearances.

When we decided to move to New Mexico, I was going to leave the chickens in Texas.  The new owners showed some interest in them and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to take them with me.  The girls haven’t been laying eggs in quite some time now, probably due to the lack of daylight, and I’ve actually had to purchase eggs from the store for the first time in over a year.  But once we got here and discovered we could actually have them, I borrowed a huge dog crate and loaded all five of them up and put them in the back of a Toyota pick-up and headed west.  I looked a little “Jed Clampish” with a pickup bed  full of chickens and two dogs, a front seat full of plants and a backseat of two girls.

Now is the time that you shouldn’t judge me, as the chickens lack a coop at this time.  That first night I arrived, I had to make due by putting them under the back porch where they would be secure from any predators, minus the dogs of course since they have grown to love them as I do.  This was to be a temporary situation, but life has a way of making easy things hard and we just haven’t had the time to put up a proper house for the girls yet.

The next day, I let them out to explore the back yard with the dogs and peck around.  Then that night, as good chickens do, they cooped themselves back up under the porch, where they believe their home to be.  The problem here is chickens like to roost at night, up high, and there isn’t a place to do that.  The next night when I went to check on them,  4 of them were roosting together all snuggled up on the top of the borrowed dog crate, while the fifth one was sleeping on the dirt floor.  Poor little chicken.

The following evening, I stepped out on the back deck to feed the dogs and heard the sweet sleeping noises of the chickens and found 4 of them all roosting together all snuggled up on a patio chair, while the fifth one was sleeping by herself on another patio chair.

My heart broke a little bit.  It isn’t much colder here than it was in Texas, if at all really.  But I couldn’t help but feel bad for the little chicken who is all alone without the warmth of her hen-mates keeping her warm.  I contemplated fixing the problem, but really it’s just the way of the animal kingdom and I shouldn’t interfere and how could I fix it anyway.

But is it coincidental, that the little left out chicken just so happens to be a black chicken?  The only black chicken left in the group?  I have 2 yellows, and 2 black and whites, but only one black chicken remains and she is being ostracized.  Can these chickens see in color?  Do they realize she’s the lone one of her “kind”?  Are they discriminating?

Or perhaps these “mean girls” are jealous because the black ones really are the best layers, when they are laying.

Or does this black chicken choose to be alone?  Perhaps she wants to sleep by herself, heaven knows I would love a night of solitary sleep where I could spread out and toot if I want to.

So many questions remain unanswered.

The case of chicken discrimination remains open at this time.  I will be investigating this further and will report any new information as it becomes available.  In the meantime, rest assured that there will be no hazing or bullying of the black chicken under my watch.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Thank you.

P.S.  If you’d like to read some chicken archives, I highlighted some in orange in this post you can click on or you can always click on the words “Raising Chickens” in the topic list on the right side of the screen.  They have been quite the adventure.  Almost makes me want to get new ones.  Almost.