THE CHICKENS: the goats (the big girls) push their way to center stage, but the bit players are the chickens (the little girls). I just love chickens! The flock started with 6, and now there are approximately 40. (As I told my accountant, they're hard to count because they keep moving.) Chickens are always busy, filled with enthusiasm for whatever they're doing. When one lays an egg, the cheering squad arrives to acclaim loudly that was the best egg ever!..and they do this every time throughout the day. When one finds a juicy bug, the entire flock runs to inspect it. At night, they settle down and sleepily gossip together about the doings of the day.
There have been special little girls over the years. It may be TMI, but I do have one hen now who sleeps in the laundry room. Stumpy broke her leg when she was just a pullet, and I splinted it and brought her into the "infirmary" to heal. Unfortunately, she lost the foot and I can't put her back into population. It's a fact that chickens do not tolerate the injured or infirm. So...Stumpy sleeps in the house and has her own covered dog run during the day. It's touching to see the wild turkeys come and sit by her for company. One-legged or not, she can outrun me if she's not ready to come in! There was Tattle-Tale Tessie, who accompanied me at dusk, quietly telling me all the mean things the other girls had done, "And then she said a bad word." Rover follows me like a dog whenever I go outside. Donna was a brain-damaged Barred Plymouth Rock who I brought in to die in peace. She didn't die. Although she was paraplegic, she learned to use her wings like crutches to propel herself, and she lived for years in the laundry room, going outside to sit under the junipers on a nice day. The flock turned Madelyn into hamburger (chickenburger?)...who knows why...and I brought her in to die. She didn't. She became Donna's companion in the laundry room. Long after she had healed and went back with the flock, she would come up on the porch at sundown and knock on the door (no, truly, she did!), saying she was ready to go to bed now. I'd open the door, she'd hop up into the house, walk down the hall to "her" room, and settle herself for the night. Many joined my mourning when Donna and Madelyn left us. Frederick the Great literally rules the roost. He's a gorgeous Osterlop-Araucana mix, black with gold neck feathers, and he gleams in the sun, showing irridescent turquoise and purple in his tail. He's a benevolent dictator, letting the girls get the choicest tidbits, but keeping them in line. (He enjoys all the privileges of his harem.) Not all roosters are as gentle as Frederick. There were a couple who were so aggressive that I couldn't go in to feed without taking a broomstick for defense. They were delicious.
You get the idea that you're "not in Kansas" anymore when your barefoot neighbor comes strolling up the hill with a black hen under her arm, asking to swap for one of my Buff Orpingtons. This same neighbor appeared one day...did I want to see what she had in her bra? Hmmm. She reached in and brought out a newly-hatched baby quail. She needed to keep it warm and safe. Alrightie then!
The little girls have kicked into full production and are giving close to two dozen eggs a day. There's just me! This could be considered too much of a good thing. I have buckets of eggs in both refrigerators, and still they come. I have a couple of customers, and I gave dozens of eggs as Christmas presents. I make 10-egg angel food cakes, custards, souffles, pound cakes...I'm running out of ideas and space!!
The sun is coming up, and Stumpy, in the next room, is beginning her morning ritual of banging on the washing machine, starting to squawk...quietly at first, growing in volume if she feels ignored. It's time to begin the day.