Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Help Name the New Little Chickadoodles

Spring has sprung and with it I have acquired five new chicks (two more are coming this weekend.)

Now, comes the part that I always want to dismiss--naming the chicks. 

So, I am turning to you, Chicken Women readers, to help me name the chicks. Below are photos of the five chicks that are rambling around in their warm aviary pen. Below the photos, which were beautifully taken by Keith Skelton at, is a description of their breed.

If you have a clever name or two, or even five for that matter, PLEASE send me a comment or post it on Facebook. I need all the help I can get!

#1 - Norwegian Jaerhon
This energetic, high-stepping chick was the first that dared to fly onto the roost. I covet her little white spot on her head; it almost looks like a bald spot reflecting the light. The Norwegian Jaerhon breed appeared in the United States only within the last decade. The chickens are relatively small in size and good layers of white eggs. The Jaerhon is the only breed credited to Norway. It was developed in the 1920s near Stavanger. This breed lays so many eggs that they have been known to lay themselves out. Oh, those Norwegians. They are always so hard working and productive.

#2  Silver Phoenix
Well, we started out in Norway and now we're headed to Japan. This rare breed, the Silver Phoenix, was developed over 1,000 years ago. Known for its long tails, it's a small bird that comes in either Silver or Gold. Unfortunately, I had a gold, too, and it died this morning. The Silver Phoenix is known for being docile and is not much of a layer--only one egg per week. It has threatened status and is considered a sustainable heritage chicken breed. Good thing this "masked" chick is such a looker with her Egyptian kohl eyeliner, because it seems that I won't be getting many eggs from her. 

#3 Black Silkie
 When I first met her, I thought something was wrong with her feet. I didn't realize she has five toes! In addition to five toes, Black Silkies have dark blue flesh and bones, and blue earlobes. She's so calm and docile, a temperament that already causes her to be pushed around by fellow chicks. Experts believe the Silkie originated in China or perhaps India or Java. Marco Polo was the first to give an account of this kind of bird (and he didn't do it while closing his eyes and saying his name outloud in a swimming pool). I wonder if the bird acquired the name, Silkie, because Polo was traveling the Silk Road?

#4 Black-Crested White Polish

I'd like to think this is the Black-Crested White Polish but I think we picked up the wrong bird when grabbing her from the feed store. Instead, I believe she is a White Polish without the Black-Crested headdress. (Although she does have some black peeking out so who knows.) She's a pretty little girl with a smashing neckline that a nice bauble would look good on. Thoughts are that this breed originally came from the Netherlands, but ended up getting imported guessed it, Poland, to England. This breed has been around since at least the 16th century (ah, the tales she could tell!) and used a lot for exhibition. 

#5 Gold-Laced Polish
With a better headdress than a woman at the Kentucky Derby or guests attending a royal's wedding, this little adorable Gold-Laced Polish already looks like she's wearing a babushka. She has the same history as her White Polish friend but with colors that are more  exaggerated. I have a feeling this one is going to make me chuckle whenever I see her.

Here's the flock of six before they became five. The one in the back center is the Golden Phoenix who chose to fly to higher heights rather than reside in the coop on the hill.

Guess which chick grows up to be which hen...
(It's not brain shattering to figure it out, but it's fun to see what their "adult" looks like.)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Woman Dying of Cancer Loves Her Life & Her Chickens

Jane Furnival wrote a very moving article about her terminal cancer...and how she loves her life, including her chickens in the Australian Herald Sun.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

It's Time to Hatch...Ducklings?

An adorable story from the United Kingdom about a chicken who ends up sitting on eggs for a month only to find out that they she had hatched five ducklings. The article appeared in today's Global Animal.

Coop de Ville

Photo credit: Tom Schmidt from Backyard

Retired English teachers from Crane School, Merry Schmidt and Tom Schmidt, built this fabulous chicken coop. Check it out on Backyards Chickens. Bob even gives directions on how to create your own. (I wonder if the horn makes the ooga sound? :-) )

This charming coop even has a vanity plate, which, by the way, is so L.A.
It's the Oregon Model Egg.

The chickens can really strut their stuff in this coop! Beautiful, innovative coop!!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Let Me Count The Ways...

   Los Olivos Chickens                                                            Photo credit:  Nancy Shobe

Over the last three weeks, I've had no less than ten or so close friends or relatives say to me, "I never imagined that you'd be into chickens."

"Never did I imagine either," I replied.

It's true. I grew up a suburbia girl--deeply concerned about the clothes I was wearing, the trendy styling of my well-coiffed hair, and learning about all things urban. (I confess; I was also a cheerleader.) Chickens weren't even a part of my lexicon unless it was cordon bleu. I always envisioned myself one day living in New York City, attending off Broadway shows, dining in tuxedoed restaurants and "doing lunch" at white-clothed cafes. Even though I grew up in Michigan (which some folks think is all rural, but it's not), THIS girl was going BIG TIME.

Big Time didn't end up being the Big Apple, but it did end up being the Windy City...and then the City of Angels where I landed my second job at the Music Center of Los Angeles. I met Mary Martin, danced with Gino Conforti, had the door opened for me by Tommy Tune and snuck backstage to watch the rehearsals of the Academy Awards.  This girl was now officially Big Time.

Never did I imagine.

Perhaps it was that red and white checked collared shirt that I'd wear on occasion while in high school. I'm not sure why I was attracted to it. It was a kind of Hee Haw style or perhaps Marianne from Gilligan's Island. I'd take the two ends of the shirt, tie them into a knot at my waist, slip on a pair of slender capris, poke some big hoop earrings through my ears, and head out for a casual evening.  I didn't realize what I looked like until my date with the convertible Corvette came to pick me up one evening to drive me down to Detroit's riverfront. He told me, in an offhanded and non-confrontational way, that I was dressed like a bag of Purina Cat Chow. Talk about instantly taking the country out of the girl! I was more determined than ever...

Never did I imagine.

I do have fond memories of being in the country as a young girl. Like the times I went to my relatives, The Fox's, who took me for tractor/hay rides and the times I traveled to my girlfriend's family's Up North cabin and went trail riding around the lake. I was drawn to the quiet, country life, but it seemed so foreign to me, and so... well, so dirty...and unkempt and filled with animal odors. I always thought horses were kind of interesting, though. In fact, I groomed my friend, Karen's, horses for her equestrian shows. I combed their manes and blackened their hooves with paint. But, chickens? Heck, I didn't even grow up with a dog or a cat.

Never did I imagine.

I AM into chickens. My daughter swears that I have a unsolvable case of empty nest. Perhaps she's right. But, what I noticed over the years as my life grew calmer, my hair longer, and my personality stronger, is that Vogue Urban wasn't really my style. I was more an environmentally-friendly, food-growing, blue jeans and flip flop loving Hippie Chick.

Where high-heeled nights with thin eyeliner used to be the hours I dreamed of and waited for, I am now more drawn to dawn when I can throw my hair up into a clip, slip on a well-worn pair of Levis, and head up the hill to the chicken coop. There's something about the early dawn, light glistening off my beloved chickens' feathers, that begins my day in a state of grace.

Never did I imagine.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Benadryl, Tylenol and Arsenic in Chicken? What?

What? You're Kidding Me...                                   Photo: Keith Skelton,
Check out Arsenic in Our Chicken? by Op-Ed Columnist Nicholas Kristof in today's New York Times. "Poultry on factory farms are routinely fed caffeine, active ingredients of Tylenol and Benadryl, banned antibiotics and even arsenic..."


Just one more reason to raise your own chickens...

The How-Tos of Burying a Chicken

    A Remembrance to Jersey                

How many remembrances of deceased animals can adorn your yard before it starts looking like Stephen King's Pet Sematary?

Last weekend, Jersey came down with Marek's disease. For someone who has never witnessed the effects of what is commonly known as "fowl paralysis", it's not a pretty sight. One moment, Jersey was hunting and pecking around the yard. Hours later, Jersey's a heap of feathers on the coop's floor, one wing splayed out. When I tried lifting her up and placing her back down, her legs gave way, collapsing beneath her.

I separated her from the other three hens because Marek's is highly contagious between poultry. I was assured by the feed store where she was purchased that she had been vaccinated as a newborn chick. But, vaccinations can sometimes go awry and new viral sub-strains can derive.

I tried every homeopathic remedy recommended on, to no avail. When her breath became so labored that I was sure she was going to die, I removed her from the cage and transferred her to a bed of clover. If she was going to die, I was determined to give her one day of acting like a healthy chicken. She nibbled a few leafs of clover. It was her last supper.

What do you do with a dead chicken?

The first thing I did was tell myself that my dreams for Jersey were no longer. I always joked that I was going to put a rhinestone bracelet around her neck and take her to the beach. "She'll be 'Jersey Shore'," I'd say and laugh.

The second thing I did was look for a remembrance of her, like a photo, but there weren't many. It's ironic because she was the prettiest of the flock with her iridescent feathers of aquatic blues and greens. She reminded me of an opal I used to wear. If I turned her toward the sunlight, I could watch her magical colors. But, there wasn't a good photo. Well, except for one--Jersey as a baby chick. It seemed to capture her personality as the leader of the pack.

Now another hen would need to assume the alpha role.

The third thing I decided to do was to call the feed store and ask them how to properly dispose of a chicken. Lucky for me I have land so I could give Jersey the proper burial. I asked what people do who live in very urban settings and the poultry expert and I agreed that we would rather not think about it.

He suggested that I bury Jersey near a tree so that her decomposing body would become fertilizer. "Dig a hole at least a foot deep and cover her body with some Dolomite Lime," he suggested. The lime helps decompose the body faster and cuts down the smell so that other animals won't be drawn to the gravesite. I knew already to put rocks on top after I buried her in the soil so that the raccoons wouldn't indulge in an evening snack.

I buried Jersey under the apricot tree just two nights ago, as the sun set across the hill. Earlier, while I was checking out of the home improvement store with the Dolomite lime, I did an impulse purchase of a little chicken planter to put at her gravesite. In my backyard amongst the lavendar and irises, a stone angel lays over the gravesite of my deceased cat. Now, a ceramic chicken resides near the apricot tree.

As I buried Jersey, I had the strange urge to begin to sing Ave Maria. Perhaps it's because the beautiful song has often filled the cathedrals during ceremonies for loved ones who have passed. Although I didn't sing, I did say a prayer of gratitude for Jersey's time with me and wished her a beautiful afterlife. And, then I planted a small rose quartz by her head.

Rose quartz is my thing. I plant it around the foundation of houses I move into. I give it away to friends. I have jars of it around the house. It's known as the love stone; it symbolizes the heart.

I  know. I know. It's kind of a ridiculous ceremony for the burying of a chicken, isn't it?

But, a ritual, whether it be for a person, animal or even a place, is a wonderful way to begin to let go. I am solaced knowing that Jersey received the proper burial and that a beautiful chunk of rose quartz lies beside her head.

In a world where we're often too busy to stop and reflect on life's meaning, it's important to give death the opportunity to remind us.

Rest in peace, Jersey.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Dye Your Hair Not Your Chicks

With Easter coming up on Sunday, Jennifer Kingson wrote an informative article in today's New York Times about dyeing chicks for Easter: Nobody Minds Dyeing the Egg but the Chicken is Another Story.  The dyeing is often performed by injecting the color into the egg before the chick is even hatched.