Thursday, May 31, 2012

Someone Ran A-Fowl and Now The Birds Need To Be Adopted

Carolee's Rooster                                                      Photo: Nancy Shobe

SB County Animal Services announced that they are looking for homes for a variety of birds, including roosters, hens, turkeys, turkens, pigeons and more. It was posted on

If you're interested, please check your zoning laws before adoption. Roosters are illegal in the city limits.

Adopt A Bird
updated: May 30, 2012, 1:01 PM 
Source: SB Public Health Dept
Santa Barbara County Animal Services is seeking permanent homes for hundreds of birds, including roosters, hens, turkeys, turkens, pigeons and more. The animals are available for adoption immediately upon an approved adoption application.
Interested parties are asked to come in to the County's Santa Barbara Animal Shelter at 5473 Overpass Road in Goleta and complete an adoption application. Serious applicants are encouraged to bring appropriate transport cages. Adoption fees apply and start at $5.00. Telephone inquiries are discouraged.
There is a wide variety of fowl available. Approximately 135 roosters and 140 hens comprise the majority of the fowl. There are also turkeys and turkens and other species available. About 80 pigeons are also looking for a forever home.
Anyone interested in opening their hearts and home to one or more homeless birds is invited to apply for adoption.

Monday, May 28, 2012

It's Not a Croc---I Need a Name for my Mini-Farm

I swear. It's not a croc of you-know-what...

I just heard this morning that I am the winner of the Crooked Brook Custom Hooded Sweatshirt Giveaway. I won a custom embroidered sweatshirt with a Dominique chicken on the back along with the name of my ranch/farm, slogan, and url. It was a contest on the Local Farm blog out of Utica, NY.

Winning the contest made me think, I need a name for this little mini-farm I have going. Right now, it's unofficially Chickie Doodle Farm, Where chicks and doodles unite. (Mango, my new puppy, is an English Doodle.)

But, I'm open for creative suggestions...

Any ideas on what to name my little So. Cal. backyard farm? Any good ideas for slogans?

Great ideas win organic eggs in a cool vintage egg carton that I just ordered...if you're local. If not, I'll think of something--like maybe some little chick notecards.

In an email response from Mako:

First off, what are you doing with my shoes?!

And, here's the picture he posted. I love it!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Shoestring City Ranch

This rescue ranch is located smack dab in the center of hustling bustling Long Beach on a 4 1/2-acre parcel rented from So Cal Edison. It's home to "sheep, chickens, guinea hens, rabbits, doves, ducks, goats of various caprine persuasions and Poncho the donkey." Horses abound as well.

The Shoestring City Ranch gives a healthy dose of the rural to those kids who are missing opportunities to be around farm animals and rural-type living.

Read about in today's Long Beach Post.    

Saturday, May 26, 2012

California's Egg-Farm Law Prompts a Push for National Standards

Stuart Pfeifer reports in Sunday's Los Angeles Times, that California's good egg law-- Proposition 2 that was passed by a wide margin in 2008 requiring chicken farmers to give their chickens enough wing-spreading and standing room--is trying to go national. In a rare move, the Humane Society and egg ranchers are joining forces to demand that standards be set for all national egg ranches, not just those in California. Read more about in in Sunday's Los Angeles Times.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Integrating Your Flock

Carolee's birds                                                                 Photo by Nancy Shobe

My thirty-day old chicks are no longer chicks, they are pubescent teenagers. Their heads, feet, and bodies are all out of proportion. Their feathers have taken on a "just woken-up" look and they've acquired some "leave me alone" attitudes. I swear one of them even has the small start of a pimple growing on her face.

Just two weeks ago, they scampered and chirped in their very large brooder box. Now they are roosting and pooping on each other. I've even seen them moshing while trying out their wings.

What should I do with my teenage flock?

It's time for integration.


I'm not prone to drama but everything I've read suggests that this process can be quite dramatic...and deadly...because, when the new hens enter the flock, the pecking order gets all "screwed up".

Instead of greeting the older gals with a big Southern "howdy", the young chicks stir up jealousy in the matronly hens by sashaying their tight backends. The older hens go into a huff and peck the lights out of the younger chicks.

For several weeks I seriously contemplated how I was going to integrate my nine new chicks with my adult hens because I was positive that one of the older ladies would dominate the pecking order like Cinderella's evil stepmother. I decided, teens deserve their own living space. I remember what I was like. Share a bedroom with my sister? Are you kidding me?

In order to avoid a major snit and save the new chicks from having to scrub dirt floors, I needed to create a separate space. But, how was I going to remodel the pen without it costing a fortune? I already had a $1 million dollar coop!  (Just kidding on the $1 million, but it sure seems like it sometimes.)

After a look-see at the local home improvement center, I decided to purchase some bamboo fencing. At $25 for 6' high by 16' long fence, I felt like I was in the pink...or, green, or money, or whatever that saying is. Twenty-five dollars to alter a pen? Not bad, I thought to myself. A worthy investment amortized over the next three months.

So, we, and I mean we because it takes a marriage of hands to divide a pen, stapled the bamboo fencing to half of the length of the pen to block the sunlight and then turned the fencing and pulled it across the middle to divide the pen in half. The only major addition was the nailing down of a floor stud to give the willowy bamboo fencing additional base support.

So, far, it's been least for the last two hours.

I discovered that the bamboo fencing serves three purposes: it shields the chicks from the "elements", creating a space that is more coop-like than pen; its loosely woven timbers afford a peek-thru rather than peck- thru; and it allows me to pull back one side and step in--a necessity to ensure there's nothing unsavory going on.

The common rule of feather is that chickens shouldn't be put with the older flock until they are 16-18 weeks old. So essentially, that means I have to wait three or four months until the full integration.

In the meantime, I'll sip mai tai's on the back patio. If the essence of some strange weed starts wafting downhill or beer can ringed tops begin glinting in the afternoon sun, I'll need to derive another solution.

Or, find solutions from integration of another kind.

Remember the Brady Bunch?

Our family has its very own Brady Bunch story. My grandmother, with her two sons, married my bonus-grandfather, with his three daughters and integrated their "flocks" when the kids were all teens. Throughout our many years of family gatherings and Thanksgivings, no one ever dared inquire "What was it like to meld a house of teens?" And, because my grandmother and bonus grandfather were of old-school values and private natures, neither shared their integration stories.

I often wonder what it must have been like to create a brand new household of five teens in the 1940s.  I ne'er heard one complaint.

Today, because research after research study flings statistics into our faces, and the media twists  and turns the stats into dramatic, fearful stories, many second marriage-ees are worried about integrating their flocks.

"One in five children will become a stepchild" and "60% of today's marriages create the need for integration," stats say. And, then there's the threat, "The second marriage has a '75% chance of failing unless a new child is created together.' Is joining families really that difficult? Do we need to worry?

One thing that seems to casta a pallor over the "blended family" is, perhaps, the easiest thing to change--the stupid name "step". Goodness. Where did this term come from?

A quick Google search reveals on Wiki answers that stepchild (steopcild) is an Old English term that means "orphan" and has connotations with the word "loss" or "to bereave to deprive of parents or children." "Etymologically, a stepfather or stepmother is one who becomes father or mother to an orphan but the notion of an orphanage faded in 20th century."

Could we PLEASSSSE move on from this horrific term and into the 21st century?

A blog by relationship experts Jann and Sheryl suggests we refer to the new children or parents as bonuses instead of steps.

The definition of bonus? "Something given or paid in addition to what is usual or expected."

Hmmm. I like that definition. It works for me.

Bonus parents. Bonus children.

I've had bonus children throughout much of my adult life. One from a marriage and several from dating.

What I have discovered is that there are no clear rights or wrongs about "integrating", but, there are few things I've learned along the way:

1.  It took me awhile to realize that I'll never be the biological parent. Sure, there are many bonus parents who assume the parental role and fulfill it quite nicely. But, it's a safer bet to assume you'll never be the "parent" and to treat your bonus child with the same care and respect that you would a great friend. I learned to expect nothing more. And, it eased a lot of pain, on both sides.

2. I learned to leave my parenting judgments locked away behind closed lips and to be creative. Every family has different parenting techniques. Judgments and criticism only serve to make the chasm larger. Think the bigger picture, and leave the tiny grit alone. And, if you can, manage a positive relationship with the ex or "the other parent." It makes the children's load infinitely lighter.

3. If necessary, it's okay to create a bamboo boundary for yourself to avoid a pecking war. Locking the bathroom door behind me while I slipped into a bubble bath became the perfect solution to a momentary breakdown in integration. A modicum of silence created a multitude of understanding.

4.  Be patient. I sat with my first chicken flock for over a month, sitting quietly in their coop, waiting until they felt safe enough with me to begin interacting. It's important to do the same with bonus children. No child likes an overbearing, gregarious "trying to be parent" hen or rooster. Patience always wins...and this is spoken from the Queen of Impatience.

5.  Put on your imaginary protective shield in preparation for some hard pecks. No matter how smoothly the integration goes, a pecking order still needs to be established. Don't take it personally; it will work itself out at the end. It's merely a hard fact of integration.

Integration of any kind takes incredible work, including large doses of diligence, patience, love and compassion.

And, one day after you've been sitting on the back patio for awhile, contemplating whether or not your integration's been a success, you'll climb the hill and discover several brand new eggs waiting for you in the nesting box. That's the bonus of integration.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Giving Up Sunshine & the Solar Eclipse

Sunshine                                                                                                  Photo by Nancy Shobe

In just a few minutes, the annular solar eclipse begins.  An annular solar eclipse occurs when the Moon's diameter is smaller than the sun's causing a halo-effect to happen during an eclipse.

I can already see the light changing on the back patio and through my office window. It's becoming an ominous orangish-yellow, the kind that  portends a weird astronomical event or the start of a wildfire.

There's something disconcerting about the moon's "win" over the sun's light. For a moment, I irrationally wonder if normal light will ever return.

It will, after an hour or so, I've been assured.

It's almost a religious event watching the interplay of the sun with the moon, their yin/yang dance with each. It's oddly reminiscent of the Hindu deity, Shiva, the god of destruction and creation. It takes darkness to know the light. It takes light to know the darkness.

I remember my first memory of an eclipse. It occurred when I was around the age of seven and living in Michigan. I was with my brothers at our next door neighbor's house watching the movie "The Birds" by Hitchcock on an old Philco tv set. It was high afternoon during a Midwestern summer, a time when the heat pitches such a fit that you stay inside.

A total solar eclipse occurred right when an especially terrifying scene of The Birds came on -- one in which someone's eyes were being pecked out. Their world went black trying to shield themselves with their arms. My world went black because there was no outside light. I sat in the den with twelve neighborhood kids, feeling completely alone, unnerved and anxious. Hitchcock couldn't have directed it any better.

It's scary giving up sunshine.

Yesterday, I gave up Sunshine, again. This time it was my eight-month old Rhode Island Red. She went to reside at a coop about 15 miles from mine, in a town more bucolic and with wide open space.

Sunshine was the friendliest of my adult hens--the one who flew to me when I walked in the backyard, and the one who bent down for me to pet her when I walked by. She was the best layer, too. I could count on a brown speckled egg every day from her. And, boy, was she a beauty. Her scarlet-red feathers slicked back against her perfectly toned body.

So, why did I give her up? Because, every morning at 6 a.m., Sunshine let out the most strangled, high-pitched sounds. Like Tippi Hedren in The Birds, the croaking sounds were frightening. They would go on and on for at least an hour and often would begin, again, mid-day. Sometimes, her gargled cry even carried on until she was safely roosted in the coop at night.

I knew I really had a problem when I was driving down a neighborhood street about 1/2-mile away and could still hear her plaintive cry through my car's closed windows.

I will never know what made her carry on with such high-pitched cackling chatter. I did read once that Rhode Island Reds can be high-decibel chicks.

I kissed her goodbye, right on the top of her head, placed her in a cardboard box, and watched as my friend drove off with her last night.

It's not easy giving up Sunshine.

And, in just about one hour, I will kiss away the sunshine that's been streaming through my yard all day.

According to the countdown on my I-Phone app,  in 60 minutes the moon will shove its dark body in front of the sun and cast an odd-colored shroud over me; my coop and 11 chickens; my blackberry-brambled hillside; and, my Englishdoodle, Mango. I will stand in its thick orangish yolk, absorbing its haunting glow, feeling the aloneness and the strangeness that only an eclipse can bring.

Thank goodness this is a rare event.

Because, it's not easy giving up sunshine.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Three Hens and a Peacock

I highly recommend this excellent children's book written by Lester Laminack and illustrated by Henry Cole. It's ideal for children ages 4-8. It's the perfect humorous tale of a peacock, three hens and even a very wise dog who live on Tuckers' farm. I purchased it a few days ago from Amazon and absolutely love it. I can't wait to read it to my granddaughter.(And, I do not know the writer, illustrator or publisher so this is a unbiased recommendation.)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Nurturer's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all of those mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, nonparents, and anyone else who takes time to nurture. We all need to care for and encourage the development of each other.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Put All Your Eggs In One Basket -- and Watch That Basket!

Egg Basket for Chickadoodles' Output                                                                Photo by Keith Skelton

I often heard while growing up, "Don't put all of your eggs in one basket."

But, today I learned the hard way. I didn't put my eggs in any basket. After culling them from the nesting box, I put them on a backyard patio chair and went for a walk with my new puppy, Mango. When I returned just 45 minutes later, the eggs were gone. Disappeared. The only clue left was the egg white slime on the cushion and a minuscule shard of shell left on the arm of the chair. 

Where had my eggs gone?

I needed every egg the hens would lay before Mother's Day, when I would be baking some quiches and perhaps a souffle for my daughter's first Mother's Day. And, now I was down a day's "crop."

What had taken my eggs?

Skunks, raccoons, rodents...the usual suspects came to mind. But, it was mid-morning, broad daylight, and the sun was already starting to burn oven hot temperatures into the patio brick. I doubted that these nocturnal animals would venture out in the heat of the day. (Although, research shows that skunks and raccoons will come out during the day to take a much needed break from their little ones.)

Because the eggs were tucked up against the chair's cushions, I decided it must be birds--most likely, blue jays. You know those jays. Yapping, flapping, aggressive jays--the bane of many a gardener.

Varmints, pesky, unforgiving behaviors...

Reminds me of the financial world. That seems to be where the idiom "putting all your eggs in one basket" usually roosts. Who hasn't heard that your "nest egg" should never be invested in one place? Diversify, whether it be real estate, the stock market, gold, silver or ETFs.  Because if it's in one place and the basket "drops", you've lost everything.

But, what if you've lost everything and you didn't put all your eggs in one basket? 

Lately, I've heard even more tragic stories about the tough economy putting people into homelessness or near homelessness. Just last night, I met a woman who told me her woeful tale of her design business plummeting over the last few years. She nearly lost her home, but managed to rent it and cover her costs while she scaled down to a space barely big enough for her to move around in. This "mini-me" home operates as her place of slumber and home office.

"I went from driving a first-class BMW to driving my father's old Toyota," she said. "I moved to a home/office that is only about 1/8 of my previous space," she lamented. "I want to complain, but, the odd thing is that everyone who comes over to my new place seems to like it better."

We conjectured as to why that might be. Intimacy. Simplicity. Good energy.

"I'm not sure exactly why it is," she said. "All I know is that my life has gotten a lot lighter since I've disposed of nearly everything."

Paring down. Downsizing. Over the last several years, I, too, have simplified--out of desire and need.

It began with garage sales and Craig's List postings after a separation.

The first to go was the antique gold-leafed chandelier with crystal fobs that I had dreamt of placing in a country home. I held onto that chandelier for a long time because it represented hope: a big family, lots of children, rambling acreage. But, a large country home for just little ol' me?  I clicked the light off on that dream. I sold the chandelier for well below its wholesale cost and re-discovered it several months later hanging from a ceiling in a local shop . Like an old acquaintance that you run into after many years, I noticed it but had nothing to say.

Next came the coveted hand-painted Mexican table and its coordinating woven rug. That, too, I had believed would embellish a country kitchen one day. Neighbors, friends, perhaps even a famous writer or two, would sit at the table, slide their bare feet along the rug, sip a cup of tea or a glass of Chardonnay, and share tales of their fascinating lives. When I finally came to realize that no bare feet would be sliding across the rug; no elbows would be resting on the table, I sold the table and carpet to a family whose dreams still seemed intact.

Having lived in what could be termed a small estate, I also owned several paintings and prints in gilded frames. Good art encased in an emperors' robes. What was once divine and appropriate, now seemed garish and out-of-synch. So, those, too, were sold. 

I returned the grandfather's clock to the doorstep of my ex's home with a note that said, "You can have this. I know you love it and I don't need it any longer." It's ticking hands brought memories of a different time that no longer included me. 

I even sold the marital bed with all of its silk trimmings.

Three garage sales and three homes later, my load has gotten much lighter. Oh, sure. There are still a few items there that need to be culled. But, no longer is every square inch of my garage stacked with vestiges of my Halcyon Days. 

The interior perimeter of my garage is now lined with Costco metal shelves upon which sit a dozen or so blue plastic bins. The bins contain absolutely nothing of material worth. There are no hidden baubles waiting for the auction block. There are no future dreams silently inscribed upon their lids. 

Memories are all that remain. Like the wood doll cradle that my Grandfather Mac constructed from the tree he chopped down and the baby blanket my Grandma Williams spent hours knitting with arthritic fingers. And, the poster that my daughter created with chalk pictures for Mother's Day, telling me how much she loved me. More than three bins are filled with family photos and another bin with my published writings.

Paring down my life has not only made my life simpler, it has also brought me to me. When I removed the remnants of old, dusty dreams, the vestiges of what used to be, I discovered a golden egg. One that is infinitely more willing, more wanting, and much more patient, to let fate drive my course. I have, I think, finally taken my hands off the steering wheel.

As I prepare for Mother's Day and know that, shamefully, I'll probably need to go to the Farmers' Market to pick up a dozen more eggs, I realize that I have always lived my life by putting all my eggs in one basket...whatever journey I am on at the moment, I am completely and utterly devoted to it. Then, when the eggs break and the journey ends, I begin again.

This time with a new basket.

Put all your eggs in one basket -- and watch that basket!
                             - MARK TWAIN, The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson

Friday, May 11, 2012

Chicks in Flicks: A Possible New Documentary Film About Chickens

The Clucks Click                                           Photo by Nancy Shobe

You gotta love it.

According to its marketing, it's "the world's largest funding platform for creative projects." Search for chickens and you'll discover thirteen chicken projects. Some have been successfully funded--like Dinner with Fred, a short film about chickens who saved a man's life, and The Chicken and the Dog, a children's adventure book about urban chickens and their dog--and some have been, shall we say, less than successful (like the project requesting funding  to build a new poultry house on their OWN heritage farm).

As a creative person, I love nothing more than seeing what is incubating and about to be hatched.

Friends know this and recently sent this project along:
Bridge funding is currently being sought for a documentary film entitled: Chicken the Movie. Kermit Blackwood, along with critically-acclaimed filmmaker and producer Nick de Pencier, are planning a documentary film about chickens.

Here's an abbreviated version of what their site says:

Chicken the Movie will be the first feature length, educational documentary on the surprising and critical relationship between humans and chickens. Our film will explore the evolution and ecology of the chicken’s wild ancestors; the history of agriculture, civilization and human migration; the surprising diversity of non-edible products that include chicken; developments in cooking and food production, poultry genetics, immunology and the chicken’s role in pop culture.

Chicken the Movie asks: How did this iconic animal become the most populous and recognizable bird species on the planet and what is the future of the chicken? 

What to learn more about Chicken the Movie? Check it out at:  http//

I'm not advocating that the project be funded and I don't even know the principles involved. But, I do think it is an interesting concept for a documentary film as chickens are definitely the mascots of the sustainability movement and are overtaking backyards everywhere.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Meet the Flockers

THANK YOU to everyone who joined in the spirit of fun by sending in names for the new chicks. Below are the chick pics along with their chosen names and an updated photo (not taken by Keith Skelton, so, please, excuse the inferior quality.)

A select group of judges voted on the chick names and the counts were tallied by Arthur Andersen and Company (well, they would have been if they were still in business). The first dozen eggs has been delivered to Leslie Westbrook as she submitted a page-length (yes, a page-length) email of potential names! Thank you, Tanta Leslie.

Other egg six-packs will be awarded to participants who either sent in a large number of names or whose names were used. If one of your suggested names has been omitted from the list, please know that your submission was appreciated but due to the arrival of a granddaughter and a puppy, things got a bit...shall we say, scattered. I had to scratch around to pull together the list.

So, with a large cluck and a great squawk of appreciation...
Here are the chicks...with updated photos, too!

P.S. Do you think I should be offended when one jokester replied to my original request saying,  "Is this the time to say they look just like their mother?"

#1 - SKOLL
The Norwegian Jaerhon
Three-day old Norwegian Jaerhon                                                                         Photo by Keith Skelton

Skoll, the Norwegian Jaerhon, at three weeks old                                                    Photo by Nancy Shobe

The Silver Phoenix
Three-day old Silver Phoenix                                                                                   Photo by Keith Skelton

Cleopatra, the three-week old Silver Phoenix        Photo by Nancy Shobe

#3 - ZEN
The Black Silkie
Three-day old Black Silkie                                                                                     Photo by Keith Skelton

Zen, the Black Silkie, at three weeks old                                                                 Photo by Nancy Shobe

#4 - Lady MacBeth
Black-Crested White Polish

Lady MacBeth, Black-Crested White Polish, at three weeks old                                Photo by Keith Skelton

Lady MacBeth, Black-Crested White Polish, at three-weeks old
Photo by Nancy Shobe

#5 - Super Swag (on her good days)
Zsa Zsa (on her bad days)
Gold-Laced Polish
Three-day old Gold-Laced Polish                                                                              Photo by Keith Skelton

Super Swag/Zsa Zsa, the Gold-Laced Polish, at three weeks old  
Photo by Nancy Shobe

Introducing the New Chicks that were added two weeks ago...


#1 of the Buff Orpingtons

#2 of the Buff Orpingtons

#3 of the Buff Orpingtons

Over 100 Chick Names Were Sent In, Including:
(Please note: you may also use these names for puppies, kittens, fish, hamsters, and even children...)

#1 - Yvla (Scandanavian for she-wolf)
        Kaia (Norwegian name meaning hen/bird)

#2 - Cleopatra

#3 - Zen
       Meena (Hindu name meaning blue gem)

#4 - Martha Stewart
        Guinivere (Celtic name meaning white wave)

#5 - Duchess
        Miss Priss
        Trilby (English name for soft hat)

Alexander the Greatest
Black Swan
Cary Grant
(The) Colonel
Foghorn Leghorn
Fuzzy Wuzzy
General Tso
Half Pint
Holly go lightly
Jacques Cousteau
Johnny Depp
Kung Pao
Lady Capulet
Lady MacBeth
Lady Rah Rah
Mae West
Moo Shu
Question Mark (as in the butterfly)
Robert Conrad (Go ahead...knock that battery off my shoulder)
Sneaky Pete
Speedy Gonzalez
Super Swag
Yolko Ono
Zsa Zsa

THANK YOU to the 28 family and friends, from coast-to-coast, who submitted names!