Thursday, November 5, 2015

Lurking Predator

Chickens are serious about their sleep and hilariously checked out after nightfall. A big part of having chickens is making sure they are protected, thus why we have an electric net fence and a mobile coop. The chickens are amazingly efficient at loading up in their cozy coop as the sunlight starts to wane. Thus far, we've been successful at keeping all 20 of our chickens alive. With only five months under our belt, winter not too far away, and the adventure of living in a rural setting, we have to be willing to observe, learn, and change up our routines as needed. 

Returning from our walk this morning, my miniature schnauzer picked up the pace and her nose wnet into overdrive as we approached our front porch. Chipmunks are abundant here, so I started scanning for a glimpse of Alvin, Dale or Theodore. To my surprise and confusion, a much bigger animal emerged with a flurry from under our porch. My first thought was our neighbor's cat, but then quickly realized my error.  
Ranger Rick has decided to make sleepy observations from the crotch of our beloved maple tree today. Unfortunately for our fly-out-of the-net-fence, free ranging chickens, the debris and perennials around the base of this tree make it a favorite spot for scratching and finding chicken snacks. According to Wikipedia, "Contrary to popular belief, raccoons eat active or large prey, such as birds and mammal, only occasionally, since they prefer prey that is easier to catch, specifically fish, amphibians, and bird eggs." I'm going to put my faith in that statement, trust in the wild, survivor quality of our chickens, hope the roosters look up, see how things play out today, and order that pressure washer I've been intending to buy for a while. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015


In mid-June we loaded up in Red (our pickup truck) and headed over to my husband's former boss' house. Upon learning that we planned to get chickens, he insisted that he would happily give us some. With some ambiguity in his wording, he mentioned two hens and some chicks...maybe nine. Two hours later we returned home with two hens and eighteen one-week old chicks. They were ADORABLE!
Chick love

Cheeps and the nine designated as hers to mother

Salsa and her brood
Without much time to prepare and unwilling to spend thousands of dollars on a fancy coop, we rigged up a makeshift area that has managed to keep them all alive to date.
Cutting the chicken wire in preparation for our tiny chicks
We have 164 linear feet of 4' tall solar powered electric net fence enclosing a portion of our backyard and a contraption of cattle panels, chicken wire used more in the early days when the chicks were tiny, a tarp, and some big sticks for roosting jammed through the cattle panels.

As the winter and cool spring days found us rocking in our respective rockers in front of our soapstone stove, summer and chickens have us plopped on the back porch, beer in hand, watching chicken TV. It's educational, entertaining, and nutritious! Mothering done, Cheeps and Salsa starting laying eggs about three weeks ago. With a little hunting, we've found all of the eggs that they insist on laying outside of the safety of the net fence and in the cool shade of a kiwi vine, locust tree, or out of commission burn barrel.

The chickens are a mix of colors, shapes, and sizes. When I asked the previous owner what kind of chickens they were, his reply was simply, "Chickens." Our neighbor said, "Those are the kind of chickens that'll fly up in a tree to roost." In a nutshell they're survivors of a mix of breeds over thirty some years. They're a bit skittish around people but we're working on that. Every day I hand feed them some food. Two of the chicks have let me pet them and pick them up. These are proud mama moments.

I'll keep working on taming the chicks. Until then, we'll be entertained by the silliness of chickens. It takes them fifteen to twenty minutes each night to find their spot on top of the tarp or on one of the roosts below the tarp. "Finding" means pecking, nudging, crawling under, hopping on top of, sliding off of, and complying until they settle. I highly recommend Chicken TV over traditional TV.
Settling in for the night on top of the tarp (their choice of place to spend the night)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Growing up with oak floors, they were simply the floor that went down the hallway and into our three bedrooms; cool under my feet and slippery in socks. Majestic Virginia Hall at Mary Washington College had wood floors in the dorm rooms. My roommates and I quickly learned not to scooch our bottoms on the floor unless we were willing to pluck out splinters thrust from the well-worn floor. 

The following five years were spent on carpeted floors of varying descriptions. Only one carpet remains firmly in memory - a sculpted 70's wall-to-wall carpet remain whose color name I decisively discovered when I misplaced a roll away brussel sprout. 

My Portland, Oregon and Charlottesville, Virginia apartments returned me to the comfort of oak floors. 

Puppies and a baby found their footing on berber wall-to-wall carpet in Roanoke County, Virginia. Two years old, my son struggled with asthma and wood floors became a priority in the search for our next home. 

We moved to our Roanoke City, Virginia house with oak floors in May 2010. There's a dark spot in a bedroom from the previous owner's cat. There are holes drilled in room corners for cable television we never used. There's a couple of dents in my bedroom floor from when my son scarily pulled over my jewelry chest. There's a bit of tackiness where the 24" x 48" rug and rug pad lay in my office serving as a collection point for my family to snuggle and watch movies on my computer screen across the room. There's a dent in the dining room floor where my husband and I remembered the IKEA cabinet comes apart in two pieces. 

Today I did my final vacuum of these floors and closed the door on a chapter of my life. It was a chapter filled with moments that challenged me to stand strong, bend in the wind, adapt to the seasons, and soak up the moments of swinging in the shade of a mighty tree. Today I settle into my life in Eggleston, Virginia with a mix of 90-year old wood floors and 9-month old wood floors. Our lives will blemish these floors and we'll reflect on those stories as well.