Owning a home means I can have pet ducks. Any neighborhood that doesn’t allow chickens isn’t going to want me, either. I bought a couple used ducks right after I moved into my first little house in Seattle. Hens came soon after. Thirty-five years later I still have a yard full of poultry, but they’re rescues, now.
For most people, the “before days” mean before COVID-19. My daily life hasn’t changed much recently. For me the “before days” were before Dobby, my pet capybara. I look at these old photos with my pretty garden and green grass and know it will never be this way again, even though he is gone. The memories are everywhere.
The ducks and hens remain, and now the sheep are helping them to destroy the yard. It is habitat now, and I am grateful that the neighbors are amused, or blind or something like that. Forgiving, maybe.
Dobby loved his hens. Take a good look at the photo above. Dobby was so teeny tiny I put him out in a cage inside a fence under the apple tree. We have bald eagles here. They usually only take ducklings, but I don’t take chances.
Dobby’s in the photo above, too. He was still so small this flimsy swimming pool was good enough. For about a month. He loved to lean on the edge and let the water gush out. Then he ate the pool.
Most of you remember Big Dobby. He loved his hens. The ducks are kind of, well, dumb. But sweet. They are incredibly shy and the never trusted Dobby. Hens are lively, curious, and entertaining. They liked sharing their birdseed with their big brown buddy.
Hens are fascinating. I have had some who liked to sit on eggs, some who liked to raise the chicks, some who preferred teenage chicks, at that gangly stage. They would pass them off to each other. I had some hatch ducklings for me, back when I had a game farm. I love the babies, and the experience I gained from raising them helps with the hens I have today, though most of mine now are old gals. It’s been a few years since anything hatched around here.
There are two hens in the photo above. They really know how to have fun. They sell chicken toys in the stores, but I have never in my life seen a bored hen. They look forward to every minute of every day.
That’s Buffy in the photo above. She’s demonstrating how hens prefer to eat out of fancy pots. Also, why we wash the eggs here before we send them off to the neighbors.
Eggs keep a long time at room temperature if you don’t wash the “bloom” off them, but people here are used to refrigerating them. If eggs are leaving the house I wash them. I don’t put dirty eggs in my refrigerator, either. In China, they’re a bit smarter than we are. They don’t wash the eggs before they go to the grocery store, so they keep nice and fresh without refrigeration and wasteful packaging. They wash them up at home.
When I moved here twenty years ago, this fifteen hole nesting box was leaning against the back fence by a couple old rabbit cages. Some of the bottoms are rusted out, and I use a couple as storage, but there are still ten usable nests. Sometimes a hen will go rogue and lay in a cat bed or on the ground under a tree but they aren’t crazy like the ducks. Bev likes to lay her eggs in the sheep bed.
I gather up the eggs, keep some for us, and give the rest away to the neighbors. Maybe that’s why they don’t complain. Lately I have been including this little flyer so people can see who laid their eggs. I have eight hens at the moment, all rescues. Two of them don’t lay eggs.
Windy and Frieda aren’t laying right now. They are pretty old and might lay again next year. Or not. They are all molting: losing their feathers so they can get new ones for winter. I swear Angel lost half her feathers overnight about a week ago. It looked like a snowstorm under where she roosts at night. She looks goofy without a tail. They will all slow down on laying and sometimes in December I have to (gasp!) buy a dozen eggs. It’s painful.
For the most part mine are pretty healthy. The hard part is keeping them safe from raccoons and dealing with rats. That’s how most of mine ended up here. Raccoons can take half a flock in one night, and if folks figure out how to keep the rest of them safe, it isn’t long before the rats discover the chicken feed. That’s when you see them on Next Door, looking for a new home. Or else they stop laying and people want young hens that lay every day. I don’t require my hens to lay at all. This is an Old Hen’s Home.
Conchita managed to break her leg. If a dog breaks a leg, you take it to a vet, but people thought I was crazy to get a hen fixed up. Not her fault she wasn’t born a poodle. They’re right, I suppose, I am a bit off, but her surgeries (plural) weren’t as expensive as having a diabetic cat. And she was a sweet old gal. Her sister, Adelita, lives on, laying about four eggs a week.
I think you all know about Princess. She’s right behind me, asleep in the master bathroom. She has a heart murmur and gets meds three times a day. She was a perfectly healthy young hen when she arrived. She’s never laid any eggs. They would be the size of pigeon eggs, anyway.
At the time, I had an old hen, Lula, who was on meloxicam for her arthritis. Lula had a hard time getting around and spent a lot of time in my infirmary. Princess loved to sit with her, talk to her, groom her. It was the sweetest thing you ever saw.
After Lula passed, another hen took ill. Samantha, Otherwise Known As Miss New Hampshire, developed lymphoma. Even on meds she was weak, but I brought her out to the yard in the afternoons and put her under a heat lamp. One more time, it was Princess to her side, keeping her company. That’s just how Princess is.
So now that Princess is sick, she’s indoors. That’s mostly because I don’t want to go outdoors at bedtime to give her pills. She’s an expert at taking her pills. She pecks them right up, just like they were cracked corn. I also don’t like her out in the cold at night. And I like having her in the house during the day where I can keep an eye on her.
She prefers to sleep on the sink, but I set her down on the edge of the bathtub to brush my teeth and she stays down there for the rest of the night. I like to think she appreciates that I don’t turn the light on. I brush my teeth in the dark. Some morning she’s going to land on my shoulder, wake me up, and peck my nose!