Priscilla

One of our chickens, Priscilla the Plymouth Rock, died over the weekend. DT and I were out of town and came home Monday night to find her lying on the floor of the chicken coop. We don’t know what happened – there didn’t appear to be any trauma or distress. She just died.

I feel terrible that it happened while we were gone and to have found her like that. I hope she didn’t suffer. I wish I knew the cause.

I know that in the grand scheme of life losses, it’s a chicken. But she was our chicken, our pet, part of our lives, and I’m still very sad. It’s so different without her and it’s amazing what a gaping hole can be left by a yard bird (my dad’s term of endearment for them). I feel like a crazy crying chicken lady.

Chickens eating mozzarella

The girls devouring a ball of fresh mozzarella – Gertrude, Deborah, and Priscilla.

I wrote about our chickens before – all three have/had such unique personalities, and Priscilla’s was really one of a kind. As far as chickens go. DT and I thought of her as the dim younger sister, always one step behind, trying to keep up, a bit slow on the uptake. The exception for this reputation was her figuring out how to weasel through the fence barricade we set up so they stay confined to the back of the yard. Gertrude and Deborah would be so mad and flustered (pace-pace-pace, back and forth-back and forth along the fence) to see Priscilla liberated on the other side.

And was she ever chatty. She looooooved to squawk and we were so entertained by her. I always enjoyed our talks. The yard is much quieter now.

I found this photo in a post from a backyard chicken group I follow and saved it on my desktop months ago. This, in a nutshell, perfectly encapsulates our funny Priscilla (and looks a whole lot like her):

Priscilla's mantra

Anyway. Again – perspective. But I’m sad and doing some grieving and adjusting to the change that is life without her. I just wanted to acknowledge and pay a small tribute for her being her. I’m thankful to have had sweet, strange, clucky little Priscilla in my life, however short our time was and no matter how silly it is. I won’t ever forget her and I know our family won’t either.

Rest in peace, Priscilla.


Now, About Those Chickens….

It is shameful that I wrote about our little chicken friends nearly a year ago after their arrival and have had zero follow-up since.  What a terrible chicken mamma I am!

So it’s high time I tell you a little more about the birdies.

chickens 1

First of all, they survived one of the most God-awful winters known to the entire state of Minnesota, poor babies.  Of course, our first cold season with them would turn out to be so immensely wretched.  They avoided snow like the plague, so didn’t come out of their coop and run for about five months.  I know they weren’t too happy, but they did just fine.

My dad helped to engineer a heat lamp using a 150-watt lightbulb covered with a clay pot to serve as a source of warmth inside their coop.  Here they are, basking in the glow:

chickens - lamp in coop

How round and plump they look!

I would often see them huddled up around the pot too, I’m sure that must have felt sooooo good to their little bodies.  They are THRILLED that summer [unofficially] is here and they have the run of the yard again.  And that it’s above 12 degrees.

chickens 2

Second, we’ve learned so much about chickens, and each of them has such a distinct personality.  It’s been fun getting to know them – as much as you can know a chicken, I guess!

DT and I consider Gertrude to be kind of like the older, protective sister.  She’s the first one out of the coop when we open the door each morning, and the first to check out any kind of food situation.  She’s also very observant and watchful when they are all out in the yard for any looming creatures, whether it’s a hawk soaring high above, a smaller bird swooping through, or a squirrel skittering about.

Gertie on the roof

It turns out Gertrude does not like when overly-curious dogs come to meet her! So….the garage roof was a better place to hang out that afternoon.

We think Deborah is certifiably nuts.  She’s just a little bit off her rocker, but that only adds to her character.  She had a couple of broody bouts last summer where she just sat and sat and sat and sat and sat in the nesting box, waiting to lay an egg (or sit on one[s] that had already been laid).  DT would don gloves, pull her out of the box (never without a few pecks), and bring her into the backyard to try and “reset” her little brain.  It took some time, but eventually the broodiness broke and she’d come running out with the other two.

Debbie

Gertie and Deb

Priscilla is a little squawker.  I love talking to her, she’s so chatty and responsive.  We’ve discovered she is the calmest and most docile of the three.  They all love to sunbathe, but Priscilla is usually the first to plop down, close her eyes, and soak up the rays – and isn’t in any hurry to move.  She looks like a little turkey.  We have been thankful for her mild nature as we treat a case of leg mites.  Yes, leg mites.  We are treating our chicken for leg mites.  Picture this scene:  DT chases after Priscilla, grabs and holds her (she’s noisy but mostly agreeable), while I apply a petroleum jelly-coated paper towel (cocoa butter-scented, just to further paint the picture) to her legs.

chickens sunbathing 1

Urban life with chickens, man.

Third, oh how they love FOOD.  They eat and eat and eat!  Bottomless pits, and they aren’t particularly picky.  Some of their absolute favorite foods:  saltines, seeds and ribs from bell peppers, watermelon, corn on the cob, strawberry tops, apples, scrambled eggs (Cannibalism?  Hmm), bread crusts with peanut butter, grilled cheese, bacon (Uh – is that wrong?  Piggy farm friends?), pizza crusts, waffles….the list goes on and on.  And yes, ice cream!  Girls after my own heart.

chickens - ice cream

chickens - saltines

Lastly, watching chickens run is pretty much the funniest thing I have ever seen in my entire life.  As I said to DT last weekend, chickens running will never not be funny.  If one of the girls takes off, the other two quickly notice and break into a lumbering, tipsy tear across the yard.  It’s hilarious.  They definitely travel in a pack.  They groom themselves obsessively, poop constantly (and without any shame or self awareness), and find enormous pleasure in rolling around in the dirt.

chickens - back step

Kitties and birdies living peacefully. Indifferently may be the more accurate description.

Regarding egg production….people always ask how many eggs we get each day.  Our answer varies, but we can safely say on average, two daily.  At least one, maybe even three.  They continued to lay throughout the miserable winter, but the eggs would often freeze and crack, so we had to throw many of them out.  There were a few dry spells where it was simply too cold and not enough daylight to produce.  Lately they’ve been going crazy – two or three without fail, so we’ve been handing out eggs to our family and neighbors so our basement fridge doesn’t burst.

So, that’s the scoop on the girls!  It’s been a fun adventure for all of us, we’ve learned a ton in the near-year they’ve lived here.  I’ve said it a thousand times….they are strrrrrraaaaange little creatures!  But we love having them around.  Hanging out with them on the patio is our new favorite summer pastime.

beggars

Beggars at the back door.

Cluckety-cluck!