People have asked, what stage of the pandemic is it for you?
It’s chicken invasion phase!!!
People have asked, what stage of the pandemic is it for you?
It’s chicken invasion phase!!!
Well it was a strange year with much chicken and insularity (and occasional forays of The Rat War into our quiet existence). The babies have grown into their own sort of feathery boats, sitting and plumping in the dust for dirt baths, and laying … well, like spring chickens.
I shared my morning waffle with the chickens (except Business 2.0 who apparently was busy laying somewhere) and this is the result.
Late addition: Jason, as usual has way better photos (better phone camera!) He captured the early moments when they were like “Is this food? What is this?!!”
Jason was worried about her because he feared a bad molt but she was found inside the coop. She had been sluggish due to losing feather so Jason tenderly put her in the coop. But the next morning she was dead. She was about three years old.
We will put her in the dog carrier and take her to the vet to be cremated this week.
Well the best of chicken lives have to come to an end, and our dearly departed Backup Chicken had a great run at EIGHT WHOLE YEARS! She died in the carrier – we think of heart failure – on the way to our bird vet, and the staff kind as they are just sent us the condolence card. The chickens who pass away from our flock are cremated and disposed of by the same vet.
Hot Spare, Parity Bit, and Backup – we salute you as the trio that came from Renton. You done good. Backup was the last survivor and now she goes to her final happy coop.
As the rest of our girls are over three years old (and they have tended to last only til four) we thought to introduce some young bird blood. Thanks to a kindly chicken breeder in Tacoma we now have THREE NEW CHICKENS whom Jason affectionately calls “The Babies.”
Above left see older chicken inspecting new chickens in carrier; right see Blue, Buff and Joan of Egg (aka Snowbutt). The last one was named by my coworkers from Age of Empires, and who also call her Jeanne d‘Ouef because they are fancier than I am.
She needed another name because Jason felt sure she would outgrow the feathers that make up her “snowbutt” – we’ll see. Meanwhile my team at work has their own chicken to root for, of the newbies.
As you can see in this closeup, they are still much smallers then the adult hens.
I admit personal fondness for Buff, the Buff Orpington. She definitely peeps a lot. Blue is the most inquisitive and the friendliest to Jason.
Here’s hoping you are staying safe and sound. Summer is for peeping chickens !
Hmmm we had not realized this before, with all the distractions of this spring but… it is in fact, according to Chinese tradition, THE YEAR OF THE RAT.
I am fortunate that I receive annual postcards from Seattle’s amazing poet and painter Alan Lau. I would otherwise not realize these important cyclical matters, nor get to see how he applies his creativity so fluidly. Each one is hand-painted!
But, it being the rats’ year – well, it would definitely explain things.
Alan Lau’s work can be found/bought here.
Ok, so where we last left off the battlefield was slathered in peanut butter and high hopes of victory. And indeed the first time Jason put out the peanut butter, he was rewarded with an instant victory – new rat next day. Or maybe a fat mouse.
We are properly respectful of the rat corpse and its next of kin, and not showing it here, thank you very much.
And so he tried again the next day, but found evidence of new digging… and an untouched peanut butter trap?! Had the rat martyred itself and with its dying breath, notified the others? Or was it something about the traps Jason was setting?
Jason had bought a plethora of traps. For all different size of rodent soldiers.
He speculated that we’d caught the biggest first, because it was bigger traps he set out first, so he went down to the smaller size, again with JIF peanut butter, that warrior substance of many a Texas public school lunch.
Smaller mouse, this time. Perhaps he was on to something.
We are properly respectful of the mouse corpse and its relatives, and also not showing that here.
And then… the traps stopped catching anything. Regardless of size.
Worse, it became trench warfare.
When I say trench war, I mean… there’s a trench not wrought by human hands here! And mostly dug out in a night or two!
Jason tamped earth into the above trench, and pondered his options as Supreme Chicken Commander. The issue continues to be one of PsyOps. If Jason is dilgent and takes the chicken food in every night, there is no evidence of rat… with or without traps being set.
But if food is in the coop the mice, as Kool Moe Dee once sang, Go to Work. Here’s the hole, before Jason filled it in. Perilously close to getting under the coop wood.
Here in Seattle at the epicenter of the coronavirus, and the butt of a lot of toilet paper jokes (see what I did there? I blame this stupid epidemic), we tend to ruminate more about what’s in front of us at home.
Since we are home, and in theory could scare away any hawks that stray into urban territory, that means Jason has been letting the chickens out for the day and locking them in at night. It’s also why he’s spent extra cycles on the Rat Wars; he can’t really get away from the battlefield like the days when he was commuting to work.
But what the panicked world also doesn’t know about Seattle is, is that it is spring. Seattle springtimes mean a lot more to the people who live here. For many months we have suffered under cold, rainy drizzle with a lot of darkness and then more darkness sprinkled on top of it. We have fled to Hawaii or California if we can afford it, anything to break up the monotony and oppressiveness of a weather that sneers at our Goretex and scoffs at the triple lattes we are consuming to stay awake and not hibernate.
We understand about fighting the darkness to the marrow of our bones. And don’t mistake me; it hasn’t left yet. The war for the soul and the health of Seattle isn’t over yet. Even the dang Rat War isn’t over yet.
But now… we look up, we look outside. Coronavirus be damned, spring is also here. There is darkness, but also, there is chicken, and a lot of squawking and rooting for worm.
Of course, only AFTER I bought 3 dozen eggs to last us through work-from-home mandates, the hens decided it was spring enugh to get busy. Including Startup 2.0 (layer of the blue egg).
In Seattle springtimes, if the sun shows through the clouds for 10 minutes, we remark on it. I have definitely seen blue in the sky intermittently the past week – maybe even more than just in the 10-minute increments. It’s been sharply cold during those sun breaks but still… enough to con the trees into showing off.
The trees are definitely doing their number on my allergies.
Keep checking for virus symptoms but no, it’s just the trees.
Even the chickens get “yard-fever” and try to break out, though Jason has dissuaded them with stringing wires atop the fences and general arm flapping.
The plum tree has flowers and our one plum-crazy hen (who will no doubt be featured later in the year in her aerial acrobatics) is already fluttering up to EAT THE FLOWERS. What is wrong with you, feathery dino!?? There is no fruit up there yet!!
Honestly, the best you can do about springtime in Seattle is savor it, get out the Kleenex(tm) , and don’t lose your head. Summer will get here eventually, even if it lasts just a full 30-minutes and you overturn your kayak. We will all wash our hands, long enough and frequently enough. We will make jazz hands and elbow tap. We will look after our neighbors. And we will get through this spring of COVID-19 . Together.
In closing, Jason and I hope you will take Ricardo and Hat Chicken’s admonition and seek out friends & neighbors (if you don’t have the luxury of feathered, make do with human ones). It’s a weird spring and it makes people hesitant. Just like the wintery dark makes us hole up and hide with our Netflix. We can be medically safe and still socially support each other.
A text, a FB post, a squawky walk on the sidewalk. They do wonders for the soul in Seattle springtime and dammit, regardless of mayhem and madness, we can declare it: it’s spring.
P.S. Watch me completely jinx it by blogging this.
P.P.S. Left, Ricardo. Right, Hat Chicken.
Where we last left off our story of conquest, corn and cat laziness, Jason had declared war on the rodent population eating the chicken feed and pooping in our chickens’ coop.
(While we call it the Rat Wars, the size of the creatures suggests it’s not the disgustingly large urban Seattle black rat, but some kind of smaller mouse contingent. Jason in fact says they are cute, small, pale and probably mice. But he has become embittered after being in the trenches (and digging trenches and filling them with gravel). A damned, dirty little war with little to show for it so far except Lowe’s receipts… )
Despite the gravel, the boarding up of gaps, and all measures so far into 2020, so far the little sneaks in the night have been winning. Our aging and arthritic cat has sworn off being a predator, preferring hairball treats, and so alone and into the night after work, Jason has battled for the terrain of chicken.
The Rat War has laid heavily upon his soul. The little buggers are relentless in their desperation (it’s been a cold, wet Seattle winter.) He has done all the passive agressive measures a PNW resident can muster up (and that’s plenty) to try and thwart the little beasts. They chew through wood and dig intricate tunnels in dirt.
Jason, the kind of man who scoots spiders onto papers and shoos them out windows instead of stomping on them like I do, is no bloodthirsty killer. But time had turned him into a grim shadow of his former self. He sighed mightily.
“It’s time for the peanut butter,” he said sadly, and Saturday night set out a trap with a dollop of peanut button on each one.
The chickens were inspired with SUCH POWER for this endeavor.
Mindful of his last failure, this time he laid the peanut butter on thick.
What happened next?!! Tune in to the next exciting saga of man vs. mouse! Or thief in the night vs chickenfeed!!!
It’s true, we haven’t been writing much about the chickens (except a spare vacation photo here and there) this fall and winter. It’s because Jason has been embroiled in the longest running conflict of his pampered urban chicken farming life.
To explain this we need to start at the beginning. As in most things you can follow the money, but perhaps where chickens are concerned it is best to follow the corn. The tasty tempting Omega-3 fortified organic feed. The Whole Foods organic salad greens. And of course back to the corn again.
Well, too much of a good food thing invites the uninvited nibbling guests, and in this case there is some sort of rat enclave or mouse mafia that has decided that what’s going to the chickens by rights oughta go to them.
Note: our cat has retired to a life of leisure and scowling and no longer pounces on anything but Tasty Treats.
So about a year ago in the spring, Jason noticed that there was mouse poop pellets everywhere. Further investigation showed that in addition to a few gaps in the deck above the coop, there was bits of mouse fur stuck on the chicken wire holes. It turns out those are big enough that mice can quite happily climb through them.
They’re adorable little things but the poop is too much.
Being the stalwart homeowner, Jason of course went to a home repair store and bought an enormous pile of hardware cloth. It was a solid two days of work to re-ring the coop with it and clean out the mouse debris. All was quiet for months.
So after painstakingly repairing the chicken wire and gaps of the coop, it was a troubled brow that greeted me about 3 months ago.
After work, Jason came into the house from checking the chickens and said:
“Oh noes! The Rat War has begun,”
and proceeded to tell me in excruciating detail how, he’d hammered and patched up the gaps in the wiring and the boards but now..
Now the rats were digging like an ancient siege war. Jason had laid in heavy gravel deposits to prevent spurious digging. Overnight, avoiding this area, they had dug at least 6 inches underground, around the obstacles he had put in their way. One could almost imagine mice atop trebuchets, directing heavy fire at the coop walls. It was a damned, dirty, and also wet (this is SEATTLE WINTER) war.
Try to imagine – the night before you tuck the chickens to bed, snoozing in their coop o’ Omlet splendor. You have prepared your fortifications. You have done what urban mankind does best, outwit nature.
Only to find they had broken in, eaten the chicken food and in an orgy of rat gastronomy, pooped everywhere. Gross.
What will Jason do next? See the next post for “Peanut Butter Preventatives…”
Stay tuned for the next updates.