Scheherazade’s Chicken Story

I’m up on a ladder scrubbing the walls for painting when the Bearded One says, on his way out the door, “Oh, remind me to tell you a chicken story.”

Usually I write everything down, but I can’t write right now.  I express interest, but also a touch of irritation at this burden, and say “Oh, goodie,” which I don’t think he heard, which I’m glad for.  His chicken stories are always good, and he’s had a lot of them to remember lately.

The other reason I feel bad for my slightly bitchy “oh-goodie” is that the Bearded One fears for me up on ladders.  He is an ex-litigator who still sees disaster everywhere, but especially on ladders.  Perhaps he is thinking of the half-dead squirrel Garfield trotted into the house with this week, and how this would affect me 16 feet up.  He knows my hip’s been bugging me.  Perhaps this is his unconscious Scheherazade (pronounced Shuh-hera-zod) strategy to keep me extra careful, promising me a chicken story if I stay alive just as the Persian queen promised the king the conclusion of her stories the next day so he didn’t behead her.  Anyway, he leaves the house pronto so as not to distract me.

I finish cleaning the west wall of the living room and look out the window up at the aviary where the Bearded One is working.  He’s been there for days now, and he’s had a steady stream of chicken tales.  Again, we never knew they had personalities.  The chickens have been crazy this week.

Layers need 14 hours of light to stimulate the pituitary gland inside their eyes, which sends a hormone to the ovary with the message to produce an egg.  We’re losing five minutes of daylight a day and are under 12 hours now.  The hens will stop laying for the winter soon if left alone.

The eggs have already tapered off, but our ten hens still give us a couple of dozen a week.  We want to continue that, so we just started supplementing their light for 3 hours (using a timer) in the evenings.  This is tricking Mother Nature, which I don’t usually like, but that’s what it takes.  It doesn’t hurt them, but it’s an adjustment and must be contributing to their antics this week.

Yesterday the Bearded One was alone in the barn and heard a clucking and generalized chicken bitchin’.  Chickens are not allowed in the barn because they’ll foul the goat’s hay, but the littlest banty we have, Dusty, had wedged under the door and was nesting in the new corner goat feeder.

Cheetah went to the same spot the day before, but she snuck into the barn when I was raking out the spent hay and hauling it to the new gravity-fed chicken compost run, also known as the Chute.  The hens and goats are doing a great job of turning it as it makes its way down the hill.  I came back to close up the barn and there was Cheetah nestled down into Sage’s hay.

Our ten layers are all just over a year old except Kimber, the mama banty who came to us as a wild hen with seven 3-day-old chicks.  We still have four of those chicks — Dusty, Marilyn, Spot and Stevie.  (We sold the two roosters at auction back in January when they were five months old.  And we think a raccoon got Blackie.)  Kimber has been having an extra irritable week, and drove her daughter Stevie to the outside roost with her pecking.  Dusty refused to perch next to her mother, choosing instead to climb onto Jane and Cheetah’s backs.

Maybe it’s the full moon making the chickens act weird.  Native Americans call this particular full moon the Fruit Moon because of the falling apples, and we’ve actually got a lovely crop of red Spartan apples to be harvested.

The tree is four years old now, and this is its first real crop.  I plan to put the apples in waterproof plastic containers in the root cellars.

I step down from the ladder, and can see the Bearded One kneeling on the trail beside the smaller root cellar, patting wet cement into safety steps in the hillside where he saw me slip recently.

When he comes in, I tell him I love him and that I’m sorry if my oh-goodie hurt his feelings. I tell him I was very careful on the ladder, and I ask to hear the chicken story.

He tells me that he doesn’t know what I’m talking about but is very glad I was careful, and that here’s the story.  Leah, the Rhode Island Red and boss of the chicken yard, even over Kimber, saw him in the aviary and came hauling across the upper pasture toward him.  “Awwwkkkk!!  Brrkkk-brkkkkkkk–brrkkkkk–Awwwwkkkk!”

She then stopped and flapped her wings, and bobbed up and down repeatedly in a pattern, which impressed the Bearded One as some sort of never-before seen mating dance.  She kept it up and grew more frantic and insistent, and the Bearded One knew that she wanted something.

He looked closer, and her dance movement — like fake pecking — drew him toward a point of focus hidden in the middle of the pasture.

“It was a banty egg,” he said, laughing.  “She was calling me over to find it.”

I make eye contact with the Bearded One, put down my scrub rag, take off my rubber gloves, and give him the most coquettish chicken dance he’s seen in some time.  It worked for Scheherazade.  Heck — it worked for the chicken.

9 responses to “Scheherazade’s Chicken Story

  1. I love finding a new Farmlet post in my rss feed reader :). Ahh the personalities of chickens! Nothing brings them out quite like spring and the onset of the dreaded “Clucky”. I have one feathery besom who fluffs out and makes loud angry sounds whenever she sees me because I steal her eggs that she has stolen from other “normal” chooks and leave her sitting on her warm golf ball. I feel sorry for taking another hens eggs because she only clucks softly as if to say “please don’t take my eggs” with accompanying sad looks. We have chicks on Serendipity Farm and pregnant feral cats and the 2 don’t go together well. I have stopped myself thinking about the feral chicks because the odds are definately against them unless they belong to that WITCH up on the hill in a mass of debris and branches who pecks like a hammer drill and who is cluey to all of my advances. She makes little growling noises whenever I approach to see how many chicks have hatched out warning them to be quiet as the big thief is here…her babies might just have a chance. You beat me with the gravity fed chook run! Well done you guys! I am still waiting for my free roll of netting but my netting roll “supplier” has been busy and promises me friday…I hope The Bearded One was impressed with your chicken dance. I think that it might be the last straw if I attempted something like that and Steve would most definately have me comitted 😦 I love that we can share our chook stories 🙂 Yours are doing the exact opposite of mine. I had to give away 5 dozen eggs yesterday as we had 10 dozen and no plans to eat any! At least we make our neighbours and friends happy 🙂

    • 10 dozen!! Eggstraordinary! Actually, yesterday the Bearded One found a hidden nest in the burn pile — 22 eggs! We’ve had a few zero egg days lately (in the nest boxes), so this explains a lot. Oh, and the Bearded One doesn’t remember me doing the chicken dance — when he read it in the blog he was like, “Did you really do that?” It was that powerful, he had to block it. Best not try it with Steve…;)

      • Yeh…might blow his mind! It would seem that the chicken dance has hypnotic powers! Might be able to use that in the future to your advantage? 😉 Our chooks lay in secret nests all over the place because the nesting boxes are full to the brim with clucky chooks. We now have 9 in the coop, Effel Dookark on her 2 eggs, 2 hens (both ferals with the pecking beaks to prove it) sitting on about 18 eggs and a feral mother has hatched out 3 chicks and is living on the edge with the feral cats. I am just throwing my hands up in protest! It’s not only spring that we have to deal with cluckies…these old fashioned breeds go clucky at the drop of a hat but our cluckies are also dumb clucks! Most of them may as well feed their babies straight into the feral cat’s mouths. The only one that could stand up to them was houdini who has managed to raise every single feral chook on the property and one of the 2 feral girls on the 18 eggs is her exact copy of a small brown daughter and she can peck for the queen so her babies might just stand a chance. I made my very first pumpkin dessert yesterday. I got curious about all of the pumpkin recipes circulating around in online food blogs and made a spiced pumpkin bundt cake with a hot and spicy drizzle and a chocolate glaze. No idea what it is going to taste like (I combined 3 recipes to make it ;)) BUT it has made a very moist cake and the drizzle smelt very exotic. I started off with a nice sweet piece of pumpkin to make my puree so hopefully it is reflected in the taste of the cake. I will let you know 🙂

  2. Christine Widman

    Ah…the dance of love. Yes. And the shared daily stories. Essential to keep the heart intact and safe.

    Here animals are always “telling” us stories also.
    If there are no mourning doves in the mesquite tree or quail on the adobe wall around the oasis, then we begin looking for a hawk. And of course we spy one.
    Once on my way to the mailbox, a dove, two quail and a curved bill thrasher were standing on the pathway. They didn’t fly away as I approached which was so odd that I stopped and watched them.
    They would look at me and then look south. Look at me and then look south.
    In less an a minute, a rattlesnake slithered across the path. Just where I would have been if I hadn’t stopped and paid attention to the curious behavior of the birds.
    I am in awe of this “communication” – a kind of Scheherazade magic.
    Just like your blog.

  3. I love your desert wildlife stories, Christine, how all the creatures including humans look out for one another. And birds in particular, which surprises me. They saw the snake as a danger to you…surely it wasn’t a threat to them at that time. Magic indeed! Thanks for your comments, as always.:)

  4. Thank you for taking the time to share your farmlet adventures! They are a highlight of my week (and now my partner’s as well as he has taken to me reading them out loud while he is working around the house or vice versa). Your posts always bring a feeling of goodness, quite often a laugh (with you I promise, or at the drawings – we like them so much.), or a good bit of reflection to us on these lives we choose to lead here in the rainy land of PNW. May this odd season we are in (Indian Summer I hear some say…?) bear blessings to you. Kindly, Jordanna

    • Your comment is deeply rewarding to both of us, Jordanna. I just read it out loud to the Bearded One. We thank you, and may you enjoy these clear rainless days. We just put the water hose out on a couple of flagging cedars. Blessings to you and yours, Christi

  5. I sympathize with my fellow Bearded One. My wife attempts to do significant activities through stealth because, I suspect, she doesn’t want me noticing how dangerously she elects to do them. If she has been moving furniture without involving me, she at least makes sure the brace belt is nearby enough that she can credibly claim she wore it while lifting. She could always get me to help, of course, but then she would be subjected to my input and all the reasons why moving this stuff around is illogical, so she keeps it on the down low until it’s finished. I can do nothing about this.

  6. The up side to this situation, J.K., is that I suspect your sweet wife tempers her choices (as well as hides them) because of your concern, just as I do because of my B.O., and will never step on the very top rung where it says DO NOT STEP HERE. It’s something. Thanks for your comment.:)

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