© Another Day in the Country

When I left Kansas this spring for my California summer, I left behind a small flock of teen-age hens, fledglings not even sure of their sexual orientation. One of the Easter Egg chicks was crowing when I left, so I was pretty sure that I had a rooster in the batch of hens I’d ordered.

As it turned out, I accidentally received two roosters.

Only one of my chickens has a name so far, Beaker, who is low man on the chicken totem pole. Beaker has a genetic defect caused by too much in-breeding, too much desire for those beautiful blue-tinted eggs, according to experts in my ‘chicken raising manual.’ She has a crossed over beak.

She looks like a kid who needs braces.

When I discovered her handicap, I got out my ‘chicken book’ to read about it.

“Chick should be culled,” I read.

Really? Maybe there was something I could do to help out the situation. I’d try and trim her beak, something more toward normal. Surely that was better than just ‘offing’ her.

Toenail clippers in hand, I caught Beaker and trimmed her beak top and bottom. I hadn’t realized until then that chickens actually had tongues — which kept getting in the way.

Beaker was surprisingly calm through ‘surgery’ and, of course, traumatized, as I was because unfortunately there was blood along with wondering “how far was too far?” where the clipping was concerned. Afterward, I wondered if she would live and if my intervention would make it easier or more difficult for her to eat.

Long story, short, Beaker is still alive and seems to be doing well, although she is still at the bottom of the chicken hierarchy. She seems to have a friend — one of the Polish Topknots — who hangs around with her inside the chicken house when everyone else has gone outside to play in the chicken yard.

By the time I returned in August my young flock was laying eggs. These eggs are a delight, just as I’d envisioned, and they are a variety of colors: White, brown, green, blue, sage. And they are small, yet; the cutest things which make petite hard-boiled eggs or tiny fried eggs that fit perfectly on an English muffin.

Of course, if you are wanting scrambled eggs you have to double up.

I know that eventually the eggs will be bigger, although these are medium sized chickens, for the most part, and will never lay really large eggs. I almost hate to see the eggs become normal sized; these pullet eggs are such a delight.

I’ve been sharing the eggs, and the cuteness, with friends. I love to hear them “oooh and ahhhh,” when they see them.

While I was gone, Jess sent me reports on flock growth, with messages like, “Someone else is crowing in the henhouse,” and “Do you think you could possibly have two roosters?”

And then she announced, “mysterious murder.”

She explained that the first identified rooster was found dead of unknown causes in the chicken yard and that the second rooster, a Barred Rock, was now “top dog,” and everything looked peaceful in the hen house.

When I left in June, there were weeds growing in the chicken yard and the chickens were still hesitant to come out of the house.

“They’ll knock those weeds down in a hurry, once they are scratching around out there,” I thought to myself.

But such was not the case. In my absence, the weeds kept growing, along with a couple of stray trees.

When I returned in August the chicken yard looked like the Amazon rain forest, with foliage growing out the top of the enclosure, creating a canopy of shade.

Down at ground level the chickens had carved clearings and tunnels through the weeds and under the saplings, which provided lots of shade during the Kansas 100-degree weather.

I’d planted morning glories along one side of the fence which had taken off with all the moisture they’d received from this wet summer. Now, I understood my sister’s message when she’d texted me, “Your chickens seem to be fine; but I don’t see much of them.” These crazy chicks have their own eco system going. They are living in the forest in my back yard!

As I reclaim my own habitat, after weeks and weeks of weeds growing faster than flowers and veggies, I keep glancing over at the chicken pen.

“Maybe I should go in and cut off those weeds and get them out of the enclosure so I can actually SEE my chickens!”

But, then again, I think they like their habitat and I’ve got plenty to keep me busy — mowing, weeding, trimming — on another day in the country.

Last modified Aug. 31, 2016