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Life in a slow place that quickly steals your heart.

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chickens are smart

Gone girl – An ode to an extraordinary chicken

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Maria  2016-2018

Maria was an ordinary chicken. Maria was an extraordinary chicken.

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Maria’s ginormous egg and an average Gretel-sized egg

Maria laid a lot of eggs like any good hen. She lay mondo eggs and would take some time to go about this.

IMG_5726.jpgUnlike Gretel and Leisel who quietly and quickly laid their eggs on the straw in their egg boxes early every morning, she chose to lay them out of the safety of her run and in the “wild” when they were let out to free range. She would often be gone for more than an hour.

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Egg cache number 1

Busy with our raspberry farm, it took a dedicated summer visitor Chris to hunt for and find Maria’s secret nest. Once a cache was discovered she would find a new spot and start over.

Very much unlike Leisel and Gretel, who craved attention, Maria shunned the paparazzi.

Unlike Gretel and Leisel, Maria would not and could not be picked up and was proud of this. She was standoffish and very, very large.

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Give your head a shake. I will not be your Instagram prop.
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Although pals with the other girls during the daily camp-out at the back door where treats where often dispersed, at other times Maria was a loner.
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Maria was not lonely, she just liked her own company and at times, I feel felt a bit superior.
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She didn’t understand the girls who conformed to the egg-laying box routine and would often question them about it.
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She couldn’t relate to their willingness to be apart of the whole social media scene which she openly disdained while secretly feeling much fancier than the other two and far more photogenic.
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This is the last photo of Maria. Taken on the very morning of her demise.

Gretel and Leisel, although conformists and social media early adopters did understand a key chicken survival lesson, there is safety in numbers. Free ranging comes with risks which were lessened by our rows upon rows of raspberry canes providing cover and making predator swoop attacks difficult and by having a pal to call an alert.

When we returned from the farmer’s market and checked on the girls, a small pile of fluffy breast feathers in one of the yard’s few open spots was all that was left of Maria. A hawk or an eagle are the most likely culprits that permanently solved a lovely problem like Maria.

Survived by her occasional friends Gretel and Liesel and greatly mourned by her human friends, Maria will be missed although her eggs won’t be as we could rarely find them. Maria was an ordinary chicken, Maria was an extraordinary chicken.

The great chicken coop escape

 

IMG_8268.jpgThe girlies would tell you this tale if they could but their typing is hunt and peck at best and would take far too long. I think the whole event confuses them as well. An aside… Did you know chickens have a great memory and can differentiate between more than 100 human or animal faces. They love to play, they dream (about eating millions of bugs?), they mourn for each other and they feel pain and distress. They also make great moms — they talk to their chicks while still in the egg and turn the eggs about 50 times a day.

IMG_8288.jpgA week into chicken husbandry I am still getting up at 6 a.m. to check on them. In my pjs, no coffee on board, I duck into their coop to change the water and hear the run latch gently click shut with me inside.

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The run is some distance from the house and the sleeping Handyman who decidedly  does not wake up at 6 a.m.

Three old ladies stuck in a lavatory”

The old weird song lyrics start going through my head…

Oh, dear, what can the matter be
Three old ladies locked in the lavatory
They were there from Monday to Saturday
Nobody knew they were there

I try using a stick to poke through the hardware cloth and lift the latch up.

The first one’s name was Elizabeth Porter
She went in to be rid of some overdue water
And she stayed there far more than she ought to
And nobody knew she was there.

Maria and The Baroness are watching me curiously. (Re side note…they are smarter than you think.) I then try pushing the hardware cloth out, with a fair bit of force, in several spots. The Handyman is really good at building things and the coop is racoon-proof, or so we thought.

The second one’s name was Elizabeth Pomphrey
She went in and made herself comfy
Then she said: “Girls, I can’t get my bum free.”
And nobody knew she was there

After only a week with my new pals we aren’t super comfortable with each other. They are eyeing me suspiciously and making low murmuring sounds. Another aside…Researchers have shown that there are at least 24 different sounds chickens make and maybe as many as 30. While chickens don’t have nearly the vocabulary that us humans have, and their chicken brains don’t allow for abstract and deep conversations, they are still a very vocal and conversational critter.

I finally hit on the solution and break a few zip ties that are securing a set of overlapping panels of the hardware cloth and make my great escape. Coffee!

The last one’s name was Elizabeth Carter
She was known as a world renowned farter
She went in and played a sonata
And nobody knew she was there.

Later that day The Handyman installed a rope gizmo allowing the latch to be opened from the inside as well.

 

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The day after the escape from the coop I woke at 6 to find the nesting box door hanging open. I ran to the coop expecting it to be empty or a scene of indescribable carnage but found the girlies milling about in the run, all feathers accounted for. The new bungee addition makes the coop really racoon proof.

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Chicken TV

Because chickens are clever creatures, each occupying a different role in the pecking order, keeping them in your backyard gives you a chance to see the individual personalities and quirks. Maria is fascinated by holes of any kind. She is also the boss.

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Here she is sorting out the perfect spot for a dustbath. Distracted momentarily, The Baroness steals her spot… not for long. After a dust up Maria reclaims her throne.

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The girls and The Handyman

Despite being told I am the chicken lady and in sole charge, I catch The Handyman letting the girls out when he is working on the farm…and he talks to them and makes a special clucking noise. The exercise king, here he is taking them on a little jog…which is funny itself. Something about chickens running cracks me up.

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A taste of country life

I love our chickens. Who would have thought it. They are curious, interesting, sweet creatures who demand little and give us eggs daily. I feel good about giving them great food, room to roam and a nice, cruelty-free life.

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Hens with Benefits

They give us breakfast in return and lovely fluffy cakes.IMG_8150.jpg

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