Catholic Inklings

Musings and sharings on my devotion to an ancient religion.

Category archive: Stories

Chapter Five: The Tale of Butterscotch

Butterscotch had a rough winter. She is a little sweetheart, and a little silly. Her sisters don’t always appreciate her sweetness and just consider her to be dumb. Sometimes they even pick on her a little. Last winter, Butterscotch was injured—and she almost didn’t make it.

 

Butterscotch and Cartoon sitting on Mommy's lap

Butterscotch and Cartoon sitting on Mommy’s lap

Every day after work, Mommy would run out to the coop to see how her girls were doing and to spend some time with them. Mommy would sit on her little green stool inside the coop where Cartoon and Butterscotch would come and sit on her lap. Cartoon would try to eat shiny things like buttons or grommets on Mommy’s clothes, or try to eat her hair, but Butterscotch would just sit and warm her feet on Mommy’s lap.

 

One day, when Mommy returned from work, the sun was just about setting, so she ran outside to spend whatever little bit of daylight she had with the chickens. To her horror, she saw that Butterscotch was bleeding! It was a huge wound, and Mommy didn’t know what to do.

 

She grabbed Butterscotch, ran into the house and called the vet. Luckily, the vet just happened to be one of the foremost chicken experts in the world. He told her to bring Butterscotch right over and he would have a look. When the Doctor examined her, he discovered that the wound was so profound he couldn’t even stitch her up. There was nothing to do but clean the wound and put an enormous band-aid on it. So, he gave Mommy medicine to give Butterscotch and said that he did what he could, but wasn’t sure she would survive the night. If she did, Mommy was supposed to bring her back to see the doctor the next day.

 

Butterscotch in sick bay

Butterscotch in sick bay

Mommy and Dad set up a place for Butterscotch to sleep in the warm, sheltered basement and went to bed hoping for the best. To Mommy’s delight and surprise, Butterscotch was alive, energetic and looking for breakfast! That night, Mommy brought her back to the doctor who cleaned her wound again and told Mommy to keep giving her the medicine and keep her clean.

 

When Mommy got home from work, she would go and visit with the chickens in the coop and give them an update on their sister’s progress. Donna always had questions about the care she was receiving and hoped that Mommy was doing everything right. Donna kind of thinks that she is the only one who can do everything right…Then when it was getting dark and time for the outdoor chickens to go to bed, Mommy would go in and visit with Butterscotch. Mommy would share the well wishes of Butterscotch’s sisters and that was a great comfort to her.

 

For weeks, Butterscotch lived in the basement getting stronger and stronger every day. Mommy gave her special treats to help her gain her health back as quickly as possible. She never even stopped laying eggs while she was sick–what a trooper! After about a month and a half, Butterscotch was well enough to rejoin her sisters in the coop. Now, she is the biggest, fluffiest and most beautiful of all the sisters. She’s still the silliest, but everybody appreciates her for what she is.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Four: Martha Jones: A Cautionary Tale

Thanksgiving Day was great. All of Mommy’s family was in for a big dinner—so the chickens were the beneficiaries of many delightful scraps of fruits and veggies as Mommy prepared to receive her guests. The chickens spent the day taking the normal path around the yard, and when they made their way to the back deck, got to spend some time with Mommy and her nieces, who tossed fistfuls of oats to them. Mommy stood and told the nieces all about the chickens.

 

Suddenly, Amelia made a warning sound—there was a hawk flying nearby. All of the chickens stopped, listened and quietly made their way underneath the deck until it was safe to come out. All of the chickens, that is, except for Martha Jones. She stayed out, daydreaming, pecking oats and singing softly to herself—never noticing that there was any danger.

 

“Good grief.” said Mommy to her nieces, “Martha is oblivious. See how she’s in her own little world? What a goofball!” They all chuckled. “Martha! Pay attention! You’re going to get yourself in trouble one of these days!”

 

The day after Thanksgiving was a very sad day at Blackwater Farm. Martha Jones, the sweet, oblivious hen who always had a daydream in her head and a song in her heart, was murdered in cold blood. It’s still unknown what animal killed her, but it was scary enough to frighten Samwise, the Australian Shepherd. So, maybe an angry chipmunk with an ax to grind…

 

On that brisk November morning, a few hours after the flock was let out of their coop, Mommy went to spend time with them, as was her habit. They girls were not in their usual spot for that time of day, and Mommy had a little trouble locating them. Nathaniel had come outside, so Mommy drafted him into helping find them. He found them near the meadow that they stayed away from because it was where the Hawk kept its nest and not far from the place that a fox had kept it’s den the year before. That was a strange place for them to be, but maybe they were feeling bold.

 

Anyway, later in the afternoon, as was her habit, Martha was trekking around the yard with her sisters, quietly singing to herself and not paying attention to her surroundings. They went back to that section that they were in during the morning hours—a little farther down the hill, toward the meadow and out of sight from the house. Dad was outside chopping wood with Samwise for company.

 

“Okay, ladies. Keep a sharp eye out and an attentive ear. We’re a little far from home and have to be cautious.” Cartoon said. “Amelia; we’re counting on you to be the lookout.”

 

“You’ve got it.” said Amy, proudly.

 

Chickens on a hike

Chickens on a hike

The flock wandered through the brush on the hill, picking at the last remnant of greens as the increasingly cold weather slowly withered them away. Many hours passed in peace, but as the girls made their way up and down the hill, over and under bushes and tall grasses, Martha kept falling behind. She would stop and daydream, and not notice that she was alone. Several times, Cartoon found herself asking, “Where has Martha got herself to, now?” They would call to her and eventually, Martha would snap out of her dream world and rejoin her sisters.

 

“You have to be careful, Martha!” Cartoon chided. “We’re not close to the coop and Mommy’s not out here to step in if danger approaches.”

 

“Oh, alright.” Martha would answer. “I’ll pay better attention.”

 

But she didn’t. She continued on wandering and singing, and continued to take no notice of what was happening around her.

 

Without warning, a predator was upon them. Amelia let off a warning and the girls scattered under a nearby quince bush. All of them except for Martha, that is. The creature nabbed the unaware Martha and carried her away. The terror of it scared Samwise, who begged Dad to let him go back in the house.

 

The other girls, in a panic, split up. Cartoon, Amelia and Butterscotch ran through the quince, under some brambles, behind the shed and took shelter in the forsythia. Cartoon told Amy and Butterscotch to stay put and ran straight to Dad, yelling to him that Martha was in trouble. Unfortunately, Dad didn’t speak chicken, but went to get Mommy. While that was happening, the creature made another pass, and separated the baby, Belladonna, and her mother, Donna Noble. Donna went all the way across the meadow, over the brook and up the hill. The baby was missing.

 

Mommy and Dad looked everywhere for Donna, Martha and Chanticleer. Even Samwise tried to help. For more than half an hour, they searched, calling out to the missing chickens.

 

“Chanticleer! Martha! Donna!” Mommy called, trying not to cry. Sam found Martha, but they were too late. The animal had killed her, but must have been scared off by their noise. Mommy became more desperate to find Chanticleer and Donna, fearing the worst.

 

Eventually, Dad found Chanticleer. Mommy scooped him up and put him in the coop. Then she grabbed Butterscotch, Amelia and Cartoon and put them into the safety of the coop. Now, she just had to find Donna. Fighting off terrible thoughts, Mommy scoured the yard, calling out to the mamma of little Chanticleer. As she got to the stream, calling for Donna all the while, Mommy heard a reply.

 

“I’m here, Mommy!!!!” called Donna.

 

“I hear you, Donna, but where are you?!” cried Mommy

 

“Over here! Across the stream!”

 

Mommy bolted over the stream and saw Donna on the hill under a fallen tree. Donna kept calling to Mommy after she saw her, and ran to her as fast as she could. Mommy clutched Donna and held her in her coat to comfort and warm her. Donna nestled in, relieved that she was found and safe again.

 

Mommy returned Donna to the coop with her remaining sisters and son and they all comforted one another quietly.

 

Since that day, everybody is far more vigilant about predators. Samwise is always on the lookout for “bad birds,” barking at and chasing vultures and hawks, and Mommy only lets the chickens into the fenced in garden when she can be out there with them. Everybody misses Martha. And everybody learned a very terrible lesson from her story.

Chapter Three: The Tale Of Cartoon

The chickens of Blackwater Farm were not born on the farm. In fact, they were not even born in the same state—they were hatched in Iowa and shipped through the United States Postal Service. One spring Wednesday afternoon, Ben, Nathaniel and Mommy were sitting home when the phone rang. “Um, hi. This is the Postal Service. We have a delivery that you need to come pick up. It says it’s ‘live birds.’ What’s that about?” “It’s my chickens!” Mommy squealed joyfully. “We’ll be right there!”

 

So, Ben, Nathaniel and Mommy clamored into the car and drove down the street to the Post Office. “You got chickens in the mail? That’s a first for me.” said the seasoned, elderly man behind the counter.

 

“We’ve been waiting for these young ladies for a few weeks, now. I’m very excited!” Mommy said as she signed for them.

 

Two long, cardboard boxes with small holes in the sides were handed over the counter and little uncertain clucking noises could be heard from within. Not knowing what to expect, or how they would react to having the boxes opened, the family decided to wait till they got home to look inside. The boxes were carefully placed in the back of the van, and Mommy drove back down the road toward home. Ben, Nathaniel and Mommy could barely contain their curiosity, excitement and joy at receiving these new members of their household.

 

When they pulled into the driveway, they took the boxes straight back to the coop which was all prepared and waiting for its tenants to arrive. Mommy filled the feeder up with pellets, their drinking fountain up with water and opened the first box. It contained two lovely young Rhode Island Reds. They opened the second box. It contained three very different young ladies: a Buff Orpington, a Black Ostrolorpe and a Barred Rock. Mommy named the Reds right away—Donna Noble and Amelia Pond—after red-headed companions of The Doctor from the TV show Doctor Who. She named the Ostrolorpe Martha Jones after another companion of The Doctor. Ben and Nathaniel were each allowed to name one of the other two. Ben gave Butterscotch her name because her color is just like the candy.

 

And that left the Barred Rock. When we pulled her out of the box, she was breathing a snot bubble from her beak. “Gross! That’s like a cartoon snot bubble! Her name will be Cartoon.” said Nathaniel.

 

But, this would be the last time Cartoon would be the butt of a joke. She is a serious chicken with big plans. Her name may suggest frivolity, but she is all business.

 

The personality of each chicken was soon understood, and a pecking order established rather quickly. Cartoon saw herself as a sort of General. While Donna made sure that no one got out of line, Cartoon would eventually direct the movement of the flock and what activities they would do as a group.

 

Because there were lots of dangerous animals in the woods that surrounded the yard, Mommy was not immediately keen on letting the chickens out of the coop. They needed to get acclimated to their new surroundings, and a safe way of letting them out of the coop needed to be devised. So, for the first weeks, Mommy would go and visit with the chickens inside the coop. She bought a small, green stool to sit on and would spend a bit of time each day with them so they could all get used to her and learn to trust her.

 

Each day, when Mommy sat on the stool, Cartoon would hop up on her lap and peck at anything shiny on her clothing. She would try to eat Mommy’s hair, jumping up on her shoulder and sometimes wanting to sit on her back. She always wound back down on her lap, where she made her throne to survey her subjects (the other chickens), and muse about what sort of a leader she would be. She would stand up and talk to Mommy’s face, barking orders and commands at her—complaining about their lack of freedom and wanting to see what was beyond the coop, telling of animals whose curiosity brought them close to the coop at night to see if there was anything in there to eat and wanting to know what Mommy planned to do about it. Of course, Mommy just thought she was clucking and snuggling, so she didn’t respond.

 

When the girls were finally allowed out of the coop, the big wide door on the front of was propped open and Mommy moved to the side. Cartoon was the first to emerge. She hopped up on the step to the outside, looked around and jumped out. She yelled to the others, “Come on, girls! Move out!” Donna came next, then Amy, Butterscotch and lastly and timidly, Martha. “I don’t know about this…” whispered Martha to herself. She quietly sang a little song to keep her spirits up.

 

Cartoon led the girls into the garden and found the compost pile almost right away. “We’ve struck gold!!!” she shouted. “Come and see what I have found!” The others came waddling over while Cartoon proudly stood on top of the pile. “Behold! Snacks…” she said solemnly.

 

The sisters began to scratch and dig through the pile finding all kinds of fruit and veggie scraps. “Nice job, Cartoon!” said Amy. “This is awesome!”

 

Mommy watched on by the gate, leaning on the metal can that the chicken food was kept in. Cartoon came over to give her more directions and commands and recommendations about what should be kept stocked in the compost pile.

 

“Hey, cutie.” Mommy said. “Want some oats?” And Mommy took a canister of oats from the food can and sprinkled some on the ground.

 

“Hmmm….what’s this?” Cartoon pondered. She nibbled a few and was amazed at her new discovery. “Ladies! Assemble!” she yelled to her sisters. Realizing that Cartoon had a knack for finding the best snacks, they all waddled over—this time faster than the last. “These are oats.” she said with authoritative knowing (really only having discovered them seconds before). “Oh! Oats!” they said, “These are the best!”

 

Cartoon was a very quick study. She realized that where Mommy was, snacks almost always were, too. Cartoon came to recognize the sound that the back door made—the door that Mommy brought snacks out of. Wherever she was, if she heard that door, Cartoon would check to see if it was, in fact, Mommy coming out of the house; and if it was, she would mobilize the flock and get to her as soon as they could. They would all follow Mommy because, the fact that she didn’t always come out of the house with snacks, didn’t mean there weren’t going to be some.

 

Not every smart chicken with excellent leadership skills and a well-developed sense of strategy is a chicken with good moral values. Cartoon saw her mission as providing her platoon with the best food and entertainment—regardless of how it had to be gotten.

 

In the early summer, Cartoon noticed that when Mommy went near the path by the grapevines, she often came back with some purple and red slightly tart, juicy berries. She stood right behind Mommy’s feet one day to investigate. Mommy gave her one of the berries and said, “Here, Cartoon. Try a raspberry.” Cartoon said to herself, “Yes, these are good. I will call my sisters.”

 

The next thing Mommy knew, she was surrounded by her little flock. They looked hopeful, and Cartoon looked slightly menacing and thoughtful. As she always did, Mommy shared the fruit with the girls. Everyone was happy. Except, apparently, Cartoon. She felt that a better cut of the produce was due to her company, and began to plot for tomorrow.

 

Cartoon in the raspberry patch.

Cartoon in the raspberry patch.

The next day, toward the middle of afternoon, after the sun had a chance to ripen more raspberries (sometimes they would go from almost ripe to perfectly ripe within a matter of hours), Mommy headed out toward the raspberry patch near the grapevines. Cartoon and the girls joined her almost immediately. Mommy didn’t have a bucket with her, thinking she’d only get a small amount of berries, and so she collected them in her hands. Prepared to share, like always, Mommy went to choose a few for her little darlings when Cartoon jumped up and knocked Mommy’s hand—the berries went tumbling and scattered among the vines and grass. The girls, on Cartoon’s command, came bolting in, pecking wildly to snatch up as many berries as they could before Mommy had a chance to react.

 

Mommy stood there in shock. She just got mugged by a chicken. She looked at the girls, wondering what had come over them to not wait for the sharing that would have ensued. From that point on, Mommy always made sure that she had a container with her to keep the berries safe from the marauding beak of Cartoon. And Cartoon always made sure that she joined Mommy on all of her raspberry picking missions. Since she couldn’t knock them out of her hand anymore, Cartoon tried standing close behind Mommy’s feet to try and trip her so that she would drop the bucket.

 

But, even the smartest chicken is no match for a smarter Mommy…

Chapter Two: The Tale Of Donna Noble

As was mentioned before, Donna was born to be a mother. For the first year that the girls were living on the farm, Donna was the one who kept the girls together. Chickens naturally establish a pecking order, which decides who gets to eat first, who leads the flock around and who gets picked on when the other girls are feeling annoyed. Donna never let anything get too out of hand, and if anyone started picking too much on anyone else, Donna would step in and break it up.

 

IMG_1793

Donna in the nesting box, with another box

This all changed in the early Spring of the second year on the farm. Donna became “broody” which means that she wanted a baby to take care of in the worst way. Taking care of her sisters was nice, but it wasn’t the same as raising a little one. She began spending more and more time sitting in the nesting box and not going on adventures with her sisters. This made Mommy a little concerned, but since she didn’t show any signs of sickness, Mommy let it go.

 

It continued for some weeks, and became more serious. Donna barely ever left the nesting box, and stopped laying eggs. When her sisters laid eggs, she would gather them up and sit on them. Every day Mommy collected the eggs and that upset Donna. She would beg Mommy to leave them there, but of course, if Mommy had, they would simply rot. There were no babies in those eggs.

 

Mommy would tell Donna to get up and go play. Her sisters would come by and tell her to get up and go with them around the yard.

 

Amy went to her and said, “Donna, why are you sitting here waiting for the impossible to happen? You are missing the whole spring! The raspberries are ripe, and Cartoon figured out a way to get them from Mommy. There are delicious plants to nibble. The blueberry bush is just waiting to be picked. And winter knocked down some trees that made more neat places to explore! You’re missing everything!”

 

But, Donna didn’t reply. She just sat and sighed because nobody understood what she was feeling.

 

Months went on and Mommy got nervous. Donna was starting to lose weight, her comb was fading from bright red to a muted pink and she would just sit in her nesting box and make sad sounds. Mommy would pluck her from the box periodically and bring her to her sisters. “This will cure her for sure. Once she gets a taste of what she’s been missing, she’ll forget all about wanting a baby that she can’t have.” Mommy thought.

 

It didn’t work. Donna’s sad behavior continued. Her sisters changed from pleading with her to come out and play to making fun of her for being foolish. They started getting a little rowdy and bullying one another because Donna wasn’t there to break it up. Donna didn’t budge. She whispered to herself, “I believe in miracles. What do they know, anyway?” Her confidence was emboldened when Ben went out to Donna and told her to, “keep believing because miracles can happen.”

 

When it became clear that Donna was not going to just “get over it,” Mommy talked to a friend who had eggs with babies in them and he gave her seven of them so that Donna might hatch a baby.

 

When Mommy first put the eggs under her, instead of taking them out like she normally did, Donna looked surprised. “What’s this?” she said. But, when Mommy stood and watched, and didn’t take them away, Donna got to arranging them into a comfortable clutch and eased her fluffy body onto them to keep them warm.

 

Donna’s sad sounds changed to sweet cooing sounds. She was talking to the babies, and singing to them; dreaming of the joy she would have when they finally came out to meet her. Every day she would turn the eggs, rearrange them, and care for them.

 

Chanticleer, one day old

Chanticleer, one day old

On the twenty-first day of Donna’s egg-sitting, one began to move. It bumped. It bumped some more. It cracked. It made adorable little peeping sounds. After a few hours, a little beak appeared. Then a head, little wings and body, cute little feet and finally a little nub of a tail. Within a short time, the baby was all dried off and fluffy as a new chick could be. He was a dark gray with a little tuft of white on the top of his head and a little yellow around his face, near his beak.

 

Chanticleer peeping out from under Donna

Chanticleer peeping out from under Donna

The baby stayed under Donna, who stroked him with her beak and cooed to him. Whenever visitors came to see the new baby, Donna would puff up and make warning noises—she didn’t want anyone getting too close. The baby was very curious, and though Donna wanted to keep him away from everyone, the baby’s little head would always poke out from under Donna to see what was going on and who was there. She let Mommy pick up the baby, but would make warning sounds if it lasted too long.

 

Donna was a great mother—she was protective and caring and it was clear that that baby was the apple of her eye.

 

It was at this time that Mommy started learning chicken language, because while it’s hard for a human to understand, Donna was speaking the language of motherhood; and all moms know that. Donna had different ways of talking to the baby when he wandered too far from her, when there was a new food she wanted him to try, when there was possible danger, and when it was time for bed. She also spoke differently to her sisters to warn them not to get too close to her baby.

 

Donna and Chanticleer out and about

Donna and Chanticleer out and about

As the baby grew, Donna became more comfortable taking him around the yard with her sisters. The baby’s feathers started changing from the fluffy down of a newborn to the smooth, sleek feathers of a mature bird. And his markings made it apparent that he was part Barred Rock, like Cartoon. His attitude—spunky and bold—was very much like his Aunt Cartoon, too. The only difference was the feathers that began to sprout from his feet—kind of like a Hobbit. So, having a sense of his personality, and when it finally became clear that he was a rooster, it was time to give him a name. He was called Chanticleer.

 

Balance has been restored to the flock. Donna is now back in the daily life of her sisters, keeping everyone on track and taking care of her ever more independent baby. She is happy, and the lives of the whole Blackwater Farm family are enriched for the addition of Chanticleer; Donna’s little miracle.

The Chickens of Blackwater Farm: Chapter One

This is the tale of five (and then a sixth) sweet young chickens who live on a nice little property called Blackwater Farm. They live together in a beautiful blue coop and have a lovely garden and yard to graze through. The girls are taken care of by their human family, Dad, Mommy, Ben and Nathaniel. An Australian Shepherd named Samwise also helps care for and protect them.

 

Young Donna Noble

Young Donna Noble

The first introduction belongs to Donna Noble, a very motherly, kind hen who always looks out for her sisters. Donna is always the one to keep the others in line and behaving nicely to one another. She makes sure that everyone has what they need, and no one is left out. She is a Rhode Island Red, so she has beautiful copper-red feathers and orange eyes.

 

Young Cartoon--always the camera hog

Young Cartoon–always the camera hog

This is Cartoon. She is a seriously curious, bold and intelligent chick. She is a natural leader, and usually directs the activities of the day. She’s always the first to look for new adventures and thinks that she is the General of her small flock. Since she first came to Blackwater Farm, she made a point of sitting on the lap of the human called Mommy to tell her all of her demands and orders. In the beginning, Mommy couldn’t understand chicken, so Cartoon was really wasting her time. Mommy just thought she was being cute and snuggly. Cartoon is a Barred Rock. She has black and white speckled feathers and orange eyes.

 

Amelia Pond

Amelia Pond

Here is Ameila Pond—most often called Amy. She would really like to be in charge, and looks for opportunities to boss her sisters around when Donna and Cartoon aren’t looking. She has a keen eye for danger and makes it her business to alert the others to every potential hazard that comes their way—especially hawks and buzzards. Amy likes the sound of her own voice, and is often heard grumbling about something or other. Like Donna, Amy is a Rhode Island Red.

 

Sweet Martha Jones

Sweet Martha Jones

Martha Jones is the sweetest of the girls. She is a bit timid, a little shy and mostly keeps to herself, but doesn’t like to be alone. Sometimes, when she accidentally gets separated from her sisters because of her daydreaming, she stands and cries until someone comes to get her. Otherwise, she is pretty care-free and she always sings a cheerful song wherever she goes. Martha is a Black Australorp. All of her feathers are dark black and shine a beautiful green in the sun. She has very dark brown eyes and a bright red comb.

 

Little Miss Butterscotch

Little Miss Butterscotch

And then there’s Butterscotch. Ben named her that because she is the color of the candy. A creamy, butterscotchy, fluffy, full-figured gal; Butterscotch is a Buff Orpington. She is also, unfortunately, a little silly. As a result of her silliness (or perhaps  as the result of jealousy) the other girls sometimes pick on her. She is the biggest of the chickens, and could easily defend herself, but she doesn’t. She often gets lost—even just on the other side of the garden fence—and can’t figure out how to get where she needs to be.

 

The chickens have an almost perfectly serene existence. Their coop is a clean, dry and comfortable two-story house with a nesting box attached to a bedroom that they all share. It is nice and roomy with two roosts for sleeping and lots of cozy pine shavings to keep them warm on cold winter nights. A gently sloping plank leads down to the screened-in area beneath. In this area there is plenty of nice sand to scratch around in, an always-full feeder and a water dispenser. Each morning one of their humans opens the sliding door so that the girls can begin their day with a stretch, a little breakfast, and perhaps a dirt bath. Sometimes, the large door to the big, wide world is opened for them and they can head out to look for adventure.

 

Their Cozy Home

Their Cozy Home

 

About five feet from their front door is the gate to Mommy’s garden. There are always very interesting things to snack on in there: bugs, veggies and best of all—the compost pile. Mommy brings scraps from the house to the compost pile almost every day, so the contents of that buffet are always something new to look forward to. The garden also has lots of hiding places for the girls to hang out in—sometimes from the prowling hawks, sometimes for a fun game of hide and seek.

 

Throughout the day, the young hens make their way around the rest of the yard. They check out the forsythia bushes, make their way around the house to the pine and oak tree-lined border, up to the front of the house and on to the porch. Cartoon and Amy each make their way to a strategic point—one to the front door, the other to a window—to see if they can catch a glimpse of Mommy, who will probably offer them some oats if they will get off the porch. They mosey a few feet over to the corner of the house to what the humans call the “chicken bush” which provides plenty of shade and privacy for a nap. When they are refreshed, they make their way around the side of the house to the termite oak, through the fallen pine and back to the coop for more pellets and a little water. And maybe another dirt bath…

 

If you’ve never seen a chicken take a dirt bath, it’s something to behold. She scratches out a slight bowl in some nice, dusty dirt, carefully lowers herself down in it, like a person would into a hot bath, and starts scooping up dirt with her wings.   You can’t believe how much dirt a chicken wing can scoop. She catapults it on to her back and her head and ruffles her feathers so that the dirt can get in between them all and stay wedged in there. The dirt keeps the bugs off and keeps their skin dry in the hot weather. They love it. On the farm the dirt is very clay-like and red, so sometimes they look a little scruffy and stained—particularly Cartoon who has a lot of white in her feathers.

 

Butterscotch and Martha on the concrete table

Butterscotch and Martha on the concrete table

They wander over to the concrete table in the shade near the garden for a cool place to sit and rest again. There are always nice plump bugs there, and the chilly concrete refreshes them after their walk.

Eventually, they make their way again to the back of the house where they can find shade under the deck. There they take naps, hang out and chat…and take more dirt baths. In the early summer, they make sure to take a detour by the blueberry bush near the house, just beyond the deck to grab a few tasty berries. Before bedtime, they would head over to the grapevines to see if they were ripe yet, and then head back to the coop for a final nibble on pellets, a drink of water, and up to the perches for some sleep.

 

If the human called Mommy comes out of the house (and she often does), no matter where the ladies are in their routine, they will break from convention and follow her wherever she goes—except for the meadow—that’s the hawk’s domain and they are not interested in being on his menu. They figure that Mommy is where snacks and treats generally come from, so they have to check out whether she’s carrying anything noteworthy. If they are near to the back door, they jog over to her. If they are far—even on the other side of the yard—they run and flap their wings, almost flying, to get to her and the potential treats as quickly as they can. Mommy will usually sit with the girls for a while and listen to their stories and concerns, and Cartoon usually takes her place on Mommy’s lap to fill her in on all the news.

 

This is pretty much how any given day is spent by the chickens of Blackwater Farm. But, every now and then, something remarkable will happen; and that’s where our stories really begin.