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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.