Stephen Kahn

Posts Tagged ‘chickens’

Last story. Part 1.

In Hard to tell on July 18, 2012 at 12:04 am

Old people talking about their illnesses is tedious (even, or perhaps especially) to each other in the hospital. It’s time for a story. It may be the last one I have, because I live on peaceful Whidbey Island, even though the local newspaper rumors that NBC Dateline will cover one of our big murder trials.

Or the exciting news may be the integration of our chicken coop. The black “sex-link” pullets (teenagers) are trying to sleep with the Dominique hens (doesn’t that sound racy)? (The Dominiques are a mixture of black and white, rather like Barak).

Except Lucy, the bottom of the adult hen pecking order (and a very belligerent hen with a very bad attitude) says, “No pullets on my perch and no pullets on the nice new perch next to mine Grandma installed.” Then Lucy pecked the pullets’ tail feathers in a very nasty way. The pullets fled and hid in their closet. But then Grandma talked to all the hens and sternly told them they had to sleep together like good little hens, and in the morning there were no feathers or bloody spots to be found. So peace reigns in the hen house, sort of.

Instead I will tell about the time I almost became a Kenyan millionaire, just before I retired.

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First the chickens, then us.

In Bad news on July 12, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Real life has a habit of intruding on story-telling. Last night, after I spent the morning at at a CPR/First Aid class at the church, my wife went out to putter among the chickens. She came back to the house and broke into tears and sobs.

“One of the pullets is sick,” she told me between sobs. “I put her in the closet.” [The store room where the pullets lived before we integrated them with the hens.] My wife, even in the midst of sorrow and turmoil, is pragmatic. She is getting the sick pullet away from the others so the young hen won’t infect the others. This morning she (or I) will go out and see if the teenage is still alive. This provides us with practice as we get old and eventually ill, for dealing with each other, just as my wife skillfully nursed me as I lay ill with an infected leg.

Tip to younger people. When you choose a mate when young for sex appeal and other entertainment values, choose someone who will be a good nurse when you get old. And start developing your own nursing skills. Or make enough money to hire good nurses. Romney’s wife has a serious illness. I presume she has good nursing care, one way or another.

Anne Elise Mourns Little Peep

In Hard to tell on October 19, 2011 at 2:13 am

My wife was saddened by the death of our chicken Little Peep. Our grandaughter, Anne Elise, a talented young artist, sent us a consolation card with a touching portrait of Little Peep.

Vaccinate the dinosaur’s food?

In Humor on October 2, 2011 at 9:06 pm

Yesterday, I saw the pullets dashing across the chicken run. When I went inside, I saw that one of the pullets had caught something small. Perhaps the little dinosaur had caught another mouse?

She didn’t want me to get close enough to examine her prey, perhaps sure I would steal it from her (as her sister was trying to do). Also, the prey was so demolished I could not see what it was.

When I told my wife, she was concerned. After all, the last chicken to catch a mouse had been Little Peep. Little Peep had fallen ill a month or two later and I had to perform a mercy killing, much to my wife’s distress. (She hopes that the chickens will outlive us, so we don’t have to deal with the grief of losing them.) Had Little Peep been infected by a virus from eating an infected mouse? I am not sure whether I should surround the chicken run with mouse traps, or make sure to only let them catch mice that have had all their shots. Anyway, semi-free run chickens will eat all sorts of stuff. That is what is supposed to be so great about their “natural” life style.

I am not vaccinating the mice that would do either. One of my sisters, who is very smart, is very skeptical about immunization. She would probably tell me that vaccinations are not very good for mice. Oh, dear, what to do?

No green burial for Little Peep

In Bad news on September 10, 2011 at 10:25 pm

Not too long ago, a friend of my wife in the organic farmers group told her that with care and protection, our chickens might live to the age of 10 or 12 years. As it is hard to imagine a more protected, more cosseted group of chickens than our little flock, my wife was optimistic.

As each of us get older, if we are still fondly espoused, the thought of outliving our spouse does not seem that enticing. If we have dear animal companions, the thought of seeing our pets die, or worse, “putting them to sleep” depresses us. My wife’s best friend (who lives in Portland), just had to have her much loved cat put to sleep.

Although my wife (as am I) is still healthy, perhaps she imagined our chickens would outlive us. As chickens are productive at laying eggs for only a couple of years, she put out of her mind the difficulties and expenses of feeding, housing and caring for an ever-growing flock of superannuated chickens. If nothing else, we don’t have the room, and I am not about to build another hen house.

As chickens go, Little Peep was not that charming. She pecked the pullets. She ate sow bugs, earthworms, and beetles with relish, with little concern that they were other living creatures who had lives of their own to live. Well, she did let us “pet” her, but only because her “a rooster is about to mount me” instinctual drives took over.

Even so, my wife thought she might carry on pecking and scratching for another five to ten years. When she started limping, my wife hoped she might still be able to survive. As my wife began to accept that Little Peep was not going to live, she hoped that one day I would open the basement door and see she had passed away in her sleep in her cage. Each morning she was alive. Each day, she feebly but persistently pecked at the weeds I put in her cage.

This morning, my wife said to me, “We can’t go on like this. You will have to dispose of her. She has some sort of infection. Don’t throw her out for the eagles or hawks; she might make them sick.” Little Peep liked bugs the best, but it was too hard to find enough for a suitable last meal. All the hens consider oats as a kind of candy. My wife gave her one last generous portion of oats to peck. Then I took her to the other side of the house (where the other chickens could not see what I was about to do).

My wife insisted on watching. Chickens don’t stop moving all that quickly. Even after they are dead, they are still thrashing around for a while. Eventually, she stopped moving. My wife sobbed. I said, “Go inside. I will finish up disposing of her.”

I wrapped Little Peep’s remains in a plastic bag and put her in the trash can. We now have four chickens. As far as I can see, they are all healthy.

I notice there is a new movie out, called Contagion, about a epidemic striking humans on earth. Perhaps I will take the chickens to see it at the local movie theatre. They can peck at popcorn and crap on the seats as they watch. They are too dumb to realize that if humans die off, no one will be around to fill their water container, put out their chicken feed, or keep the juice running in the electric fence that protects them from the raccoons.

Little Peep Limps On

In Bad news on September 5, 2011 at 11:50 pm

The other night as I went out to care for the chickens, I noticed that Little Peep, bottom of the pecking order of the three hens, and thus persecutor of the two pullets, is limping. Perhaps she has a sprained ankle. Chickens are remarkably tough birds, but also remarkably fragile. Even at best, their life span is brief. Once they injure one of their legs, they are probably not that long for this world.

My wife is optimistic, and we are caring for her as best we can, and she is limping around gamely, and still trying to pick on the pullets. I am maintaining a discreet silence, but preparing myself for a “Peepless” world. I now return myself to my glum musings about violence.

New Babies Arrive Today

In Good news on May 11, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Today Christina and I will be like grandparents off to the hospital to meet new grandchildren. We’re getting new baby chicks.

Big Mama the Responsible, Moll the Pecky Drama Queen, and Little Peep Who Chicken-Struts to a Different Drummer are fine, though for the last couple of days they have not been laying eggs. Anyway, they’re about a year old, which is getting along in hen years (even utterly spoiled, well-protected hens), so we purchased some new baby chicks. Today we are supposed to pick the new babies up from one of the farm stores on Whidbey.

We are so lazy and depraved. We don’t have a rooster. We didn’t have our hens hatch their own babies. We are likeUSA adult humans who adopt children from Romania, or China, or Africa instead of having our own babies.

To begin with, the baby chicks will live in a creche upstairs where they can imprint on us and eat chicken baby food. Gradually they will learn to eat a bug and weed or two, go for brief trips outside. They have to be kept separate from the three older hens (who would probably peck them to death). After they see each other through a fence, the older hens and chicks will get to spend a few minutes together, until they gradually learn to live with each other.

The perch in the hen house only has room for five hens, so we are only getting two new ones. The mishap rate for baby chicks is high. Last time we started with four babies and one had to be mercy-killed. The chicks are supposed to be “sexed” (roosters separated out before selling them) but sometimes cocks get through. Instead of keeping roosters to waken neighbors and fertilize the eggs, most people around here stick with hens. If they get roosters, instead of eating them, the sentimental chicken raisers try to give them away. The local recycling station has a whole flock of “rescued” roosters who strut around and perch on the bins of paper and bottles and cans. So the whole process is fraught with drama and risk, like life itself.

During my life, people of different races have gone through a similar process here in the United States, gradually learning to live with each other. In other places, such as the Middle East, it is taking a lot longer for different groups to learn to live with each other without pecking each other to death. Dumb as chickens are (and believe me, they are really dumb), they don’t hold a candle to human beings.

Slugs? No. Ayn Rand? Yes.

In Bad news on April 11, 2011 at 5:27 pm

I was going to describe my latest effort to convince our chickens to eat slugs, but I just glanced at Google News and noticed that a movie based on Ayn Rand’s mad book Atlas Shrugged (or at least the first third of this massive diatribe) will shortly be released. This effort will join movies such as Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ and John Travolta’s Battlefield Earth as monuments to vanity film making.

When I was about14 years old, my family (in the process of moving to the Madison, Wisconsin area) rented a house for a couple of months. As a compulsive reader, I looked for something to read and found two books:

Gone with the Wind and Atlas Shrugged.

Like a young child slugging down bottles of liquor or consuming some other harmful substance (slugs, maybe?), reading those two books at such a young age left me  permanently brain damaged.

While the appearance of this movie is not conclusive proof, it definitely falls into the category of indicators that civilization is rapidly collapsing. Perhaps the capture of Laurent Gbagbo (speaking of slugs?) is an indicator on the side of supporting civilization. However, I suspect the chickens would turn up their beaks at him even more than they do at the slugs.

I invent the yecch-meter for measuring slugs

In Good news, Humor on April 5, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Today I began work on my effort to get the chickens to learn how to eat slugs, something they are a little loath to do. I have never been a drug dealer, getting little children “hooked” on dangerous drugs, but there may be some resemblence to the skills and tactics needed in such an analogy.

Yesterday, I looked for slugs to use in my evil scheme. Usually in spring, there are slugs everywhere. Drat! Foiled again! Not a slug did I find. How come there’s never a slug when you really want one?

Today, I turned over some rocks and found several slugs. As I mentioned, the chickens will eat tiny slugs, but not big slugs. So as I gathered them up, I pondered their size. The were small, but not really tiny. I have a guage for evaluating screw size for our blundering building projects (e.g., building a chicken house). There are systems for evaluating nail sizes. In the United States these are measured in penny sizes.

Obviously I need to devise a slug gauge and a set of sizes. Perhaps slugs can be measured in Yecchs! A really tiny slug that I can hardly make out would be a 1-Yecch! slug, while a gigantic six inch long slug would be a 50-Yecch! slug. The slugs I found were about 3- or 4-Yecch! size.

I put them on a plastic lid with an earthworm and put them in front of the chickens. Chickens are (like me) a bit ADD/HD and they wandered around without paying much attention to my offering. I decided to try and lure them with candy. Our chickens regard oat flakes as candy.

I tossed some candy around the slugs and the earthworms. The chickens began gobbling up the candy. One of the chickens picked up a 3-Yecch! size slug, flailed it around a bit, and eventually ate it!

Success! I am now thinking of preparing slugs wrapped in oat flakes. Sort of like chicken-oat-slug granola.

Never safe

In Bad news, Good news, Humor on April 3, 2011 at 6:33 pm

Life is dangerous. One moment, you are running back into the cave and trying to hide from a tiger. The next moment, you have intestinal flu and running outside to crap in the bushes because who wants to crap where your clan is sharing the cave, meanwhile the tiger eats you and gets the flu from you.

The next day, an earthquake and a tsunami hits your island and your nuclear reactor. That’s if you live in Japan. I live on Whidbey Island. We haven’t been hit with an earthquake yet, though we live on a fault. We don’t have a nuclear reactor, but our power goes out frequently in the wind storms.

Or you get hit by a computer virus that wrecks your nuclear energy program. I think that is what happened to Iran recently. Was the virus from Israel or from the United States? Welcome to the future.

My computer or my email or something in my electronic “life”  was hit by something on April 1. There is something going around called “Lisamoon” that apparently has hit over a million computers. If I emailed you, it was probably Lisamoon. But maybe it  wasn’t. At the moment I am testing an old “gmail” account I haven’t used in about a year to see if it was compromised. My neighbors are coming over for dinner tomorrow night.

Craig and Sharon got rid of their computer. Now they live mostly off the grid, though they get satellite television.

Sharon got breast cancer, so she didn’t come over for dinner a few weeks ago when originally scheduled, but she is responding well to treatment, so they are  trying again to join us for dinner. I hope nothing like an earthquake or tsunami or tiger or other peril interferes.

If my computer infected yours, I apologize. If you need to email me, email me so I can tell you the secret safe email. Darn. I don’t think this is going work. It’s too much like a Dilbert joke.

[A few years ago, Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert) had a rare illness that was too much like a Dilbert joke.

Then he joked about women recently and is now undergoing a torrent of criticism. Scott Adams is too much like a Dilbert joke. This is all true. Go figure.]

Oh, well, I am going to go eat worms or feed worms to the chickens. I will update you about the trick I am trying to play on the chickens one of these days. It involves “slow food.”