On untamed creatures

img_0525Excuse the blur that is this moving target:  I accept her wild-eyed, floppy-combed self, bad habits and all, and she mostly accepts mine.

Farm animals keep you honest.  Really, they do.  They have schedules, they have needs, they don’t accept much slacking on the parts of their owners.  It’s actually a good and deep relationship that can develop, even if it’s between you and a simple chicken.

When we got our most recent batch of laying hens two springs ago, I almost drew the line on Pauline, the white Leghorn.  Leghorns (excepting Foghorn) are egg-laying machines (indeed:  many white industrial eggs come from Leghorns) and they’re skittish:  I like a more calm bird.  But my daughter really wanted that little yellow chick, and I conceded, with reservations.  Sure enough, she’s an egg-laying machine.  And she’s easily spooked!  Such is the monkey-see of chick-raising, her habit was picked up by all four other chicks, so much so that only in puberty did they come back to their true, calm natures…while Pauline remains a squawking idiot.


But hey, a flighty, squawking egg machine can be a lot of fun!  I think often about all her sisters and cousins who’re spending their short lives, 5 to a cage the size of a cat carrier, laying endlessly until they become soup or–horrors–nuggets.  Pauline lives her life as she pleases, flying out of the coop and henyard, determined as ever to satisfy her desires.  It only took me about a week to realize I wasn’t getting a daily egg from her, only one every other day:  as the only white egg of the bunch, hers are distinctive.  A bit of bushwacking and building-searching led me to find her cache hidden behind a hay bale and atop barncat Edie’s straw-bale bed.

12 responses to “On untamed creatures

  1. She may be flighty but she sure is cute as a bug’s ear! Egg laying machine, for sure. ::sighs for chickens::

    And yes, you should tell her she has it good, maybe she’ll flop her comb around for you. 🙂

  2. Here’s the thing I’ve always wondered after reading L.M. Montgomery or Laura Ingalls Wilder books: Can you really chase a chicken to death? I ask you because it seems like familiarity with a skittish chicken might give you some insight.

  3. Hello! I found your blog via Compostings, and I sat here and read until my little guy came with pitiful arms up begging for some attention. I love it! I am in Ohio (I won’t hold the Ohio – Michigan thing against you if you don’t hold it against me;) ), and am gearing up for seed-starting. This is only my second year at gardening, and my first attempt at indoor seed-starting. I don’t have much space for gardening in my backyard, though I do have a modest sized garden. I would love to have a greenhouse! First, though, I need to actually have a successful garden =) I will be back to eagerly read more!

  4. Aren’t chickens just the best things? I think they act just like people. I know some of the people I work with remind me of my flock of 15 girls and 1 rooster.


  5. Hi El,

    I see you still have the guinea hens, I was wondering if they have been playing well with the other birds these days? We have been considering getting a few but are worried that they would not get along with the chickens all that well. I have read your previous posts regarding them and…well, I’m not sure if I am up for the challenge.


  6. That little trickster, Pauline! (see what happens when you give you hen a French name?)

  7. A sharp one that Pauline, rubbing off on the rest of the chicks! I’ve always wondered, what makes hens lay white vs brown eggs? Is there any way to tell before observing the first batch?

  8. Christy, oh yeah, she flops it around a lot. It used to be a straight-up comb but she must’ve gotten into a scuffle with one of the other girls and now it’s at a jaunty angle.

    Sarah I think it’s entirely possible to run them down but my bets are they die of fear before becoming too tired. I think that’s what happened to Bonnie when she was killed by a wandering dog: just getting spooked enough might do it. Poor little hearts!

    Why hi, Gardenmama! Welcome. Nah, I don’t hold much on the MI/OH thing, mainly because I went to college at one of the UofM’s rivals. I am glad you’ve come to visit! I love stories like yours: beginning gardeners, really enthusiastic about the prospects of growing goodness for your family. Watch out though because it could become an obsession and you might just move everyone to a farm…

    Oh yeah, Linda, I know. If anything Pauline is misnamed and should be Phyllis, Tom’s grandmother, who is a…small, flighty, determined creature herself. All our girls are named after grandmothers and great- and great-greats, and if their personalities accord with their namesakes that would be a very happy occurrence. As it is, I have no idea if Pauline acts like my great-great grandmother or not!

    Mike, well, if you’ve read about my experience with the guineas I will tell you Pauline has NOTHING on them as far as being flighty and easily spooked. They are completely worthless except for poop-making for half the year because they don’t lay at all. They’re not destined to be with us forever it seems because we want peace with our neighbors. They’re really much too loud. But…they taste great!

    Hah, Sylvie, it’s true! My GGGrandmother was French!

    MC, the egg color is entirely a product of the chickens’ pigmentation. I can’t quite figure out the math of it all but if you look at their ear and leg color it’ll tell you what color their eggs will be. Usually it’s white to brown and only the Ameraucanas lay the pretty greenish/blue ones. Phyllis, our Ameraucana, has blue/gray legs and blue ears.

  9. I so hope we can have chickens some day!

  10. Our little Cubalaya used to count the eggs, and if she deemed one missing, she’d go find another place to lay. I finally put golf balls into the laying boxes. Now she’s laying there regularly.

  11. Lindsay, I hope you do too! They’re unendingly amusing.

    Hiya D.A. I had to do that trick too. Luckily Target sold realistic wood eggs in their children’s kitchen section: we initially got them for our, well, child, but this helped. I can’t wait to get a broody hen myself. All of my girls have it bred out of them, the poor biddies.

  12. A human can chase to death anything that runs, and doesn’t climb or burrow. Some people think that, for an important stage of our evolution, we hunted in packs, as endurance runners: can’t catch the gazelle the first time, or the fiftieth, but we only need to catch it once.

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