Tonka’s New Home

Horses are not like chickens. You can’t fit them onto a small piece of land. On the other hand, they are like chickens in that they need to live with at least one other of their kind. Because of this and a multitude of other reasons, I can’t keep a horse in my backyard, which is why ever since bringing Tonka into my life last December, he has lived at a boarding stable. I was lucky to find a tidy and well-run place for my horse just two miles up the road from home. Tonka lived out full-time in a large dirt paddock, with a shed for shelter. For the first few months his pasture buddy was a gelding named Merlin. Then Bianca came and they shared the space. Recently, he’s had three companions during the day, and one at night. Unfortunately, as nice as the people and the farm are, it wasn’t right for Tonka. Horses need to eat all day. Other horses did fine on the two hay feedings a day, but Tonka hurried through his ration, and then had nothing left to nibble on until dinner. Instead of making friends with the other horses, he saw them as competitors for resources. There were scuffles. Last week someone bit him hard on his back. It was time to go.

I began my search for a new stable. There are a few large, professional boarding barns near me, but at each the monthly fee is more than our mortgage. I looked at smaller, less expensive places, but the riding rings were rocky and the fencing rickety. Further north and west were options that suited both of us. I found one a thirty-five minute drive from my house.

The first thing that you see is a chicken coop. I felt right at home. There was one stall available, and after discussion with the barn owners, it was agreed that Tonka would fit in nicely.

SRS coop


Tonka will sleep indoors in a spacious stall.

SRS barn


During the day he has a paddock all to himself.



In the next enclosure over is a lovely grey mare, who has taken quite a shine to Tonka. If Tonka feels likewise, they’ll be put into the same paddock. Horse friendships are wonderful things, filled with play and back scratches. Time will tell if Tonka is interested. For now, though, Tonka doesn’t have to share his hay (fed four times daily) and he is more relaxed than I’ve ever seen him. Right off of the property are miles of trails to explore. On the farm are an indoor and an outdoor ring, both with good footing, which means that I’ll be able to ride all winter, and Tonka will get much-needed exercise, and physical and mental challenges.

Tonka at walk


After years of not having to commute to work, a daily twenty-two mile drive seems very, very long. To make the drive feel shorter (and maybe even educational!) I’ve been downloading podcasts onto my iPhone to listen to as I cruise up route 3. Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me shortens the drive immeasurably. Perhaps I should download TED talks, too. Do you listen to a podcast? Suggestions? It doesn’t have to be about chickens, in fact, I’d prefer to listen to something else. Expand my horizons!

Heart Dog

Scooter is a small dog of unknown parentage. His mom looked to be a corgi mix. His dad? I’m guessing Chihuahua. It doesn’t really matter. He’s a heart dog, which is a term for a once in a blue moon dog that fits into your life perfectly. Not all dogs are heart dogs. Those of us who have had dogs for many years know that we’re graced by one or two heart dogs amongst the many that we have over a long lifetime. In all honesty, though I love him dearly, he is not my heart dog. I’ve had one so far, and that was Nimbus (she was in my life a few years before this blog.) Scooter is a heart dog for my family. My sons dote on him, he makes my husband smile, and he is the ideal companion for Lily.

Scooter is even a heart dog in a tangible way. Look at his Queen Anne legs.



See that heart?

heart dog

Heart dog.


Still Time To Sign Up

I’ve got two workshops coming up on Sunday – a Chicken Keeping Class and an Advanced Chicken Keeping Workshop. Spaces remain in both. Please join us! Not only will I pack a lot of information into each two-hour session, but you’ll also eat homemade cookies,



say hello to the goats,



be asked for butt scratches by Scooter (unless he’s sunbathing),



listen to Lily bark at something (sorry, she’s loud!)



The Beast will swim over to check you out,

the Beast


Phoebe will ignore you,



these flowers will be in bloom,

morning glory


and, of course, you’ll meet the girls.



Sign up here.

Listen to the Night

It’s mid-September in New England. The leaves are hinting at the spectacular show to come.




At this point in time, though, the real drama is at night when you can’t see a thing. There’s a chorus so complex that I have no idea which sounds come from the frogs, the insects, or the birds. I’m sure there are naturalists out there who can parse this orchestra into it’s components. (Leave a comment and let me know what you hear!) But, before analyzing it, simply listen to it as a whole. It’s a full-throttled concert throbbing lustily with life.

Having gone from deafness back to hearing thanks to science and cochlear implants, this nightly chorus is a miraculous thing to immerse myself in. Read more about CIs here.

A Northern Coop

It gets cold here in New England, but it’s even colder up in Ontario bordering a Great Lake. Last year, my friend Lisa, who lives up there, had issues with frostbite in her flock. The solution wasn’t heat, rather it was ventilation. Lisa’s partner is an architect, and so their new coop is very well designed – and beautiful!

Lisa's coop


The sloping roofs shed snow, and provide for ample ventilation via the eaves. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ll know how important I think that height and air flow is. This example is ideal.

coop ventilation


There are large windows to let in the low winter light. Under the windows are screens for additional ventilation. During inclement weather, these are covered with a board that swings down and latches. There are nesting boxes accessible to the outside, a pop door going into a covered run, and a convenient full-sized door for people.

You can imagine how cozy and yet filled with fresh air, this coop will be in the winter.

inside coop


I’ll be talking at length about coop design at the Chicken Keeping Workshops this Sunday at my home in Carlisle, MA. Spaces remain. Sign up here!