Punk Rock Hens

This weekend I got a call from a chicken keeper in the next town over. She has a very nice backyard set-up: one of those pre-fab coops perfect for 4 or 5 hens, with an attached, fenced run. She keeps the area very clean and the hens even have a tub of sand and DE to dust bathe in. Like many suburban chicken owners, she has a mix of hens, including an Orpington, a gorgeous White Plymouth Rock, and a Rhode Island Red. Usually, hens of different breeds get along fine if they are the same size and age and hers got along quite cheerfully. However, recently she added two more hens, and that made it just that much more crowded. Her two Polish Crested, silly hens with big white top-knots, were the ones to suffer. The other hens weren’t trying to kill them (as can happen – hens sometimes become cannibalistic,) they simply couldn’t resist those fluffy white feathers. The Polish tend to be meek and flighty. Soon, they were bald.

Blue Coat is an antiseptic used in these situations. Not only does it prevent infection, but it darkens the skin, making it less of a target for the other hens. Still, this good chicken owner knew that the hens were unhappy, and so they came home with me.

Here is one, looking a bit like a punk star, with her outrageous purple styling. I need names for these two girls. Any ideas for female rockers?

punk hen

I put the new hens into the big barn. Even with more space, my hens have been pecking at the Polish’s heads. So, during the day, the new girls will be out with the goats to give them a break from the pecking order bullying. They’ve also got new hats.

duct tape hat

Duct tape really does fix just about everything. This headgear will deter bloody pecking! By the time the duct tape falls off, new feather quills will be growing underneath. I think the hens like their new fashions.

The Traveling Hen

On Thursday I took one of my “actresses who plays Tillie” (in this case, Coco) for a drive.

traveling hen

It was a long trip – 130 miles each way – but Coco was quite comfortable. Some hens do not like to leave the coop. My Australorps get upset if they are brought into a different section of the barn! Some hens don’t like to leave their friends. I couldn’t possibly take Marge somewhere without her best buddy, Petunia. But, my Bantam White Leghorns have no problem leaving the flock. The three of them all have prima donna attitudes and I think they like the individual, doting attention. Their traveling accommodation is comfortable and bedded with hay, which keeps them secure even around tight corners (not that I speed!)  All of the food is theirs and theirs alone. Besides, they like being handled.

So, Coco settled in and we drove to the Springfield, VT library where Coco was the star of a Chicken Discovery Hour.

Here she is, doing what she does best, sitting calmly in my hand while being admired and stroked by children (the librarians always pet her, too!)

Tillie in Springfield

If you would like me and one of my hens to come to your preschool, school or library, email. Coco is up for another trip.

Too Ripe Pears

I had a dozen pears in the fruit drawer of my refrigerator. They’re from a local orchard, which means they’ve got flavor – unlike the supermarket pears that are all superficial good looks. I wanted to use them in something special. Perhaps a pear tarte. But, of course, I didn’t get around to it. Meanwhile, my special pears ripened, and then got splotchy. So, yesterday, despite being tired and cold and rushed, I decided that I had to use them before they became chicken feed.

I quartered and cored them, and cut off the bruised spots. I put them in a baking dish (no greasing necessary.) I drizzled on some grade B maple syrup (more flavorful than the A) and sprinkled on some brown sugar. I dusted a couple of tablespoons of ground hazelnut flour on top. I get this from my favorite baking supply source, King Arthur Flour. (Sorry for introducing you – shopping there will become addictive!) Nut flour is my idea of a convenience food. Cooking short-cuts don’t have to come with a Pillsbury label. Dot with 2 teaspoons (that’s all!) of good, salted butter. Bake at 375 degrees for a half hour until soft.

Last night I had the pears, warm, with ginger ice cream. Today I had them with yogurt for breakfast. This is all that is left:


At least as good as a tarte.

Columbus Day Shopping

I’m sure that at some point Columbus Day celebrated Columbus. Now it’s a shopping day. There are sales at the mall, but I’m not there. This is where I went:


I got a pitchfork, a manure shovel, a bag of laying hen feed and pasture seed. The goats have done such a thorough job ridding a corner of the back meadow of brambles and golden rod, that I’m able to reseed with a timothy/alfalfa mix. I’m pleased, but they’d rather have me plant weeds and thorny brush!

This morning there was frost on the grass. It’s the first “hard frost” of the season. It’s warmed up, and it’s supposed to be above freezing, though rainy, for the rest of the week. Still, I went out and pulled up half of my parsnips. Last year I left them in so long that they were frozen solid in the garden and I couldn’t harvest them until spring. I’ve got a hankering for roasted parsnips and carrots for dinner. Leftovers will be frozen and used for soup this winter. It’s definitely a change of seasons!