Chicken Keeping Workshop!

For those of you who couldn’t make it to the first Chicken Keeping Workshop, I’ve scheduled another. It will be on Saturday, September 24 from 2 to 4 pm. I’ll cover all of the basics so that you can get started with chickens in your own backyard. You’ll tour my coops and meet the hens (and even learn how to pick one up!)  Once again, I’ll provide homemade cookies and tea (maybe hot if the weather is autumn-chilly), and if you’d like to stay a little longer, you can visit with the goats. The boys would like that.

The cost is only $20. Email me to reserve a spot.

UPDATE:  this workshop is full, but I am taking names for a waiting list. If interested in the next one, please email and I’ll put you on the list.

Unwelcome House Guests

House Sparrows are like mice – they’re cute, but way too prolific and you don’t want to share your home with them. There’s been a gang of house sparrows in the HenCam coop. I could tell they were young and inexperienced because instead of zippily flying out when they saw me, they’d barge around and fly into the window. A seasoned bird knows to dip down and fly right out the chicken’s pop door. It took me awhile, but it finally dawned on me that there was a nest somewhere inside the coop. Steve found it in the eaves above the window.

He reached in (gloved, but still, I was glad not to be doing this) and pulled out handful after handful of hay and grasses that the sparrows had constructed their bedroom with.

A coop is a smart place to have a nest. It’s closed up and protected from predators at night, but open for business during the day. There’s food and water within easy reach. The sparrows were not pleased to be evicted. This morning they were flying around outside of the coop, making bzzinking chirps and looking annoyed and hassled, like teenagers woken up early.

I don’t  feel sorry for them. House sparrows carry diseases, like mycoplasma, and external parasites, like mites. They’re pests. They won’t have a safe haven in the coop any longer.

Meanwhile, I seem to be losing the battle of the chipmunks outside. Lily is not taken in by their adorableness, and has done a valiant job keeping them out of my garden. But, she was out of commission for a week due to her torn dew claw. In that time my peach tree went from this

to this:

Good farm dog Lily is back at work. I’m hoping the peaches will ripen this week and I’ll be able to salvage half the crop.

Meanwhile, the corn is up. It’s not quite ready for harvesting. I’m waiting and watching. As are the raccoons. We’ll see who gets to it first.

Garden Inspiration

We went to Maine for a few days last week. The last thing on the list of what my teenage sons would choose to do is to go to a botanical garden. But on the last day I told everyone that that was just what we were going to do. On the drive home, we stopped in at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. It’s only four years old, which is brand new as far as gardens go, but without mature plantings it gives you a chance to see the structure of the garden design. My favorite area was the children’s garden, where there was whimsy galore. I want these hinges.

How perfect is this for a garden for little ones?

And all gardens need wheelbarrows,

specifically red ones with a poem.

The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is sited along a salt-water inlet and there are hiking trails covered with moss and pine needles.

My sons enjoyed the flowers, the walk and the sculptures. I knew they would.

And then we played miniature golf and had ice cream.

How perfect is that?


I found my first Bantam White Leghorn, Snowball, at a poultry swap. Actually, my son found her and insisted we bring her home. I said, “This chicken is trouble.” I could see the spunk. Snowball inspired Tillie Lays an Egg. She died right before the book came out, but by then I already had two actresses, waiting in the wings, to play her part – Eggers and Betsy Ross. They were (and Betsy remains) good little birds, but neither matched Snowball’s aplomb or attitude, so I went looking for another. I found her at a poultry show. In a line-up of almost identical small white pullets, I recognized that look in Coco’s eyes. Spunk. It took quite a bit of cajoling, but I convinced the owner to sell.

Coco was gorgeous.

Coco was independent and self-assured. We traveled to NYC to go on the MARTHA show, and she was calmer than me while waiting to go onstage.

Coco maintained her stately airs in front of a live studio audience.

But, more important than her star turns was what she did at schools and libraries.

Coco was the perfect chicken ambassador and more than one child now has hens in their backyards because of her. Coco died this week and is buried in the meadow.

Did Coco (or Snowball) touch your life?


It’s been a difficult couple of days. Good Dog Lily, in her effort to rid the yard of a scourge of blackbirds and a curse of squirrels, has been in chase mode. Her sprints are cheetah-worthy. She killed a squirrel on Friday! But, yesterday, she ripped her dew claw, so today we spent a few hours at the emergency vet clinic getting her patched up. Scooter, left home, yowled and yowled. Lily will be fine, but is presently bandaged up and will be on leash for a week.

Also worrisome, I noticed that Coco was looking tail-down Thursday. On Friday she looked worse and so I gave her a soothing soak in epsom salts and warm water. It perked her up for a few hours, but wasn’t the hoped-for cure, so now I have her in a cozy crate. Yesterday she ate blueberries and yogurt out of my hand, but today she is quietly shutting down. Whatever is ailing her, it isn’t something that I can fix. It’s not respiratory. It’s not an impaction – she’s able to drink and produce manure. She hasn’t laid an egg for ages, so it’s unlikely to be a problem there. There’s nothing that I can do for her other than to keep her comfortable. I think it’s just a matter of time. I have a theory that many gorgeous purebred birds are so inbred that they don’t last long.

But, in the midst of all of this worry and trouble, look at who graced the water feature. It’s a Baltimore Oriole about to take a bath in The Beast’s pond. There’s always beauty. Sometimes it’s a glimpse out the corner of your eye, but it’s there, nonetheless.