Luckiest Buff Orpington, Ever

Back in 2011 I added about a dozen chicks to my flock, three of which were Buff Orpingtons. Buff Orpingtons can make excellent school visit hens – they’re pretty and docile. My good storytime hens were retiring, and I was hoping that there’d be a nice one in this group. However, a good-natured Buff Orpington turns into a huffy chickzilla when she goes broody, and BOs are known for going broody, so I knew that I was taking a risk. Still, the children that I meet on school visits love meeting a golden hen. It was worth getting a couple BO chicks. Of the three, Amber, Beryl and Topaz, one was just what I’d hoped for. Amber has become my assistant when I do programs. The other two… well… they were broodies. They stayed in their nesting boxes, looking grumpy. They didn’t lay eggs. Put them in an anti-broody coop, and they’d snap out of it, but only for a couple of days. I’d had it with them.

Luckily, one of my readers was looking to add a couple of Buff Orpingtons to her flock. She didn’t care that Beryl and Topaz were broody. Beryl was a particularly beautiful hen. Kim took the two home with her. Periodically, I’ve heard about how nicely they’ve settled in with her backyard flock.

Last month, Kim put the perennially broody Beryl into a separate pen and gave her two fertile eggs. One hatched. Then, Kim tucked a few day-old chicks under Beryl. She accepted them, too. Beryl is the perfect mamma hen. She landed in the best, ever home. Lucky, lucky girl.

beryl and chicks

Calf and Toddler

I have no experience with cows. Actually, in my first year in the animal science program in college, a part of an introductory course had us looking at cows and judging which had the best udder. That didn’t teach me anything about the essence of what a cow is -although I’m still able to point out good dairy cow conformation!

A hundred years ago, small farms would have had one or two cows. These animals would have been considered women’s work. Extra milk would have been churned into butter and sold locally. Often, the butter money was what enabled the farm wife to bring essential groceries, like flour, salt and sugar, home.

In order to make milk, a cow must give birth. (Think about it – that’s why milk is produced. For babies.) A female calf would have been especially welcome.

By the time this calf was ready to join the milking herd, this child would have been old enough to help care for the cows. I think that they would already have been friends.

cow and toddler


Have you had a cow (or an entire herd) in your life? Tell me about these animals.

This and That

I thought you’d like to know what’s going on here – so this post will be on a number of topics, which relate to each other only in that I’m trying to stay on top of all of them!

We are waiting on rain. Unlike California, we know it’s coming, and unlike in Texas, it won’t be a flood. But we need it. The goat pasture is bare, and so I’m keeping the goats in their paddock, and taking them out to graze.

goats on leashes


This is the area that has been my pumpkin patch for years. I’m letting it rest this season. The goat boys’ job is to eat the weeds. They don’t often stay on task.

goats pull


The hens have been helping to control the infestation of winter moth caterpillars that are denuding trees of leaves, and then dropping down on silk threads to find more plants to weaken. Some nasty bugs, like tent caterpillars, are off even the hens’ menu, but these little green things they love. Go to work, Girls!

hens under tree


Lily is supposed to be on bed rest. That torn cruciate ligament has her hobbling around on 3 legs. It must be painful. She’s only allowed out on her leash. But, Lily still managed, while crossing the lawn, to snatch up a garter snake. She sees the veterinarian on Thursday. I’ll let you know the prognosis. (For those wondering – I’m still waiting on the DNA test results.)

lily on porch


I’ve been busy doing school and library visits, with a hen, of course. I’ve also been called on for advice on chicken health matters. One client had a hen pass away, and she wanted to know why. I did a necropsy. The hen was producing yolks, but no shells. The yolks, unable to move easily through the reproductive tract, had become infected. The client was relieved to know that what her hen died from was not due to the care she gives her flock.



I’ve started to take on horse training clients. I recently spent several hours observing this lovely horse.



He’s just moved to a new barn, and is about to embark on a change to positive reinforcement training. I took copious notes on his body language as he went through this new routine. Horses often communicate what they’re feeling in subtle ways, such as a flick of an ear, a flared nostril, a cocked hoof. I paid attention to all of that, and now his owner has a baseline for us to work from. I’ll continue to monitor his progress, take videos of training sessions, and provide this friendly horse with attention when his owner travels on business.

In the meanwhile, I spend several hours daily with Tonka. Two weeks ago, we entered our first dressage show.



We’re doing something right – we had the second-highest score of the day. We’ll be showing again on Sunday. This time, the test will include the canter. We still have a lot of work to do! Lucky for me, all of this work is exactly what I want to do.

Tonka canter


There are a few other things going on that have been slowing my blog writing – ITGuy has been updating and upgrading. I’ve got a new photo program to figure out (AGGHHH!) School for my sons is almost out. One is moving (too far) away. And I haven’t even mentioned the vegetable garden…

Do Chickens See Colors?

People often wonder what their chickens see. It’s so obvious that a hen can spy a tiny bug, or a shiny speck that we humans would never notice, and likely couldn’t see even if we tried. But, what about color?

The short answer is yes, chickens see color. The longer answer is complicated science (geeks continue reading here and here.)

In fact, chickens see a wider range of color than us. We have three cones which enable us to see red, blue, green, and variations thereof. Chickens have another cone that detects ultraviolet light. They also have a double cone that likely enables them to detect motion. To make their color vision even sharper, they have a special structure that adds an oily drop to the cones, which helps them to filter out all but a particular range of light.


hen face

Perhaps feather color is so extravagant and important to our chickens because their world is so vibrantly colorful. Certainly it’s why chickens are so drawn to bright things. I’ve learned not to paint my toenails red and then go into the coop in sandals! What colorful things are your hens attracted to?


chicken eye

The Vintage Hen

I wrote my first HenBlog post in May of 2006, and I’ve been writing several times a week ever since. I keep thinking that I’ve covered everything there is to say about backyard chickens, and then something new crops up in my flock, or I come to a better understanding of what I’m seeing, or there’s simply something amusing that I want to share with you. Nine years, and I’m still enjoying what I do here.

I added The Vintage Hen Blog (that’s the space I’m writing on now) to showcase my collection of vintage agricultural and animals photographs, like this.



And this.



And this.



I collected my favorite photographs and put them into books of postcards, which are available in the HenCam store.

I’ve come to realize that I don’t need to have this separate blog, and in an effort to streamline things, I’m combining this space with the HenBlog. All previous posts will be searchable on the HenCam archives through the “search” button on the right of the page. I’ll continue to share these old photographs on the HenBlog. In fact, writing this post makes me realize it’s been awhile since I shared these old images with you. Perhaps I should regularly post a vintage image each Thursday? What do you think?

I need to simplify things here, because I am hard at work on a new website – The Cooperative Horse – where I’ll be writing articles about horses, training, and deeper questions of how we relate to the animals in our lives. I’ll let you know when that’s up.