Category Archives: The Menagerie

A Monarch Chrysalis

A Monarch Chrysalis at Farmhouse38For everyone interested in seeing the photo progression of the monarch chrysalis…this post is for you!

Of course, a few weeks back, my milkweed plants were teaming with monarch larvae:

A Monarch Chrysalis at

Eventually, they got big and fat:

A Monarch Chrysalis at


And then they proceeded to trek away from the milkweed to find a place to pupate (build their chrysalis). We found them cruising in the very far reaches of our yard. Incredible.

But I was especially astounded when I went to give my Lady Scarecrow a spring makeover (her clothes are so Spring 2013), and as I was stripping her down, I found this!:

Monarch Butterflies at

It was attached right to her wrist, like a little charm. Of course, I carefully readjusted her clothes and left everything just as it was.

So thrilling!

I proceeded to check on it everyday. For about a week, it looked just the same, and then suddenly, one day, it looked like this:

A Monarch Chrysalis at


I knew it must be close, so I started checking on it about once an hour, like a maniac. When it didn’t hatch that day, I knew that probably as soon as it was warm the next morning, the game was on.

The next morning, it looked very similar, but those pretty golden accents had all but disappeared, and the shell of the chrysalis was so very transparent, it was crazy!

A Monarch Chrysalis at

Once it began to warm outside, we began to check on it at five minute intervals.

And lo and behold, we missed it emerging! :-(

A Monarch Chrysalis at

Within a five minute span, it had hatched, and pumped its crumpled wings full of fluid.

I was so upset that I missed it, that I swore I was going to sit there and watch it until it took its first flight. So I sat and watched.

A Monarch Chrysalis at

Slowly it flexed its wings and legs, and made its way up from the chrysalis and into the sun.

A Monarch Chrysalis at

I waited.

A Monarch Chrysalis at

And I waited.

A Monarch Chrysalis from

And the white dog waited.

Until finally…it really began to stretch its wings in the sunshine.

A Monarch Chrysalis at

At this point, I was finally able to tell that this was a male (by the two black spots in the center of each lower wing).

They say that it takes about an hour before a monarch is ready to take flight, but the white dog and I waited two and a half hours for this little guy.

A Monarch Chrysalis at

I could see him start to vibrate and really pump his wings, and I knew it was the moment.

And then–just like that–he was off!

A Monarch Chrysalis at

A bit out of focus, but there he went–tumbling clumsily around.

And then we were super tired so we had to rest on a nearby rose bush:

A Monarch Chrysalis at

First flights are exhausting.

After a bit of a rest, he flitted to a few different resting spots in the yard, and then he was off, tumbling and flying with the other monarchs that had been playing in the garden that day.

Magic. Complete and utter magic.

A Monarch Chrysalis at

The white dog just really wasn’t all that impressed.


DIY Floral Collar for Dogs (and a Bee Sting)

DIY Flower Collar for Dogs from

Today’s looking up for Phoebe.  Yesterday wasn’t so fun:

Bee Stung Puppyface from

This is what it looks like when you take a bee stinger to the mouth.

Bee stung puppyface from

Needless to say, poor puppyface was in a lot of pain, and had to go to the vet for a shot. Sad face.

But today, her face has returned to it’s normal level of goofy, and she is feeling quite fantastic. So we decided to celebrate with a puppy flower collar.

DIY Flower Collar for Dogs from

Who’s a pretty girl?!

This tutorial harkens back to my floral design days when we’d do floral collars for dogs who got to be in the wedding party (which is pretty much my favorite thing ever). They’re so simple to make, and as long as you have a tolerant dog, they’re pretty easy to wear (I should note here that not all dogs will be a fan of this, so proceed with caution.  Also, be sure to select flowers that are non-toxic–I cannot stress this enough. Roses, marigolds, daisies, snapdragons, small sunflowers, coneflowers, etc. are all choices that are non-toxic and also hold up well in this sort of application-ie, won’t get too floppy too soon. Also herbs–herbs are great for this).

Start off by measuring your pet’s neck, and then add about two inches to that measurement. Now cut that amount of thin craft wire, and twist a small loop at one end:

DIY Floral Collar for Dogs from

Select your flowers and cut them right at the top of the stem so that the blossom has zero stem.

DIY Floral Collar for Dogs from

DIY Floral Collar for Dogs from

No stem!!

Now, carefully poke the wire through the base of the bud and out the other side. Sometimes it’s helpful to use a pin to sort of ‘pre-drill’ through the flower before poking the wire through.

DIY Floral Collar for Dogs from

DIY Floral Collar from

Slide that wire on through.

Slide the blossom on down, and repeat until you have filled the length with about an inch to spare.

DIY Floral Collar for Dogs from

Now, place the collar on your victim and feed the loose wire end through the looped wire end and secure.

DIY Floral Collar for Dogs from

Oh, Phoebe…workin’ that collar!

I should also note that an optional and very pretty way to attach the collar is to start with a slightly shorter wire length, put a wire loop at each end of the wire, and then attach short lengths of ribbon to each end.  These can then easily be tied together to secure around your pet’s neck:

DIY Floral Collar for Dogs from

Willie shows off this version.

This was, incidentally, the method I used to make Millie’s pretty little necklace last spring (some of you might remember):

DIY Floral Collars from

I should note here that Miss Millie was not a fan of her necklace AT ALL. I do not recommend putting accessories on your chickens unless they are just really used to these sorts of shenanigans or are really just that fashionable.

But the Feebster didn’t seem to mind her collar too much. She knows it goes well with her non-swollen face.

DIY Floral Collars for Dogs from

Merry Christmas 2013

Merry Christmas from Farmhouse38

It’s been a little quiet around here, I realize.  Lots of holiday posts were supposed to happen.  Then puppy.  Then the Christmas Ick.  So between the flu and the tiny terror, I have been a champion underachiever.

But I wanted to wish everyone a happy Christmas and New Year’s, and I will see you all on the flip side. Big things in 2014.  Big things.

With that–I’ll leave you with a quick view of the farmhouse all twinkled up:

The Newest Resident of Farmhouse38

Hello, Phoebe!

The Newest Member of the Farmhouse38 'Barnyard'

My nephew also says hi!

We didn’t set out to get a puppy.  I knew we would bring home another little soul sometime (I was thinking, perhaps, in the spring), but the universe had its own plans.  We got wind that this little girl was on her way to the shelter; here was this bright-eyed, sweet-faced puppy, complete with all original parts (no tail docking–joy!!), and the Texan and I both knew we were done for.  She was not going to the pound on our watch.  I just wish we could take in more.

The Newest Member of the Farmhouse38 'Barnyard'

How could we say no to the sad puppy eyes!  Kryptonite!  Put them away!

She is now ten weeks old (by best guess) and full of piss and vinegar.  The White Dog has been uncertain; afterall, the puppy is so tiny that she is virtually squashed by only one boxer-bop (in Abbie’s world, your worth is measured by how well you can wrestle).

Here’s a short video that shows the mortal peril the puppy faces just from being tiny:

But Abbie is slowly coming around.

The Newest Addition to the Farmhouse38 'Barnyard'

It’s a big deal when Abbie shares her bed.

The Newest Member of the Farmhouse38 'Barnyard'.

Puppy spooning.

While I have struggled emotionally with taking this step (it is still a bit soon for me), she has won me over with her shenanigans.  I would expect nothing less from a boxer.  She is also very willing to learn, to cuddle, to roll up into a wiggly kidney bean when she’s excited, to keep your lap warm, and to deliver an endless, stinky supply of puppy kisses.

The Newest Member of the Farmhouse38 'Barnyard'.

Here’s a short video showing Phoebe’s domination of the stairs (at first she was afraid, she was petrified…but then she got the hang of it after Abbie showed her a thing or two):

The Newest Member of the Farmhouse38 'Barnyard'.

Funny how the only photos I can get of her are while she is sleeping. Otherwise she is a blur of floppy ears and tail.

Here is an example of the blur:

The Newest Member of the Farmhouse38 Crew

And then we must rest.

She’s been doing great with the cats and the chickens (although the ginger-chicken has chased her off a few times, but that’s what the ginger-chicken do).  Nix already calls her by name (although, for the record, when the bird says ‘Phoebe’ it comes out sounding like ‘Seebie’, but she gets an ‘A’ for effort. Well, maybe more of an ‘A-’).  She has even gotten the stamp of approval from cousin Milo, the Frenchie (who is not too big to wrestle with).

All-in-all, I think she’s a great fit for us.  I look forward to when she is big enough to box because there is just nothing more joyful than two boxers duking it out for fun.

Welcome to the chaos, Feebs!

Unquantifiable Losses

I hate to make a Monday even more of a downer, but this is a sad post, folks.  So if you can’t stomach it, I totally understand.  Here’s your out.

It is with the heaviest of hearts that I must let you know that we’ve suffered two major losses recently.

First, and foremost, is my sweetest yellow dog, Chance.  At the ripe old age of 13, he passed away from cancer.  You would have hardly known he was sick right up until the very, very end.  It has actually been a couple of months now that he’s been gone…I just couldn’t bring myself to talk about it.  This dog…I have no words to express what this dog meant to me; long before the Texan entered our lives, it was just he and I.  He was my constant companion through good times and bad, and I think my heart will never not be broken.

The Best Dog in the World.

Rest in peace, my sweetest boy. I miss you every single day.

More recently, we also lost Millie-bird (a few days ago, in fact).  She succumbed to an ailment that the vet could only describe as ‘reproductive issues’ (incidentally, this was not egg-binding, or any of the usual suspects; it was on-going and had the vet completely perplexed).  I didn’t think I was going to be that person who rushed a sick chicken to the vet…but, as it turns out, I am.  And apparently, I am also that person who cries bawls over the loss of a chicken.  Millie was my favorite: friendly, cuddly, funny, talkative–I could go on and on but I think I have aired out my crazy enough for one day.


Goodbye my pretty, clucky girl.

And while I am doing a bit of tearful remembering, I want to give a spot to someone that you all don’t know.  Hogan has been gone for almost three years now…long before I started this blog.  But, he too, is an enormous hole in my heart.  He was a hysterical, bouncy, slobbery ball of boxer-love; completely one of a kind.


I still miss you, Hogie-bear.

Coop Du Jour 3.0

Chicken Garden and Coop from Farmhouse38The very fate of my marriage rests on the functionality of our newly made-over coop.  The Texan has really put his foot down; this is the last time we are re-doing the darned thing.  The. Last. Time.

Roger that.

The original coop design was….okay.  It just wasn’t great (even after we gave it several cute cosmetic overhauls).

The Original Chicken Coop from Farmhouse38

The made-over original coop.

It really was more of a run than it was a coop, and a rather useless run, at that.  Inside, there was a tiny curtain-enclosed roost box that also doubled as a nesting box.  It was always a mess, and also, I fear, not really protective enough in the winter.  In fact, last winter, we actually moved the coop and temporarily enclosed the whole thing with insulation and tarps to keep everyone warm and dry, which worked great, but gave the yard a rather shanty-like vibe.  Which made me nuts.

The Old, Worthless Coop from Farmhouse38

It still makes me twitchy to look at. Make it go away!!!

We finally decided that tweaking it one more time was just adding insult to injury.  With a year and a half of chicken-keeping under our belts, we went back to the proverbial drawing board.  I knew we could do better.

Additionally, my once gorgeous ‘secret garden’ that originally looked like this:

The Old Secret Garden at Farmhouse38

Was now looking more like this:

Do Not Repin this Awful Image from Farmhouse38

The junk scattered in the background is definitely because of the chickens. Definitely.

So, I knew that it was time to make this garden a ‘chicken garden’.  Which meant planting only chicken-friendly and chicken-proof plants.  If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

The driving force behind the design of the new henhouse was insulation, insulation, insulation.  And a legit peaked, shingled roof (as opposed to the old slanted corrugated plastic one) so that this adorable weathervane had somewhere to sit.

New Chicken Coop from Farmhouse38

This sucker is sturdy: studded walls, filled with insulation sandwiched between an interior and exterior layer of plywood.  The entire coop and run sits on a bed of cement pavers.

This summer, with temperatures hovering up over 100 degrees, the inside of the henhouse stays pretty darned nice.  Fingers crossed, the same will hold true this winter.

I wanted every single element of the coop interior to be removable so that I could easily clean things–because cleaning was a real bear in the last set-up.  The roost bar, shelves, perch, and nesting boxes all come out easily.  Additionally, the shelves, nesting boxes, and floors are all lined with sections of vinyl flooring and oil cloth so that they slip easily out for quick cleaning.

New Coop from Farmhouse38

Gertie’s telling me about the egg she just laid (lefthand nesting box), while broody Clementine grumbles at both of us from the righthand nesting box.

I must sing the praises of this set-up.  With the shelf under the roost bar to catch all their nighttime droppings, this house stays SO CLEAN.  I simply take out the removable oil-cloth lining and hose it off every morning.

Interior of New Chicken Coop from Farmhouse38

A shelf holds important supplies up out of chicken-reach, and hooks allow for bundles of fresh herbs to be hung (which ward off pests and deodorize the joint naturally). This is a good shot of the oil-cloth lined ceiling. A note about oil-cloth–it gives off a lot of fumes when it is new; I cut these pieces and aired them out outside for several weeks before installing in the coop.

The Abominable Brood-Monster of Farmhouse38

The Abominable Brood-Monster….oh, broody girl, you really must get out and do something with your life!  Obviously, the new coop suits her just fine.

Chicken Run with Living Roof from Farmhouse38

The new run has a living roof and a offers a little bit of shady outdoor space for them during the rare times when they must be locked up.

Green Roofed Chicken Run from Farmhouse38

The roof is built on a gentle slant, and consists of a ‘planter box’ frame built of sealed 1×8′s, with corrugated plastic roofing (salvaged from the roof of the old run) as the bottom of the box. Moisture and weed barrier layers affixed to the inside of the ‘box’ assure that the soil will stay put, and that any water will funnel off the end of the roof and not into the run.

Green Roofed Chicken Run at Farmhouse38

Living Roofed Chicken Run from Farmhouse38

I absolutely heart the green roof.

Coop Weathervane from Farmhouse38

Some might say I did this remodel just for this adorable weathervane.

The New Coop at Farmhouse38

The door’s vents are covered in hardware cloth for safety, and cut into star shapes for cuteness.  Certainly gives it a little bit of an outhouse-y vibe, but I think that’s hilarious, personally.  The little lantern has a timer-operated candle that comes on every night at dusk.

The New Coop at Farmhouse38

Millie has a knack for perfectly-timed photo-bombs.

Armoire Garden Storage Closet from Farmhouse38

To the right of the hen outhouse is an armoire that I rescued from the curb and fitted with doors. This serves us well as a chicken supply cabinet.

Rusty Star Washer Stepping Stones at Farmhouse38

Some rusty star washers serve as stepping stones to the supply cabinet.

The chicken garden surrounding the coop has been a bit of give and take.  It is a finely-tuned balance; equal parts protective plants and shrubs, pest-deterring herbs and flowers, edibles for the chickens, and a few little bits of annual color (which are hard to have because the chickens usually qualify these as ‘edibles for the chickens’).

Scrap Wood Garden Pathway from Farmhouse38

The annual-lined pathway leading to the chicken garden is ‘paved’ with bits and pieces of wood salvaged from the old coop and our recently renovated old deck. Had to put all that scrap wood to good use somehow!

Scrapwood Garden Pathway from Farmhouse38

The bits of wood are adhered down with concrete and then backfilled with soil (as my intention is to try to grow some sort of creeping green, like thyme between them). Most of the wood bits are painted and sealed, but I did leave many completely naked so that they would weather. Obviously, if you want this sort of thing to last as long as possible, you need to seal every surface.  I regret nothing!!!!

Garden Gate Door from Farmhouse38

The entrance to the chicken garden is still this lovely old door (which was the original front door to the house), though I have gone and painted it a chippy green. I’ve had it pointed out that the sign phrase, which I intended to mean something like ‘Little Chicken Garden’, really doesn’t hold up in French.  It should probably read ‘Potager des Poulets’, as the term ‘de poulet’ refers to chicken as an ingredient–as in chicken soup, chicken sandwich, or chicken McNuggets.  I was going to change it, but upon reflection, I kind of found it funny to leave it this way…anyway, you can see a tutorial on how to make the sign, improper French or not, here.

The Frog Fountain at Farmhouse38

Just inside the gate is the frog fountain which is pretty much my favorite thing ever. It adds a fantastic amount of lovely water background music. I’ve obsessed over having this fountain since the first time I saw it in the Ballard Designs catalog.

Chicken on a Mission at Farmhouse38

This photo cracks me up. Eloise is on a mission. Around the backside of that fountain is a little protective, shady area where I actually have an automatic waterer set up for the girls. This is where she is headed. So far, the girls have wanted NOTHING to do with swapping spit with that frog.

The Chicken Garden at Farmhouse38

The main chicken garden is full of rose bushes, which offer great predator-protection and shade. A couple of wine barrels overflow with mints and basils and bright annuals.  I have also planted a small swatch of lawn for the girls to snack on.

I make a point to plant lavender, rosemary, mint, and basil wherever I can possibly find room for them in this garden.  The chickens are not interested in eating any of these plants, so they remain lovely, and they really help to deodorize the area and ward off flies and other creepy-crawlies.  Basil, especially, seems to send the flies packing.

The Chicken Garden at Farmhouse38

The Chicken Garden at Farmhouse38

The girls wonder why I have a random yellow chair in their garden. Sometimes I wonder this, too.  It’s there because I like it and it offers a fabulous place to sit for a spell and get your ankles pecked.

The Chicken Dirt Bath at Farmhouse38

At the far end of the garden is a designated dirt bathing spot (even though they have about twenty other self-designated spots throughout the property).

Chicken Garden Bench at Farmhouse38

A bench (and a mirror!) under a vine-covered arch offers yet another tranquil spot to sit and be pecked at.

Zinnias in a Rustic Caddy at Farmhouse38

This is a cute, colorful little moment I set up for the photo shoot….I give it a day.

Chicken Busywork in the Farmhouse38 Chicken Garden

Chicken busywork.

Despite this lovely little chicken-oriented garden, I still let my girls free range in the rest of our small yard for the majority of the time.  I like to allow them a ‘soft-supervised’ free range, which is where I am home and keeping a fairly close eye on them, but not stalking them throughout the yard.  When I have to leave for short periods (ie, running errands or something of the sort) I lock them in the chicken garden, which keeps them contained and fairly reliably safe from aerial predators.  There are times when we leave and know we won’t be coming back until after chicken-curfew, and these are the moments when they must be on lockdown in the coop and run.  It all seems to be working pretty well for us, so (knock on wood), I don’t see a Coop 4.0 happening anytime in the near future.

Do you hear that??  Somewhere a displaced Texan is sighing in sweet, sweet relief.

An Impressionist Art Lesson from the Chickens

Impressionism Chicken Art from Farmhouse38I don’t do a lot of kid stuff on this blog, because, well, we don’t have any of the two-legged, non-feathered variety.  But from time to time, my ‘loaner kids’ come over for a visit (good friends of the family–the two girls were our wedding flower girls!) The chickens were thrilled to have three of their favorite kids (we refer to them as C2, C3, and C1, respectively) over the other day for an ‘art lesson’ on Impressionism.  (There are only a handful of subjects that I possibly know enough about to try to ‘teach’ anyone: decorative wreathes, cocktails, and Impressionist painters….for this ‘lesson’ it was a close call between subjects 2 and 3.  No one wants to learn about wreathes.)

We began with some print-outs of a few well-known Vincents and Claudes, so the kids could get a feeling for how these painters concentrated less on specific form, and more on color and light.  I also wanted them to notice the deliberate brushstrokes, and the layering of color upon color.  We were going to paint the chickens in this manner, but we weren’t going to paint what our brains told us a chicken looked like; we were going to paint based on the colors we were seeing.  To help with this a bit, I selected photos of each of our birds and applied a painting filter effect to them in Photoshop, then printed them out…they looked something like this:

Photoshopped Painting of Millie from Farmhouse38

This may seem a bit like ‘cheating’, but I wanted the kids to see the chicken more as bits of color and light, rather than just a chicken.

So each kid picked a chicken, and we began.  Because the focus of this project was the bird, I had them ignore the backgrounds in the photos and simply fill their entire canvas with simple, bold color.

Impressionist Chicken Paintings from Farmhouse38

We filled the entire canvas, and then let them dry while we had a juice break.  And yes, those are trash bag painting smocks.

Next, the kids drew the outline of the chicken in white, and filled it in so that we could layer other colors nicely over the top.  (This is mostly due to the type of paint we were working with; non-toxic kid paints tend to be very transparent and don’t work as well for layering as the oil paints of the Impressionists.)

Impressionist Chicken Art for Kids from Farmhouse38

The face of concentration.

Impressionist Chicken Paintings for Kids from Farmhouse38

Impressionism Lesson for Kids from Farmhouse38

A darned fine Gertie silhouette.

We then let that layer dry thoroughly (yay for the quick-drying powers of acrylic paint!).

Accidental Face-Painting from Farmhouse38

So while we waited….this happened!

Accidental Face-Painting from Farmhouse38

Epic photo-bombing.

Next, it was time to start layering on some color, Impressionist-style:

Impressionist Painting for Kids from Farmhouse38

C1′s face paint is still cracking me up.

Impressionist Chicken Painting for Kids from Farmhouse38

Another comprehensive animal photo-bombing.

Impressionist Painting with Kids from Farmhouse38

I urged the kids to paint the colors that they were seeing.  For instance, instead of falling into the trap of thinking a chicken’s comb is red, look closer: it’s actually rather pink.

Impressionist Chicken Art for Kids from Farmhouse38

C2 couldn’t help but embellish the background.

Impressionist Chicken Art for Kids from Farmhouse38

C1 really got into the ‘dappling’ brushstrokes. Very Monet!

Impressionist Chicken Art for Kids from Farmhouse38

Yeah, Southpaw!

We layered and layered the different colors until we got some pretty good results!

Impressionist Chicken Paintings for Kids from Farmhouse38

Gertie has never looked better!

Impressionist Chicken Paintings for Kids from Farmhouse38

‘Millie and Eloise in the Garden’, acrylic on canvas, by C1

I somehow didn’t get a close-up of C2′s finished Clementine portrait (she was still working till the bitter end!)….but please enjoy the final group shots:

Impressionist-Inspired Chicken Paintings from Farmhouse38

Impressionist-Inspired Chicken Paintings from Farmhouse38

Impressionist-Inspired Chicken Paintings from Farmhouse38

Not sure who wins best face….but we got some pretty awesome paintings here, if I do say so myself!!!

The Farmhouse Hummingbird

The Farmhouse Hummingbird from Farmhouse38

This post is a little different for me….so if you’d rather not hear me rambling like a buffoon about a hummingbird, I warn you to turn away–turn away quickly!!

Let the pointless gushing commence.

All right–there is a longish back story to this, so bear with me here.

A good portion of my day is spent (hard at work, I swear) at my computer.  Command central is a little nook carved out of one end of my kitchen.  My desk is pushed up against a large window, so as I work, I am looking out said window into a thicket of shrubbery (which is great, because if those green things weren’t there, I’d be staring into my neighbors’ bedroom window, which, I think we can all agree, is rather awkward).

The Farmhouse Hummingbird from Farmhouse38

My workspace, for better or for worse.

To my immediate right is a set of double french doors that lead out onto our deck and to my immediate left is the open kitchen-dining-great room–and all the way down at the front of that great room, on this same wall is another french door leading out onto our driveway.

I am in the habit of leaving the driveway door open quite a bit for the dogs to come in and out as they please (though this has become a problem recently, as the chickens have also discovered and entitled themselves to this privilege).  Many times, I also leave the door next to me open, as well, to get a nice cross-breeze action, but if it’s a little too chilly, I keep that one closed.  One morning last spring, I was doing just this:  working at my computer, with the door to the deck closed, and the one to the driveway open.  All of a sudden, I hear the tell-tale hummingbird air-strumming, and look up in time to see that a little hummingbird has zipped through the driveway door, streaked through the kitchen, and just as I realize what is about to happen–PLINK!–it runs into the closed deck door.  But fortunately the little hummybird was unharmed and buzzing at the windowpanes of the french door like an angry bumblebee, trying desperately to get outside.  So, carefully, I reached over and opened the door–problem solved, right?  Nope.   The little frantic thing just kept buzzing at the backside of the door and couldn’t figure out to fly around it.  Finally, it perched on one of the dividers, and sat there, exhausted, it’s little chest heaving.

The Farmhouse Hummingbird from Farmhouse38

Of course, in my panic to help the bird, I didn’t stop to take a photo. But this was where the tiny one was stuck, perched on one of the window dividers.

Tentatively, I reached towards the bird, and when it didn’t fly away, I very carefully scooped it into the palm of my hand and stepped out onto the deck–pausing for a moment to marvel at the fact that I was actually holding a hummingbird in the palm of my hand.  I opened my hand, and the bird sat for a moment, blinking at me.  We had a little moment, the hummingbird and I.  I was able to look her over very carefully–see her gorgeous colors winking in the sun.  Wish I could have gotten photos!  And then, in an instant, she was zipping away into the garden.  I say ‘she’, because I certainly hit the research after this interaction.  It seems to me that she is either a Rufous or an Allen’s Hummingbird, either a juvenile or a female, by her coloring.  But I’m going with ‘she’, because that’s just what I’m going with.

Immediately (starting later that very same day), I began to notice that every time I was in the yard, there was a certain hummingbird (because we always have quite a few around here) that would come and hover close to my head–which is something that had never happened to me before in the garden.  When I could get a good glimpse, yes, I was certain it was the very same little hummingbird (although in my research, this type of behavior is sometimes exhibited by territorial males when a person is in their ‘space’).  But, nonetheless, this little bird was very fascinated with me, whatever the reason may be.  I wish I could describe better the experience of being inspected by a hummingbird: there you are, minding your business, and suddenly it is like a pressure change in your ear that you kind of notice, but don’t notice, and then all at once, you’re hearing the hum of the wings, and feeling the movement of the air, and then you look up, and there is this beautiful little creature, right in front of your face.  Amazing.  Not once has this, or any of these birds territorially attacked me, and yet, here is this little one, coming in for a closer look.

The Farmhouse Hummingbird from Farmhouse38

Fast forward to the present.  I work at my computer every morning, and then periodically throughout the day.  Starting at six am, every single morning, I look up and I see this:

The Farmhouse Hummingbird from Farmhouse38

This photo makes it look farther away–in reality, the bird is about 3 feet from where I sit.

The Farmhouse Hummingbird from Farmhouse38

I know it’s probably not, but I swear this is the same bird.  She flits in and sits on this exact branch every few minutes.  She watches me as I move around, but does not startle.  She preens and fluffs and stretches her wings and rests, and it is the cutest dang thing in the whole world.

The Farmhouse Hummingbird from Farmhouse38

The Farmhouse Hummingbird from Farmhouse38

Further research has revealed that this behavior (returning to the same covered, resting spot) is indicative of a female bird, as well.  The males tend to rest on a branch or a power line out in the open (which I see around here all the time) while the females tend to pick a covered, protected resting spot.  I’m hoping that if it is, indeed, a she, that she builds her nest here where I can see it.  That would make my whole year.

I realize that I have romanticized this situation a wee bit–I’m sure that all of these incidences are not actually the same bird.  I get it.  But I like to secretly think it is.

I would love to hear from anyone who has a bit of hummingbird knowledge!  Meanwhile, I’ll just be here, at my computer, smiling at my little recurring office visitor like a loon.

The Farmhouse Hummingbird from Farmhouse38

Rainy Day Trespassing

Slipping Passed the Sentry

Yellow dog! You had ONE JOB.

When I let the girls out this morning, it was really pouring, and because of that, I didn’t expect them to venture very far from the coop, let alone all the way up to the house.  So….I left the side door open, and as I worked away at my computer, I happened to glance up just in time to see that our perimeter had been compromised.  On Chance’s watch.  He didn’t even bat an eyelash as a very drenched Millie strolled right on inside, passed him, through the dining room, through the kitchen, and to my computer nook.  Usually, the No House Chickens rule is in full effect, but this bird was on a mission.  I had to see what she was about.  Clucking with her special brand of chicken self-importance, she marched dutifully up to me where I was hunkered over the space heater that I have running under my desk.

Wet Chicken

Don’t cross a wet chicken.

After assessing the situation for a moment, and realizing that I wasn’t immediately tossing her out as per usual, she went right on up to said heater.  Oh, the joy of a wet chicken standing in front of a heater (as was also illustrated after the infamous Gertie Bathing Incident).

Drying Out

After witnessing a couple of minutes of preening and fluffing and other such poultry shenanigans, I finally opened the french door next to my desk, and with one last indulgent fluff of her feathers, she went right on back outside into the rain without a single cross word from either of us.

Rain Bird

Right back into the rain and the mud with her cohorts.  The No House Chickens Rule went immediately back into full effect.

Frolicking in the Mud

DrenchedI will never not be entertained by the sight of a drenched chicken.  Especially when she’s doing an entertaining drive-by of my space heater.

Drenched Gert

Gert had to get one beauty shot into this whole silly Millie business.

Yes. I Bathed a Chicken.

Gerts Bubble Bath

So, it has come to this.

Yep.  I’m really committing this to the internet; flying my crazy flag high.  When I called the Texan at work to tell him that I had given one of our chickens a bath, he said, and I quote, “There are really just some things I wish you wouldn’t share with me.”

I didn’t want to do it.

But Gertie forced my hand.  Every once in awhile, chickens get a little bit mucky in their nether-regions.  Sometimes this is because they are sick, sometimes they are just having an extended ‘not-so-fresh moment’.  Hey, if you had all those fluffy petticoats to keep track of, you’d probably have a mess every once in awhile, too.  Well, Gertie got dirty.  I’ve been keeping an eye on it the past few days, making sure she seemed healthy otherwise, keeping tabs as to whether the situation was worsening or improving.  It seemed to be getting gunkier (though she seemed in perfect health).  This can be a bad thing (beyond just being disgusting), because the caked-on poop can actually create a roadblock, if you know what I mean.  Today, I decided, it was time for drastic measures.

I have chosen to spare you a ‘before’ photo.

After reading up on it, and assuring myself that I wasn’t the first person to try this, I sought advice from Lisa, over at Fresh-Eggs-Daily.  While she’d never actually had a chicken get dirty enough to bathe, she’d had to bathe egg-bound hens in the past (this helps to facilitate the laying, apparently).  She assured me that chickens were surprisingly agreeable to the process.  The basic method seemed pretty universal: small tub filled with warm bubble bath, set your bird in it, gently scrub gunk off, rinse.  COME ON.  There was just no way it was that simple.  I pictured a squawking, flapping, emotionally-damaged Gertie, and a squawking, flapping, emotionally-damaged me.  This just couldn’t end well.

Fortunately, my mom was visiting, and volunteered to both take photos and laugh at me.

I found a water-tight container that would fit inside our guest bath tub and filled it about 3/4 of the way full of warm water mixed with a bit of liquid dish soap–just enough to make it good and bubbly.  I wanted it deep enough that her bum would be underwater for a good soaking.  If I got that far.  I’ll admit it, I was S.T.R.E.S.S.E.D as I went out and picked up the bird–the last thing I wanted to do was get her partially wet and not be able to finish the job.  But I tried to remain calm, so that she would remain calm.  After a little bit of cuddling and a few words of encouragement, I steeled myself and gently set her in the bubble bath.

Gertie goes in the tub

Expecting a whirling banshee, I was dumbfounded that she remained quiet.  I loosened my grip, and she hopped calmly up onto the edge of the little tub.  I picked her back up and set her once more into the water, and this time, I kid you not, she just stayed where I put her.  For a bit, we had to just sit like this, conversing softly with each other, while the water and suds loosened the spackling.

Someone's having far too good of a time.

I may be enjoying this.

Finally, it was time to start kind of gently working the gunk out of her feathers.  I’m not going to lie, this was seriously gross.  But you gotta do what you gotta do.  Slowly, but surely, it all came off like a charm.  At this point, I pulled the bird from the bath, wrapped her tight in a dry towel, and then I dumped and cleaned the basin, filling it again with warm, clear water.  Then I set Gertie back in, and again, she just let me do my thing–totally relaxed.  I proceeded to rinse her all off.

Rinsing the birdAt this point, with all those wet feathers, there was a lot of bare skin showing.  This was a great moment to kind of inspect her rear-end and make sure there was nothing that looked amiss.  Everything looked good and clean and healthy to me, so back out of the water and into a new dry towel she went.  She seemed all too happy to have some cuddles while she was wrapped up in that towel.

After-bath Cuddles

It is extremely important not to let chickens get chilled, which is why I chose to do this indoors in a heated, small bathroom.  But, I was not about to let her wander around wet (even though it was pretty warm today, it is definitely winter!).  So, at Lisa’s suggestion, I pulled out the blow-dryer.  Once again, I thought, “NO.  WAY.”  No bird is going to let me blast them with this loud machine.  I turned it on low, and pointed it away from her.  After she didn’t spook, I turned the very gentle airstream onto her, and again, she didn’t freak–she wasn’t sure about it, but she didn’t freak.

Blow-out Time

After a bit, I could tell she was really loving it, and so I let go of her.  Eventually, I was able to switch it to high.  I always kept my hand on her (except when I was snapping a photo), helping her to fluff her feathers so that I made sure she wasn’t getting too hot.

What's this?  Why are my feathers ruffling?!

What sort of sorcery is this?!

Headless chicken preens her feathers as I direct the heat on her.

Headless chicken preens her feathers as I direct the heat on her.

Oh, yeah, leaning into the current!

Oh, yeah, leaning into the current!

Gotta fluff that butt back up!

Gotta fluff that butt back up!

Oh, the stink-eye I got when I turned the blow-dryer off!

Oh, the stink-eye I got when I turned the blow-dryer off!

All dry and shiny and gunk-free, she actually scolded me when I turned the blow-dryer off.  When I set it on the ground, she went and inspected it, as if trying to figure out how to turn the thing back on.  Though she felt completely dry to me, and because I had already broke the ‘No House Chickens’ rule, I allowed her to lounge with me at my computer desk for a bit just to make sure she was good and dry before returning her to her natural habitat.

My gorgeous Gert all clean and shiny, back in the dirt immediately.

My gorgeous Gert all clean and shiny, back in the dirt immediately.

Glad to have that fluff back back in order.

Glad to have that view back in order.

It is safe to say that as I was endeavoring to take on backyard chickening, I never expected or intended to give a bird a bubble bath.  Where was that chapter in the instruction manual?!  I am not going to sit here and recommend that anyone do this with their birds, or claim that it would even go this smoothly–I just wanted to share this crazy experience.  Against all logic, it went well for us.  We bonded.  I feel so much closer to her now.

The end.

The end.


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