Hot Chicks in the City

Say what? Bet that title caught your eye, didn’t it. Wonder what that will do for my SEO?

chickens, backyard chickensI really do have some hot chicks in the city. Chickens. Who live in my yard. In the city. And it’s really, really hot out there today. 112 according to my thermometer. So my poor little hens aren’t feeling so cheeky in this weather.

I have wanted backyard city chickens for some while. Back in March my sister offered me two of her laying hens. They had been laying hens for some time and were getting near the end of their egg laying lives, so my sister was looking to replace them with new hens. On the farm when they say they are going to replace you, most times it means someone’s gonna eat you. So these fine hens, who had given so much of themselves, were heading for the stewing pot. Well, maybe not that dramatic a route, but eventually they would. I, being the animal lover I am, couldn’t stomach the thought of such a gentle creature being butchered and ate, so I was happy to take two of them home for my own backyard chicken coop.

chicken, tractorI had the perfect chicken tractor coop ready for them complete with fresh sawdust for bedding, a comfortable nesting box with the fluffiest of bedding, fresh water daily, premium chicken feed with bits of cracked corn, and mineral supplements. I cleaned their roost box and nest box every other day as well as moved the tractor to fresh spots of lawn. I offered them chickweed and lettuce which made them cluck like excited chicks. My sister had forgotten what breed of chicken they were and with a little research I learned they were Sicilian Buttercups – the only breed with a double comb on top of their head. I decided to wait to name the girls until we had gotten to know each other more.

I had great expectations for my feathered friends. One is that they would appreciate how nice they had it and would show their appreciation through eggs, clucking, and the occasional pets. Second, they would be good neighbors, becoming welcome pets in the neighborhood. And thirdly, they would behave themselves and be so tame, I could let them roam free in my small city yard.

chickenBut as time went on, the two girls began to show their true colors. Neither one has ever come close to being tame. I cannot get near either one, even after months of coaxing. They still flap and squawk like the first day they were home. The one time I did let them into a makeshift enclosure, one hen flew out of it and into the neighbor’s yard. I had a helluva time catching her. Whenever I put fresh food into their hanging feeder, they go over and start flipping it out all over the ground. They can empty the feeder in 2 minutes flat. And the nest box – they go in and pull everything out of it. Bedding, straw, everything. Then they come outside and throw a fit because there is no bedding in there to nest on. They will be so twisted that they end up laying their egg outside on the ground. If one hen is inside laying an egg, the other is outside squawking her fool head off. She’s so loud that the neighbor came running outside thinking someone was trying to break into her back door! Thank God she hadn’t called the police. My neighbors think I’ve gone mad with these two.

So the two have earned the name of “The Italian Bitches”, since they are Sicilian and are, well, not very nice. I’m too mad at them to give either one a normal or pet name. They just haven’t endeared themselves enough to me. Even though we have a love-hate relationship, I did feel bad enough for them today to build another enclosure for them to spread out in to cool off. And I put out extra water for them.

Which brings me to the only good thing about them – Sicilians are a heat tolerant breed. Lucky for them. They keep irritating me and I may just throw them into that stewing pot!

New Resident

doveThe young mourning dove that came from the nest on my garden arbor has decided to stay in my garden for the time being.  It has been hanging out in my garden foraging for food, catching naps perching on the arbor as Luke plays underneath, and staying close. I worry about it becoming tame, so I am careful not to encourage it.

This morning for the first time I caught the little one resting on my deck rail, so I shot this video:

dove on deck

The Pueblo Indians held the mourning dove in a place of honor, using their feathers in ceremonies and prayer sticks. Others called it’s mournful song the rain song, invoking the promise of new waters and new life. It reminds us to mourn what has passed, but welcome the dreams and promises of the future – peace, love, and prophecy. Since the dove is also a ground feeder, she reminds to keep in touch with Mother Earth and our feminine energies. In this way we can “birth” our own creations for the future.

Sometimes Believing Works

dove, natureSome time back I wrote a post about the mourning dove who had decided to nest on one of my garden arbors. The nest was only 7 foot off the ground, out in the open, and within feet of my busy yard entry as well as my overhead garage door. Anyone walking through the arbor could have easily reached up and touched her without effort. Not only was the nest unsafe and unprotected, but it was easily within reach of neighborhood cats. I felt the burden of guardianship, but I also knew that there was little I could do to protect her. I said a little prayer that somehow she and her little egg would be OK. I had to believe it was possible in spite what seemed to be overwhelming odds.

As the days then weeks went on, mama dove and I watched each other. She would sit still on her nest as I used the gate under the arbor, glancing up and saying hello to her as I passed. I watched her stoically hunker down on her nest in the pouring rain. She sat still on the nest and watched as I mowed around the arbor, opened the noisy garage door, and drove the car in and out – all just feet from her. I watched her mate come in and sit on the nest for a few hours so she could go and feed. I would chuckle because he was so big that he didn’t fit into the nest, so was constantly plucking twigs and rearranging them in the nest around him. She would watch as Luke would run through the yard and bark, never budging. Each day I checked her and the nest, and each time I saw her there, I breathed a sigh of relief.


As time went on, I kept an eye out for a baby, but never saw one. Then one day I was showing the her and the nest to my niece when we spotted a chick’s head sticking out underneath mama. Well surprise, surprise – there was a baby! The chick already had feathers covering the head and the body. She had done a good job of keeping the little guy under cover until it had gotten so large she could barely cover him anymore. Somehow they had made it this far without any mishaps or human intervention. Nature had cared for them when I couldn’t.

The next night we had thunderstorms and high winds. In the morning when I checked the nest, there was nothing left but a few stray twigs. No nest. No mama. No chick. I looked through the garden and yard. Nothing. I watched the trees and skies for the next few days. Nothing. Then I noticed the dove pair back around the yard, but no youngster. I figured that the nest had blown down and a cat had gotten the youngster. Until yesterday when Luke flushed up an immature mourning dove from the garden. I know I cannot prove it’s the same one from the nest, but I’m willing to bet it is. It sat on the fence for the longest time, wary of Luke and I, but it remained sitting there the same. I don’t know if it’s immaturity that prevented it from flying off. Or familiarity with us and the yard. Today the youngster was back, sitting on another garden arbor, preening and sleeping while Luke ran in the yard. No other dove, other mama, ever remained perched on an arbor while Luke and I went about our business in the yard.

doveIt’s experiences like this that proves to me that even though we humans think we have it all figured out, that we think we can control our world or are the masters of it, we can be proven wrong by a simple little mourning dove. Sometimes we don’t know it all. And sometimes it’s just better if we stay out of Nature’s business. And believe in what’s possible.


The Simplicity of a Dog’s Life

dogEat. Play. Sleep.

That’s the simplicity of a dog’s life. At least for a dog like Luke. You know – the pampered, single child, the world-revolves-around-me type of dog. The ones that don’t have to work for a living. Although working to some dogs is like play. I’m talking about the Luke-kind of dog. There are some days when I look at him living life and I wish I had it so easy.

How simple our lives as a dog would be. Food and water delivered consistently on a daily basis without having to go hunt or shop for it. Our yummy treats given at the right time because we’ve trained our owners that way. All the toys and chew bones we could ever want. If we could read or use the internet, we would have every toy under the sun. Walks in the morning while the day is just breaking and the smells are new. Afternoons in the park chasing the frisbee or swimming after duck decoys in the lake. Going on long camping trips and seeing the world while being catered to. Living in a perfectly controlled environment year round with meticulously groomed lawns for us to carouse in. And our own luxurious bed to sleep on, complete with Egyptian cotton sheets in the summer and a heating blanket in the winter. Never mind we have to share it with our human caretaker. Oh, and all the love lavished on us as we want – all gained with a simple little twist of the head or a wink of the eye. All this free of charge.

And our faults would be easily overlooked just because of our cuteness. And because humans have a short memory. Accidents on the carpet when we had explosive diarrhea. Chasing the cats to create a little excitement in a quiet house. Peeing on things we shouldn’t and because we forgot we shouldn’t – wait, why do humans have that silly rule anyway? Ignoring a command although we were trained to obey it. Eating goose poop because it gets our human to chase us in a game. Rolling in the foulest thing we can find then chasing our owner. Barking at the slightest noise outside the window. Ah, who are we kidding? We have very few faults cuz we’re a dog.

dogHow human it is to look at someone else’s life and think they have it so much easier or better than we do. Whether it is another person or just a dog. We humans are just hardwired to seek things outside of ourselves. Answers, guidance, choices – all in an effort to walk the right path. We automatically think that because someone else’s life looks so perfect, so put together, so rich, that they have the perfect life. That they must have all the answers. Something to envy. Something to want. The truth is we are unable to see or understand what brought them to that point in time. The challenges, the wrong choices, the traumas, the losses. We only see the victories when a life works.

The turning point comes when one looks within. Taking the things we have been through and processing them to recognize the strengths they have given us. Taking day to day life and finding the gifts in each day lived. The gift of a smile. The gift of a right choice made. The gift of hitting all green lights while driving to work. Seeing how our experiences, simple or complex, have shaped our lives and the direction we are going. If it is not where we wish to go, then we actively take action to redirect our lives. Appreciating the simplest things brings simplicity into our lives. It contributes to a life lived well and without regrets. One can only do this by focusing within, not without.

So although a dog’s life appears simple and appealing, one cannot ignore the fact that their time on earth is much shorter than ours. Perhaps simplicity does have a price. Or perhaps living a good life doesn’t require a lifetime to embrace.

Living with Nature’s Choices

I have been quite busy these past few weeks. So busy that I have had little time to pay much attention to what has been happening in my own little world in my backyard. I think we all get this way – get caught up in the day to day frenzy of life – and forget to slow down to look around us. I’m certainly guilty of that one.

dove, nature

What stopped me today and caused me pause was the discovery of a mourning dove’s nest. Not that such a discovery would make the news or cause one to ponder the deeper issues of life, but it’s where this mama dove chose to place her nest that made me think.

I have in my small “farm” yard in the city two arbors that I built. One is in my garden to act as a trellis for my vine plants. The other I made from recycled deck wood and stands as an entry into my yard. This second arbor is simply something I threw together in the moment, just over 6 foot tall over my gate entry. The squirrels use it regularly to access the roof to the garage and I have seen cats perched on it, waiting for a feathered meal to fly by. Certainly not the safest place for a nest. But a nest there is.

When I found mama mourning dove nesting there this morning, I was shocked. I have never had a bird nest so close to human activity or out in the open like that. Observing her, from her plumage I would guess her to be a youngster. When I noticed she wasn’t on the nest, I crawled up and looked in it. Sure enough – one egg. In this simple, ragtag looking collection of small branches and grass. Oh boy, I thought to myself. This is a dilemma.

dove, natureAn internal debate has been going on since this discovery. There is an almost certain risk that a cat will find her there. Do I remove the egg and nest as a way to encourage mama to go elsewhere? Do I relocate the nest in a safer spot? But how? Should I somehow cat-proof the arbor with chicken wire and wood so they can’t crawl up and kill mama or the hatchlings? Or should I just leave things alone?

It is difficult being an animal lover and just letting Nature takes its course, but I also know I shouldn’t interfere with the choices of another. Even if it is a young mourning dove. But it is hard to sit back and watch. Much like watching one of those Disney movies where the wolves bring down a buffalo calf or a killer whale picks off an inexperienced baby seal. Moments like that make me cry. It’s why I don’t watch Disney movies. I know it is the circle of life, but at times I hate this reality. Deep down I know there is nothing I can do to help. Although the mourning dove has chosen to live in close proximity to my world, we are still of two different worlds. We must respect each other’s world. We must allow each other their choice.

What would you do? Have you ever been faced with such an issue? Or would this be a silly thing to even think about?