Tuesday, June 26, 2012

To Catch a Chicken

This entry will have to be part of a series as I have yet to actually catch a chicken.  But, I do have insight into what doesn't work and would be remiss not sharing it in the event that someone else is wanting to catch a chicken on this very day.

We picked up our chickens after church.  Dressed in our Sunday best, a hillbilly chicken carrier (cardboard box) in the back of the SUV, we bumped cheerily down the dirt road to Josh and Carrie's farm to select the pick of the flock.  And 20 minutes later we left their farm with, maybe not exactly the pick of the flock, but more like the three chickens that Uncle Josh could catch.  None the matter, I was just so happy to finally have chickens!  In my car!  Like a real farm person!  We arrived home, and I gingerly carried the box over to the chicken coop, setting it on the ground and aligning the box opening with the door of the chicken coop.  The hens peeked out of the box timidly, clucking quietly to each other, their heads bobbing nervously, taking in their new surroundings.  One by one, they hopped out into the run of the coop to tentatively explore their new home.  Except Buster-as named by A, who was missing most of her tail feathers and who immediately hopped onto the box I was holding, looked piercingly at me with a beady yellow eye and lunged towards me, squawking and flapping frantically.   I shrieked and flung myself backwards onto the lawn and Buster strutted away, head bobbing, a smug expression on her chicken face having successfully escaped confinement.  Well, my chicken raising book said specifically that the new chickens should spend eight hours in their new home before allowing them to range so that they would know where their roost is to come home to each night.  This unanticipated escape was going completely against the chicken raising guidebook.  And if I am nothing, I am a rule abider.  I don't take liberties with cookbook recipes, I stick to my GPS navigational system's recommended driving route, and I follow the guidelines to chicken raising as listed in my chicken raising book.  (I'm a load of fun with a travel guidebook on a vacation if you can imagine.) Already sweating with this unintended detour, we set to work on a chicken catching adventure!

How Not to Catch a Chicken   by Christi

1. By chasing it around the yard.

2. By chasing it around the yard with a box.

3. By chasing it around the yard with a blanket.

4. By sneaking up on it.

5. By coaxing it with kind words.

6. By luring it with food.  

7. "Just wait for it to roost in a tree at night", Carrie finally advised when the chicken was not yet contained by evening.  "Then you just pluck it off of the tree branch and put it back in the coop."  She sounded very matter of fact and sometimes that's all the convincing I need.  It was not what I wanted to be doing at 10 pm on a Sunday night, but I couldn't subject this poor hen to a vicious critter attack on its first night with me. No sir.  Flashlight in hand, I walked through the yard under a blanket of stars, alternating my demeanor between quiet wonder in the soft summer night, and jumping in nervousness at each blink of a firefly that I mistook for glowing yellow critter eyes.  My neighbors from the next farm over, enjoying their own evening walk, saw the flashlight and stopped by, joining in the search for a lost chicken, as neighbors in the country do, making pleasant small talk about horses and the county fair as we searched bushes, barns, and trees to no avail.

I slept fitfully that night, praying for the protection of a little chicken and hoping that I wouldn't awaken to any horrible nighttime attack sounds.  I awoke before the alarm at sunrise the next morning, peering sleepily out the bedroom window.  My heart leaped upon seeing the hen strutting around the outside of her coop, mocking the safe little rule-following hens locked inside.  I ran down the stairs and out the door in my slippers to greet the hen and open the coop so she could eat and drink, anticipating her dehydrated state. (My chicken raising book says that chickens need a large supply of fresh water throughout the day.)  With one beady eyed glance at me, that ungrateful chicken took towards the fields, cackling as she ran. I started back at the top of the list with #1 thinking maybe it would be more effective on day two than it had on day one.  Not so.  

8.  Casually ask the babysitter to do it.  "Ummm, okay.  Do they bite?" she asked.  I reassured her that chickens have no teeth as I backed the car out of the driveway.

I came home from work to find a very tired babysitter, two fresh (delicious) eggs, and a still loose chicken, looking very dehydrated and still a little smug.  Stay tuned, because 9 may be the lucky number, Wait for chicken to succumb to dehydration and return to coop on its own accord.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Raising of the Coop

It's the story of my consumer history, really.  Before a big purchase: car, washing machine, chicken coop, I spend months carefully researching.  I check out Consumer Reports magazines from the library, carefully read online reviews, list out pros and cons, drive my family to and from stores, and relay the current decision making status with anyone who will listen (the audience is growing increasingly smaller).  Finally, after weeks to months of this, I break down in frustration and impulsively buy said item with little regard to quality or cost.  I am happy to say that continuing in this pattern, my chicken coop has arrived from Ebay!

Just didn't arrive quite ready for chickens.

Feeling overwhelmed and directing feelings of anger at a college degree that is decreasing its value more and more here in the country, I called my dear sister who said she'd be right over.  I'd managed to open the boxes, lay out all of the parts, and was staring at them as a chicken might stare at an algebraic math equation when she and her happy family turned their Tahoe onto my gravel driveway.  Needless to say, Carrie popped the little coop together, before her husband had even finished printing out a picture of it off of the computer.  I believe this to be an illustration of the results of a Harvard education verses a State University education rather than a genetic overflow of brilliance that missed its mark with the first daughter exponentially dumped instead into the DNA lineup of a younger daughter.  Add to my discouragement, the hardware was missing from the shipment.  I was, however, just a little uplifted to see that there were actually supposed to be written instructions included.

Another six days crept by before the hardware arrived.  Six days in country time is enough time to make me question the realistic value of this adventure in chicken raising.  Finally though, the hardware arrived and the kids and I set to work on assembling it.  Realistic or not, I won this bid fair and square and a coop we will build...

Well, it sure didn't take 10 minutes.  The power drill thingy died after two screws were drilled in leaving me to hand screw (is that even a construction term?) the rest of the boards.  But, I didn't yell at my children and there was minimal whining involved (from adult or children), no tantrums, and only one time-out so I am calling this a successful project!

Now that the doubt has set in on the feasibility of owning chickens, I at least have a fun jungle gym to occupy these little munchkins for 20 minutes until it breaks.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Critters and Such

On a bike ride last week, I glanced up from helping E steer her new training wheeled bike around a curve in the road just in time to see A biking up ahead of us and less than a foot away from a dead possum.

"Stoopp!!"  I yelled.  He hit the brakes and turned back to look at me.

"Shhhh!"  He put his finger to his lips then pointed it to the bloated carcass lying in front of him.  "He's sleeping."

I looked down at E who nodded at me in confirmation, her wide eyes mirroring her brother's.

Phew, I thought to myself. Sleeping. And the bike ride resumed.

Feeling I took the easy way out, I realized I really should start slowly introducing my children to the concept of death despite my aversion to the whole idea.  Aversion to both the concept of death and the realization that my children are growing, losing their innocence, and learning about the world's unpleasantnesses little by little. As we pedaled on, thoughts of life, death, and growing up filled my mind, clouding away a sunny day of bike riding with my loves.

Eventually I pushed aside these thoughts, deciding it was sunny and beautiful and not at all a day to be learning about death, and switched the lesson to the obvious area of interest and equally cringe-worthy topic at hand: opossums.  Thankfully, YouTube provided a plethora of (living) opossum related illustrations to accompany my narrative lesson that afternoon.  For since moving to a farm, the kids have mostly been learning about wildlife through Mommy's irrational fear of all things critter: raccoon, mice, rats, gophers.  Opossums had been neglected from this list until the unlikely death that happened just past our front yard.  To be fair, I've tried very hard not to pass on this irrational fear to my children.  But sometimes, I fail.  Like the time I had to remove a mouse carcass from my home.  My closet in fact.  Where for days I'd attributed the funk to a hamper full of dirty running gear.  And upon removing it, a scream came from within me that I couldn't suppress as I ran out of the house and through the yard with the dead mouse dangling from the pooper-scooper.  And E, who doesn't know to be afraid of mice, but is afraid of bugs watched me, and joined in running behind me screaming, "Buugg!  There is a bug on me!  Get it off!" And A, who so far appears afraid of nothing, chased us, fascinated and ready to poke with the stick in his hand whatever was causing this mania. Not a high point in my parenting career.

Not that this fear doesn't have its upside.  For the fear of mice my kitchen is clean most every night. And for the fear of mice I skitter upstairs for an early bedtime at the first scratching sound in the walls. And for the fear of mice I have discovered a strength beyond my own when required to remove a mouse carcass from a wall.

My friend, Starla, widowed for almost two decades confided in me that she once was afraid but then remembered that Jesus will protect her no matter what and that once she truly understood that, she lost all of her fears. I hear you Starla,  “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). And I'm getting there, but her reminder made me realize I have a ways to go in my walk of faith.  But I wonder if Starla ever had a mouse.  And my Grandma, who also knew Jesus, spoke pridefully of the time when she lit a brown paper bag on fire that contained a mouse and stomped it out with her foot.  And I realize I have a ways to go in many areas.  And I pray I can learn and grow in time to teach my children to learn and grow.

The next day, playing in our front yard, I watched A's eyes search the road, quickly spotting the opossum, still lying in the distance, still dead.

"Mom," he said, turning to me.  "If that 'possum doesn't wake up soon, he's going to get hit by a car and die."

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Gift of Time

A mom's ministry that I belong to passed along a handout not too long ago:  Tips for Busy Mom's.  Here is a tip, I thought to myself as I received it, Busy moms don't have time to read lists.  I tucked it away in a book to read at a later date when I had time.  Months later, I found that time during the 45-minute swimming lessons I took the kids to on Thursday nights. The warm swimming pool room was a reprieve from the frozen February nights in Illinois and I began to look forward to that time each week.  Sitting in the reclining pool chair, winter boots tucked beside me, the echoe-y sounds of splashing and squealing mixed with the nostalgic chlorinated smells I remembered from my own swimming lessons as a child, I watched from a distance as E giggled and A splashed, pulling my eyes away from them for brief pauses to read whatever I had brought along that evening.  One night, I pulled the list out from a book, unfolded it, and read through it, finding myself savoring each word and wanting to share it with every other mom I knew...

10+ Real Helps for Really Busy Mom

1. Life is not an emergency. Life’s a gift. Just Slow.

2. Now is not a forever grace but amazing grace.  Do whatever it takes to wake to wonder right here.

3. Sometimes the slowest way is the fastest way to joy. Make time today, even a moment, to read Scripture and memorize it. Without the lens of His Word, the world warps.   {Slowest=fastest to joy}

4. Laughter is the cheapest, holiest medicine. Preschoolers laugh 300 times a day. Aim for double that. Tickle someone, (yourself!), if necessary. This is good!

5. Motherhood is a hallowed place because children aren’t commonplace. Co-laboring over the sculpting of souls is a sacred vocation, a humbling privilege. Never forget.

6. Homemaking is about making a home, not about making perfection. A perfect home  is an authentic, creative, animated space where Peace and Christ and Beauty are embraced.  {Perfect does not equate to immaculate.}

7. Believe it: I have all I need for today. The needs of our day are great, but God is greater and we call Him Providence because we believe: He always provides. {And when God provides, He should be praised, and if God always provides, shouldn't praise always be on the lips?}

8. Slow. Children at play. Hurry hurts kids. Time’s this priceless currency and only the slow spend it wise enough to be rich. If we actually bought our time, would we spend it more wisely — spend it more slowly? {God’s Word never says Hurry Up. God words only whisper: Wake Up.}

9. Love is patient. Parenting’s this gentle way of bending over in humility to help the scraped child up because we intimately know it takes a lifetime to learn how to walk with Him. Patience. Love always begins with patience.

10. The art of really celebrating life isn’t about getting it right – but about receiving Grace. The sinners and the sick, the broken, the discouraged, the wounded and burdened — we are the ones who get to celebrate grace! Regardless of the mess of your life, if Christ is Lord of your life, than we are the celebrants out dancing in a wild rain of grace — because when it’s all done and finished, all is well and Christ already said it was finished.


I found myself remembering this list this Sunday morning.  It was 8:25 and I was in a scramble of trying to find shoes.  Not just any shoes. Three matching pairs of shoes.  Preferably not caked with mud.  We were on our way to church, mind you.  Although muddy shoes would still be considered a step up from attending church barefoot, which was seeming a real possibility.  Church started at 8:30 and I was bound and determined to see what happens during the first ten minutes of it.  Heading for the door, I stopped suddenly and made a break for the computer to quickly check the service time.  Surprise!  Summer schedule started this week and church started at 9:00.  30 unexpected free minutes!  I quickly called to verify this as it seemed to good to be true, but true it was. Time!  The most precious gift a busy mom could ask for and I was elated.  This gift was not to be wasted  and I quickly set to task, bustling about the house.  In those extra thirty minutes, I accomplished the following:

- Clipped 30 toenails
- Washed and dried breakfast dishes
- Folded laundry in the basket
- Wiped dried breakfast from kids faces and ears (Sadly, this would not have been otherwise done before church
- Fed the dog (This either)

With 5 minutes to spare, I was just about to sit down with a hot cup of coffee and paint my newly clipped toenails when a little voice piped out, "Mom, can you ride your bike with us?"

Time is a precious gift.  Spend it wisely.

We were still late to church.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Housing a Flock

Today I find myself really regretting that I offered "chickens will stay outside" as a bargaining chip.  The chicken situation has been approved...yippee!  But how in the world does one raise chickens?  A few months ago, my mom kindly gave me a book about raising chickens along with a piece of advice, "Don't get chickens.  They carry salmonella."

Well, after reading the book I've realized the right coop will help to prevent that nasty salmonella stuff.  But do you know how many varieties of chicken coops are out there?

About a gazillion I'd guess.  And a huge price range I might add.  I've narrowed down my top criteria:

1) Critter proof.  This is of utmost importance.  I can't imagine how scary it would be to be a chicken in a flimsy little coop.  I myself am still spooked some nights in this old farm house by moths and junebugs dive-bombing my windows from the outside as I read with the lamp on at night.  These little chick-a-dees will be entrusted to me and it is my job to protect them as best I can.  Which is why I'm thinking the garage would be the best place for them with good ol' Spencer Dog to steadfastly watch over them at night.  But alas, that card was played.

2) Portable.  As in a "chicken tractor". We are renting and I'd prefer not to make a mudpit out of the yard if at all possible.

3) Insulated.   So I don't have to use a heatlamp.  To prevent...well, to prevent what happened at my parents' farm.


My Uncle Terry said, "Go see so and so over by so and so's.  They build chicken coops."

"Great!" I replied.  "What's their phone number?"

"Oh, I don't know their phone number. I don't even know their name. But you know where so and so lives? No?  Well how about so and so?  You know their farm?  It's just a few miles west of there."

I called my dad who confirmed that so and so builds chicken coops and that it was just a field or so past so and so's but he too didn't know their name.

Being in the country now, I decided it would be neighborly to drop by so and so's and support their chicken coop business.  I loaded the kiddos in the car, explaining with a line they are getting very accustomed to hearing, but probably don't really understand at all, "We've got to go see about some chickens." I found the home right, umm...where it was said to be.  And although a little surprised to see me, they were just the nicest family.  But, no they don't build chicken coops.