Chicken Love: Name that Couple

As many of you may know, Tom and I have become quite the chicken fans.   Every spring we get baby chicks.  We nurture them until they are old enough to move into the main coop with the older hens.  This can involve crazy things we never thought we would do, like loading Tom up in the early evening with 8 young chickens and taking them to the coop.

This is because the older hens tend to pick on the new ones.  They will peck their heads and bully them.  But, if you wait until evening, chickens sort of “shut off.”  They actually go into a dormant state.  These creatures that can fly, run and twist making it impossible to touch them during the day, will allow you to pet them, pick them up and even carry them around like some kind of a chicken tree transport system.

I tell you this because I want you to fully understand how hard it is to get chickens to be nice to each other and come together as a flock.   Once the social system is established, however, a flock of chickens will glide along as one grazing, pecking unit intent on finding the juiciest worms, or begging incessantly to be fed by their owners. But, there is a pecking order.  There are societal rules.  Only the alpha girls make it to the top roosting stick.

So as you may know from my previous blog post,  we are down to one chicken.  This created a bit of a dilemma.  If I were to try to introduce some new hens, it could be disastrous.  I kept envisioning my poor sweet survivor as a bloody headed, henpecked calamity.

In case you didn’t know, all of those chicken idioms are true.  “Henpecked”, “pecking order”, “rule the roost”, “feather’s flying”,  “the sky is falling”, “birds of a feather flock together”, all describe chicken anxiety.  So, we just had to find another way.

Her loneliness and desire to find her flock was evident by her willingness to hang out with me and Tom on our porch at all hours of the day.  This would have been fine, except for the poop.  In case you didn’t know, chickens poop a lot.  And it is nasty and hard to clean off of your porch. So, our being her flock was not a good solution.

And poor Dandy, our dog was very confused.  We had trained her to keep the chickens off the porch for the reasons mentioned above.  She found great joy in jumping up, scaring off the hens and making them fly off our porch. Now she was being denied this small joy and working hard on being calm when the chicken was around.

So I looked at  “sweet chicken” as I was beginning to call her and said, “Ok darling, we are going to have to just pray up a mate for you.” And we sat down together and did just that.  We put it out to God and all the chicken angels out there that she needed a mate.

Well, lo and behold,  I went to my community exercise class the next week and there was a woman announcing that a rooster had taken up in her woods.  She already had roosters so she could not take this one into her flock.  She wanted to know if anyone would like to help her catch and relocate this rooster.

Well, of course, I said I would.   How could I deny such fate?

So the next Sat. I got the phone call and off I went to capture this rooster. Now, you may not know this, but there are over 500 breeds of chickens.  Imagine my surprise when he turned out to be of the same breed. Well, of course, he did.

I had no idea what was going to happen that evening after transporting him across the community in a cage.  But, he was calm and content as I put him, cage and all in the coop.  My “sweet chicken” who was on the top roost, slowly came down to check him out.  She walked around the cage a couple of times and looked up to me as if to say, “well aren’t you going to let him out?”  So, I opened the door and released him.  He stepped out of his cage in a regal manner and calmly greeted her.  Then he hopped up on the top perch, she hopped up and they went to sleep.

I awoke at dawn and went to the coop to let them out. I did not want any cooped up emotions causing the feathers to fly.  My fears were unfounded as they emerged a sweet chicken couple.   They strutted and strolled all around the farm, like a southern debutante and her new beau at a formal cotillion. They cawed and cooed all the while exploring all the morning tasty morsels.  She showed him all of her favorite places and then brought him up to the porch to beg for breakfast.

They cooed and cawed in sweet, loving chicken language as she showed him all of her favorite hiding places, under the rhododendron bushes,( I am not sure what went on under there), in the forest behind the house, under the porch, around the compost bins where the  juiciest worms reside and, of course, the chicken day palace, where Tom and I often leave treats for them.

When evening arrived, he crowed a few times and they went to the coop, hopped up on the top perch together and went to bed. This was pure chicken romance.

So here is where you come in.  I need a sweet couple’s name.  And, no, Romeo and Juliet are just too tragic.  Let me know what comes to mind.  Name this couple!

Murder of Crows Saves Chicken

I witnessed a crow miracle today.  The forest gifted us a miracle that saved my sweet little chicken’s life.Crows

This year has been a difficult one for our chicken flock.  We free range our hens, because we believe that freedom is a precious thing.   We have also heard horror stories of caged hens being massacred by creatures tearing through fences and taking the whole flock at once.

So, sometimes the forest will take a hen or two to feed someone.   This year, the fox came to visit. I think she was raising a den of pups.  She would come and take a chicken about once a week until we were down to one poor lonely chicken.  Since the disappearance of her flock, this chicken has become somewhat dear to us.

We have a little routine, she and I.  Every morning she comes up to the porch to check in.  Then she nestles into an old garden basket in my outdoor pantry and lays her egg.  She cackles loudly to let me know she is done, then she jumps up on the porch railing to wait for me to feed her.  It’s quite endearing.

So, as you can imagine, I find myself just praying for her safety and encourage her to stay close to the house.  She is pretty “forest wise” and she flies up into the trees when threatened.  Some of the other breeds don’t do this.  It’s curious because they can fly.  But, often when they are under attack, many chickens will not fly.  They simply run.  This makes them pretty easy prey in the chain of life up here. Anyway, this chicken is a Spangler.  She is pretty savvy.  And, I pray.

This warm summer morning,  as I was watering the plants on my porch, I heard this incredible ruckus.  The crows came flying from everywhere.  They dove through the sky from the north, south, east and west.  They were screaming their crow call and diving down in this one spot in our meadow.  The grass and flowers were quite high so it was hard to understand the scene at first.  The crows kept diving and cawing until the fox turned away from her path to the chicken coop and went running, tail between her legs back into the forest.

I ran around the house to check and there was my sweet chicken.  I was so happy to see her. I gave thanks to the crows for saving her for one more day.  It was a chicken miracle day at  Dancing Sun Cabins.  I am so grateful.

I do wonder if there are others who have witnessed forest miracles.  I would love to hear about them.  I find the forest to be a fascinating place to live in.

Max Patch Magical Morning

The AT crosses the top of Max Patch

Mornings on Max are nothing short of a miracle.  This morning we shuttled some of our guests up for a hike down to the cabins.  This is a wonderful 9-mile hike down from 4629 feet to about 2900 feet of elevation at the cabins.

Tom and I took the opportunity to walk over the “roof of our world” here in Spring Creek.   Max Patch is the highest point in our area and it never disappoints us.

On this fine morning. we were witness to a brand new baby elk being born.  When I captured her on camera, the distance and glare made it difficult to notice the baby.  I was very curious as to why she was alone, grazing in an open field.   The bulls are often alone, but most of the time the females are in herds.

We hope you enjoy this video which we entitled the Magic Morning on Max Patch.

For several years now, the National Park Service has been working to re-establish the elk in the Appalachian region.  This beautiful doe probably wandered over from the Cataloochee area of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.   Or, perhaps she split off from the two herds that are pretty well established in the Harmon Den area just below Max Patch on the drive over to I-40.

 

 

Baby birds getting ready to fly

Birds! Babies! Spring!

This week we have been blessed with a morning chorus of phoebes, indigo buntings, finches, blue jays, mourning doves, and cardinals just to name a few. It is so wonderful to wake to the sounds of the forest.

Tom caught these baby birds getting up their nerve to fly from the limb. This sweet little family has been nesting under the eaves of our house by our bedroom window. We have been watching the parents diligently building the nest for weeks. It is precariously perched on the side of the house. I am always so amazed at how long the the chicks stay in the nest and how the nest seems to expand to accommodate them all.

I don’t know how they choose the day, but suddenly they all fly away. It’s part of nature’s wonder and magic.

We have been witnessing many babies being born and thriving here. I wanted to share some of my favorite pictures with you in celebration of spring. I hope you enjoy them.

Baby birds getting ready to fly
Fresh from the nest
The colors of spring are stunning
Blue bird eggs
Baby blue bird eggs
Monarch butterfly
Monarch butterflies love our fields
A tiny hummingbird visitor
We rehabilitated and released this sweet hummingbird
Turtle laying eggs
This sweet turtle was laying her eggs
We saw this bear cub from our car on the way to Max Patch
baby dove
This is a baby dove that we helped find her mamma
Dove
Sweet reunion with her baby
Baby cow
This sweet little one was born in our community this year
hummingbird
Baby deer in the woods are a common site here
frog eggs
Frog eggs in our pond

 

 

 

Full Moon at Max Patch

 Max Patch Moonlight Magic

Just imagine being on top of the world looking out over the mountains as the moon begins to rise.   Long rays stretch across the horizon, moon rays as the golden hour of light dances across the hills with a beauty that cannot be captured on camera. The true magic of Max Patch on the evening before a full moon can only be experienced.

We invite you to come and experience this for yourself.   We are only a short drive from the top.  On July 26th, the moon will rise at  7:59 PM and the sun will set at 8:38 pm.   This sets the stage for pure magic.  The moonlight and sunlight cross paths on the top.  It’s a phenomenal place to be.