My Life With Gracie…A World Of Imitators

A World Of Imitators

When compared with animals, chickens are perhaps some of the most curious and most cautious of all. This is an odd combination.

Not often, just occasionally, we will have company. My chickens inspect with great curiosity anyone who comes near them. They are perhaps sizing them up to see if they are the generous sort of person. You know, the kind who might have brought them something to eat like chunks of watermelon.

If no handouts happen right away, their most extreme level of caution kicks in. After all, who wouldn’t want to feed a sweet, adorable, generous egg-laying chicken? Very suspicious!

They will inspect the visitor, often with some exploratory pecks to the feet and thighs. It’s all what you might call innocent fun, although a few times visitors report seeing a distinct “Tasty!” look in the chickens’ eyes after a thorough foot pecking.

This may be due to a chicken’s view of most things being either “food” or “not food…yet.” Still I must appreciate their caution. They seem to realize most other animals view chickens as “food” or “not food…yet.”

I’m not completely sure, but I wonder if people may not be cautious enough. We seem to be all too often easily taken in by imitators who promise so much and deliver so little, often seeking to better themselves at the expense of others.

My chickens know my voice and they know my routine. Being chickens, they may wander to another in hope of a treat, but they always come back to their big Chicken Daddy.

My Life With Gracie taught me just because someone claims to have big feet doesn’t mean they really do and doesn’t make them your daddy worth following.

I will do my best to post each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

A World Of Imitators

Family Photo Friday!

Family Photo Friday

Hold onto your hearts! This week’s photo is one of Amelia standing in her original Chicken Daddy’s foot. This was taken the day before she moved to my house. She and Emily are both “refugee chickens” who had to leave their first spacious rural suburban home due to zoning ordinances. (To have even one chicken, you must have at least 5.5 acres of land.)

Anyway, I wanted to share this because Amelia is molting and probably for the first time in her young life. At first, she acted as if she wasn’t sure what was happening to her, and I wondered if she was afraid something was terribly wrong.

It has been a challenge for her to get up into the coop each evening. She has always been the first and best flier. She wants to fly up from the ground like usual, but without any new flight feathers yet, she just can’t. Eventually after numerous tries, she will begrudgingly use the chicken ladder to walk up.

Yesterday evening, Amelia was too proud to use the ladder to go up into the coop. My words of encouragement weren’t helping. When the light had faded too much for her to see clearly, she gave in, reluctantly walked over to me, and let me lift her up. I think maybe she had worn herself out a bit.

But being the Amelia who I love, she had to give me a few angry clucks as if to say, “Don’t you realize I can do this for myself? How dare you treat me like I can’t fly up for myself!”

She and I both know this was all to keep up appearances in front of the others while she was really saying, “Thank you so much, Daddy.”

You can read more about all of my chickens on this page.

I will do my best to post each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

My Life With Gracie…Secret Signals

Secret Signals

There are times when my chickens seem to squabble about the least little thing. They may have plenty of pieces of their favorite food, particularly banana, but occasionally will ignore the ones right in front of them, and want the ones in front of someone else! But these times are very rare and most often based on pecking order.

It’s completely different when they are free-ranging and “on the hunt.” A low, almost imperceptible noise is made by the one who is onto the track of “fresh prey.” Suddenly everyone forgets about what they’re doing and runs to that spot as quickly and quietly as they can.

When that happens, there’s no squabbling. It’s more of a group effort so someone, anyone, can capture whatever tasty morsel has been discovered. Though the lucky hunter will often still run around with the prize while the others give chase for the fun of it, clearly they are all in it together!

At first, that secret signal was imperceptible to me. I would just see everyone moving in a flash to the same place. Then I learned to listen for it and enjoyed their hunt even more.

This seems to be all very different from the world of people. Our impulse is most often to devour what is in front of us (or secure it away for later) and then go after what our neighbor has. I think I read once that we are the only species which makes a sport of preying on its own kind.

If we think we have found something of value, we keep it to ourselves. We don’t want others (and particularly people we don’t like) to have what we may have a chance of owning. Even if there is a plentiful supply, we don’t want everyone to have what we have.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons I enjoy the company of my chickens so much. They often act the opposite of people, but I’m not quite ready to give up completely on people! There will always be those who hope and share and signal others to come and enjoy what they have found.

My Life With Gracie showed me how when you find a good thing, you can’t help but share it.

I will do my best to post each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

Secret Signals

My Life With Gracie…About Scrambling (But Not The Egg Kind!)

About Scrambling

There are times when I think I may have been scrambling to catch up throughout my life. What other people find so easy always seems to be not so for me. Even my chickens do a little scrambling when they think one of them is onto something really good.

Bessie is currently the best hunter, and with cricket season coming on, she is at her prime. She was the first to notice how crickets liked to hide under the loose bricks holding up their water bottle. She knows when I go to give them fresh water, I always pour out the old water on the brick, and that flushes the crickets out of hiding. Then the others catch on and scramble after her to catch one.

More than once, Bessie will be walking away with the cricket gobbled down in a flash. She then has a clever nonchalance in her steps. This is as if to say, “It was nothing at all, Girls. Nothing at all.”

Sometimes they catch up with Bessie, and sometimes they even get the cricket instead of Bessie. Whether she plans it like that or not, I’m unsure. I think perhaps she may simply enjoy being ahead as the leader of the hunt. And perhaps the others scramble to catch up just to admire her and be with her, cricket or no cricket.

But I believe they may forget what they do really well and about the times that Bessie is actually following them. Like Amelia who knows before anyone else when I come out the back door first thing in the morning (no matter how quiet I try to be), they each have something at which they are “the best.”

My Life With Gracie showed me sometimes you have to scramble a little to catch up or slow down so others can catch up with you.

I will do my best to post each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

About Scrambling

My Life With Gracie…The Gift Of Dreams

The Gift Of Dreams

Lately my chickens haven’t been laying as many eggs as usual. This is their molting season, starting with Gracie and Bessie and now Amelia. It’s just a part of another one of those cycles making up the pattern of chicken life.

But I think Gracie has been feeling a little embarrassed. Though I tell each one how they will always be beautiful to me in ways they would never understand, Gracie has been more to herself, sitting away from me rather than at my feet as usual.

To be honest, I haven’t been feeling too much like a “spring chicken” either. So when I’ve gotten home from work lately, after some fresh fruit, we talk together and dream together. I do this for Gracie, yet I wonder if I don’t do it a little for myself too. We talk about her secret love and desire to be a ballerina.

At first we discuss mostly how no one will notice her missing fluff feathers while she is wearing her new ballet tutu I will make for her. She has always been so extremely proud of her fluff feathers, even more than when she got her first wing feathers. (Quite honestly, Gracie was the one who pointed out to me how fluff feathers look very much like a tutu if you use your imagination.)

Of course I will need to learn how to sew one, and of course I can’t start sewing until we know what color fabrics to use for it and for her matching ballet slippers. And it only makes sense before choosing a color palette and fabric, we need a theme and a mood and what we want to express through the art of dance. Those things are totally up to Gracie and the others. It is not always easy to get a unanimous decision from a flock of chickens.

Currently we are leaning towards doing an entirely new and original ballet production, perhaps named “The Rose Garden Princess.” You see, all of my chickens were stunned to learn there was an entire ballet called “Swan Lake” but nothing, absolutely nothing, featuring chickens. But we can change that, and indeed we will change that because we share a dream. We do have a unanimous decision on that!

“Maybe The Rose Garden Princess is captured by The Evil King and taken away to his Kingdom of Darkness where she is forced to lay six eggs every night,” I suggest. (Frightful expressions all around the coop!) “Maybe even in her captivity she is able to dance, and unbeknownst to The Evil King while dancing she creates a plan of escape for herself and the other captured princesses.” (Delightful expressions all around the coop!)

Before long, the light begins to fade and it’s time for everyone to go up to bed. I tuck them all in for the night so they will be safe from predators like The Evil King, and we all drift off to sleep dreaming our beautiful ballet dreams.

We press on through our awkward and troubled-filled times because we have a dream of something grand and glorious and altogether wonderful. And today may be the day!

My Life With Gracie gave me the gift of dreams.

I will do my best to post each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

The Gift Of Dreams

Family Photo Friday!

Family Photo Friday

Hold onto your heart! This week’s photo shows four of my first little chicks in their brooder. In the back is Gracie. You can see how very timid she was then and how she seems to be hiding her side with the strange lump.

When I took this photo, I wasn’t sure if Gracie was going to survive. At the time, I thought it might be the last one I ever took of her. Yet amazingly she grew to become the leader of my little flock. She has been an inspiration to me in so many ways. She is, after all, “My Best Girl Ever.”

Close by Gracie is Rudy, my little Rhode Island Red. (Soon I will share a photo of her and her own first hatchling.) Towards the front are The Emperor and The Empress, not quite the regal looking pair of Brahmas they would grow up to be, but they were definitely happy chicks eager to do all of the things chicks do.

Thanks for joining me in this little look back. Who would have ever imagined my shy little Gracie would be practically famous all over the world? Not me!

You can read more about all of my chickens on this page.

I will do my best to post each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

My Life With Gracie…When Gifts Cost

When Gifts Cost

Before I had my own chickens, I had no idea what is involved with laying an egg. Pearl had no idea either.

She was so excited when her hatch-mate Blanche got ready to lay an egg for the first time. She would follow her around closer than usual to the point where Blanche couldn’t find a private spot to get herself ready for whatever was ahead.

I’m not sure which was more happier when Blanche finished laying her first egg. Blanche was of course happy because she was finally over the long, new, “What’s happening to me?” kind of experience. Pearl was just fascinated by the whole thing and seemed to be thinking, “At last we are real hens like the others!” (It didn’t occur to Pearl that Blanche was now officially a hen while she was still a pullet.)

Pearl, as usual, was overjoyed. Up until when she was ready to lay her own first egg, she would climb into the nesting box with Blanche and pretend to lay an egg with her. Always she had the same “Look at us!” expression on her face, while Blanche’s was more “You just have no idea!” I know chickens aren’t really able to do facial expressions like people, but I do believe Pearl was grinning, just as surely as Blanche was rolling her eyes in disbelief.

What Pearl (and I) didn’t know is eggs don’t just “drop out” like bubble gum from a vending machine. It’s not always easy and it’s not always comfortable.

Eventually Pearl laid her first egg, and she learned every good gift comes with some kind of discomfort and perhaps pain. Every valuable gift costs someone something. Sometimes it’s money or time or effort, but always it costs something of the other person, a part of themselves. But it is a part of themselves that they willingly give up for love.

My Life With Gracie woke me up to how the best gifts cost…us.

I will do my best to post each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

When Gifts Cost

My Life With Gracie…Just What We Do

Just What We Do

Of all my chickens, Pearl is the one who most enjoys being a chicken. She enjoys her “chicken-ness” to the utmost! Being the youngest and last to become egg-laying hens, she and Blanche were very inquisitive about the whole “nesting box thing.” But, of course, Pearl took even that to the extreme!

Laying eggs was the biggest mystery of all time as far as Pearl was concerned. She made quite a nuisance of herself too trying to see just how it is done. She would climb right into the nesting box with Gracie or Bessie to get a closer look at whatever it was they were doing in secret.

If laying eggs was part of being a chicken, then Pearl wanted to do that too! She just couldn’t quite figure out how it worked. All I could really do was tell her “Stop rolling those eggs around!” (Somehow that was supposed to help her understand where eggs came from.) “Stop poking around back there! Give her some privacy!” (This is something Pearl still does not understand.)

When she decided to sit with Gracie or Bessie in the nesting box, she seemed frustrated nothing was happening for her like it was for them. She even tried making egg-laying noises, but no egg appeared. It did seem to help when I told her, “Don’t worry, Sweetie. You’ll know what to do when the time comes.”

Maybe that’s the way it is with giving gifts too. We are designed to give. It’s just what we do. When it’s time to give, everything just falls into place and we figure out what to give and how to give it.

Chickens give the gift of eggs. At least that’s the way I look at it, and I try to always tell them, “Thank you so much.”

And people? Well, I think perhaps the greatest gift a person can give is the gift of words. Words can heal. Words can restore. Words can build. Words can give hope. Words can change a life.

My Life With Gracie gave me a new look at how we are made to give.

I will do my best to post each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

Just What We Do

My Life With Gracie…This New Day

This New Day

A week ago, I imagined I would be writing something very brief like “Due to Hurricane Florence, I’ve been unable to post anything for today. The chickens and I are hunkering down as the storm is passing through Coastal Virginia.”

With the storm having taken a turn and passing through Coastal North Carolina instead, I had more time for today’s cartoon and story. Hopefully I’ve found something meaningful to say for any day, stormy or calm.

The words “This New Day” took on additional meaning for me once my chickens moved outside from the safety of their brooder in my sunroom. That first night was a nearly sleepless one for me. I couldn’t wait to get up the next morning, go outside, and do a “beak count.” All safe.

Nighttime is a very scary time for chickens. They have no night vision. Once the evening comes and sunlight grows faint, they go up to roost in their coop (or up into tree limbs in the wild). Nighttime is their most vulnerable time because they are unable to see predators. They can’t defend themselves against what they can’t see.

Hurricanes and catastrophes and unfortunate life circumstances are much like that as well for people. Sometimes it maybe difficult, but I think it’s still important to be grateful just for making it safely into the next new day.

Sometimes at night, particularly if it’s windy or rainy or snowing, I will just go outside to be with my chickens. I will usually hear a soft little chicken sound made to see if it’s me or a predator. I’ll answer back, “It’s just me, your Daddy.” Then we talk for a while and they go back to sleep while I watch over them.

Whether they understand and appreciate this or not, I’m unsure. I like to believe they are thinking, “He is in this with us.”

I do this for them, of course, but I also do it for myself. It reminds me I’m being watched over as well.

My Life With Gracie let me know with certainty what it means to be brought in safety to this new day.

I will do my best to post each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

This New Day