Livestock Adventures

And Now There Are Two

A few nights ago I awoke to the incessant barking of my eight-year-old Norwegian elkhound. If I keep very still, I told myself, maybe Xandy will take care of it.  We both play this “wait-it-out” game when our daughter Kitt comes into our room, going back and forth with taking care of her, but the dog is usually my responsibility.

“That damn dog never listens to me,” Xandy often says.

“Well, if you didn’t call her ‘Stoop’ (short for ‘Stupid’) she may listen to you more.”

“She likes it!”

“Yeah, everyone loves to be deemed an idiot.”

“Damn dog.”

Thankfully, Xandy this night took pity on me and got out of bed to take care of the barking. When he came back to bed, I thought he said something about Lakota being choked by her collar. He later told me that he said nothing. Regardless, the barking stopped, and we slept.

The next morning this is what we found all over our front lawn:


One of our hens had been dragged from the barn to some unknown location by a creature during the night. A trail of feathers stretched out into the side pasture and then just disappeared, as I imagine the hen herself did — into the belly of a fox or other night predator. I thought about the fear she must have felt as she was taken from her perch, her feathers ripped from her body, her neck broken. It was so sad to see only two hens out in the yard the next morning.

“Poor thing.” I said later to my husband.

“She’s just a chicken.”

“But still. That is not a way to go, and Lakota was trying to warn us.”

“She’s still a damn dog.”

I thought about how the first time Lakota came to the farm, she saw the entire place as her own personal dog park with the chickens as chew toys. She actually de-feathered a couple of birds herself. Now, she is a protector — spending her days and nights watching over all of the farm inhabitants. I love to watch her sitting majestically in the morning overlooking the pool.

Man, I love that dog.

Lakota and I years ago at a canine 5K in Colorado. She still looks the same!
Lakota and I years ago at a canine 5K in Colorado. She still looks the same!
Livestock Adventures

Vent Sexing and an Egg Hunt

I have absolutely no idea where our hens are laying.

I think about this fact as I use two eggs for chocolate chip cookies and open our usually full 18 pack only to find 12. Time to go on an egg hunt — one that I am willing to gauge will not be successful.

We have three Rhode Island Red hens that in the summer we allow to roam free. This fact makes my hippie-heart proud. I often sit on the front porch and watch the birds pecking their way over our front lawn.


My hippie-side gives way to the carnivore, however, when our free range hens stop laying in the coop — and start laying in different places all over the barn. We then have to search in all of the crevices and all over the hay to find where the hens have decided to lay. Unfortunately, we often miss a few spots causing my husband or father-in-law to be pelted with frozen eggs mid-winter as they pull hay to feed it out to the cattle.

We started our chicken collection with a dozen chicks about three years ago. Chicks are extremely fragile, and my husband ordered that number under the assumption that a few would die. Laying hens at their peak, after all, lay one egg every 25 hours.

No one eats that many eggs.

All of the chicks (of course) survived — with one of the so-called “hens” a rooster. This is normal, I have found, as it is difficult to “sex” chickens. One of the main ways that “chicken sexers” determine the sex of a chicken is to squeeze the feces out of a young chick and look in its anal “vent” to see if there is a small bump which would indicate a masculine bird. This is called “Vent Sexing” — I just call it plain icky. Check out the Dirty Jobs video if you need a visual of the practice. If you aren’t eating, of course.

We decided, after an inundation of eggs, to give a few hens away. We kept five and the rooster. I am not sure why we kept the rooster, save that he was a beautiful and somewhat docile bird (rare for a rooster, I have learned). I say “was” as we sold him along with a son that he helped to create after a particularly harsh season of hen gang-rape. Our poor hens had no feathers on their backsides after repeated attack by the two roosters. Two even died.

So now we have three happy hens that produce just enough eggs for us to consume. Just enough, that is, unless we can’t find them.

Right now, our barn looks like this —


which is making it a little difficult to find any eggs.

As I entered the barn, I inched by the wagon to search all through all of the former laying spots only to find the singular egg that was left to ensure the hens continued laying in that spot — obviously, a practice that does not always work.

Frustrated, I left the barn empty-basketed.

I think next time I will take Kitt with me — she is much better at finding eggs. It must be the farm blood in her.