Tag Archives: chicken pen

Requiem for The Battle of Linton Hollow

I am in mourning and shock.  For twenty days, the hen house in my backyard lay under siege in what became known as The Battle of Linton Hollow.  Night after night, the chickens cowered in fear as hungry predators circled their coop searching for ways to get at them.  By day, my wife and I mended holes in the fencing and set traps, but in the end, there was nothing we could do to save them.  It’s hard to admit, but we were simply outwitted by a craftier, more relentless, superior intelligence.  The varmints that struck down our chickens one by one could have taught Colonel Sanders a thing or two about “finger licking good.”  Once they honed in on the hen house location, and tasted the first chicken, there was no keeping them out of the buffet line.  The final casualty count read seven chicken lunches, seven raccoons, and three opossums.  Although I would have liked to publicly hang each and every critter we trapped, not one of the varmints was harmed; all trapped animals were given a meal and relocated to the river.  The chickens were not so lucky.

The final casualty of the battle was Devil Chicken, so named by my wife because she was mean as hell (the chicken, not my wife).  In some recent Facebook posts, I have referred to this gritty old girl (again the chicken, not my wife) as The Half Chicken.  During the siege of Linton Hollow, she lost an eye, all her tail feathers, and half a leg, but she was nevertheless a gallant bird to the very end.  Although the raiding critters treated her or at least parts of her as a “take out” meal throughout the siege, her spirit never wavered.  Unfortunately, the final assault, a beautifully orchestrated attack by a raccoon and opossum, was too much for her to handle.  The Half Chicken fell in battle sometime during the early morning hours of June 30.  The unexpected alliance of the raccoon and opossum was brilliant, and as of sunset July 3, the pair continued to elude capture with the same brilliance.  However, efforts to trap them and bring them to justice will continue for several more days.

The critters may have won the battle, but the war is not over!  In the spring of 2017, my wife and I will train a passel of new recruits.  These recruits will be hand selected, and put through regimented training that would make a Spartan warrior proud.  Our next brood of hens will kick raccoon and opossum butt.  Well . . . .  not really.  Chickens are called chickens for a reason.  They have four functions in life, and fighting heroically is not one of them.  Chickens eat, drink, poop, and lay eggs; that’s it!  When it comes to defending themselves, other than a peck and limited flight, they are quite helpless.  Their major line of defense against predators is a well-designed and well-built chicken coop.

The siege of Linton Hollow taught my wife and me our chickens did not have a well-built and well-designed chicken coop.  We did not skimp or plan it that way.  In fact, we were excited when we first built the coop; we were proud of our handiwork and thought any chicken would be honored to have such a great place to live.  Little did we know varmints were lurking in the shadows licking their lips and laughing at us.  However, the twenty day siege taught us a few things about design, and as a result, come spring, our backyard chicken coop will undergo major renovations.  Galvanized hardware cloth will replace the old 19 gauge chicken wire top to bottom.  Rolls of 18 inch galvanized razor wire will cover the top of the coop, and overlapping electric fencing will wrap around the perimeter of the coop and repel onslaughts from the sides.  The new design also calls for a four foot wide moat surrounding the enclosure.  Of course, both raccoon and opossums are excellent swimmers, but a wet varmint climbing over electrified fencing is about as good as it gets when it comes to turning a hungry determined varmint away.

Now, the wife and I are not sadistic meanies!  We have no desire to hurt any animal, but we do intend to do a better job of protecting our chickens in the future.  However, to be fair, we are erecting warning signs around the chicken coop.  If the diabolical four legged critters can read, they can save themselves some pain.  If they can’t, I can only hope they are fast learners.  Either way, I plan once again to have fresh eggs for breakfast by late fall 2017.  By the way, did I mention the 140 decibel alarm horn attached to the chicken coop as a part of the new defense system?

JL

©Jack Linton, July 3, 2016

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“But, Honey . . . .” and the Off the Grid $300 Chicken Egg

“But, honey, it is so much cheaper if we do it ourselves.”  Those words have sent more good men into bankruptcy, caused them to lose their religion, self-respect, and enthusiasm for life than any words in the history of mankind.  I know; my wife uses those words on me daily!  She is one of those poor souls who believe more than five minutes of idle time is a sin.  Her motor is always running at top speed; whereas, my motor is perpetually disengaged.  I love her, but that does not mean we are compatible.

If we lived on a farm where my wife could work in a garden, raise chickens, make her own soap, milk a cow, and slop a hog, she would be in heaven.  I also like farms, but I like to admire them from a distance.  Farms are hard work!  I have never lived on a farm, but my mama and daddy always had a garden, chickens, and every so often a couple of hogs penned in the back corner of our one acre, so I am acquainted with the constant work required to tend animals and gardens.  It is not that I am lazy, well that may be partly it, but the truth is I am a practical person and for me Corner Market is simply more practical and convenient.  For a fraction of the effort and cost (I’ll get to that later) it takes to be a DIY (do it yourself) person, I can stroll through the local grocery and pick all the peas, tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, and squash I please and not break a sweat.  I dare anyone to do that on a farm or a backyard “wanna be” farm!  At the grocery, I can open the cooler and grab a gallon of milk and never get caught fondling a cow, and I if I want eggs, they are stacked neatly in pastel colored cartons not far from the milk.  Why should I reach under a laying hen to retrieve eggs and get blood pecked out of the back of my hand when it is so much easier and painless to pick up a carton of eggs from the local grocer?

I know, I know, my wife says it daily around our house, “There is nothing better than fresh eggs.”  Although I am convinced it is more a personal preference than a statement of fact, there are apparently a lot of people, including the local grocer, who agree with her.  Right next to the Styrofoam cartons of snow white large, medium, and small eggs are brown cartons stamped with “organic” on the lid as if the word organic implies fresh.  If I remember correctly from my high school science classes, all eggs are organic, so I fail to see how eggs packaged in a brown carton are any more organic than eggs packaged in white, pink, and blue cartons, unless, maybe, they are counting the organic fibers in the extra dollar bills spent to purchase eggs in a brown carton.  Of course, you cannot convince my wife that the only difference between a brown organic egg and the spotless white supposedly non-organic egg is the money you pay and little else.  Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with the egg fetched from a sanitized environment where chickens are fed a controlled diet (at least as sanitized as you can get with a pooping machine like a chicken), but my wife insists the brown store bought organic egg or better yet the homegrown farm or backyard chicken egg is better for you and tastes better.  I have to admit backyard eggs do seem to taste better, but someone will have to educate me as to how an egg uprooted from under a backyard or barnyard chicken that scavenges for bugs and worms it finds under decaying wood and chicken poop can be the healthier choice?  Maybe, it’s a higher protein count – who knows, but I don’t get it!

My wife has yet to satisfactorily explain the organic thing to me, and when I get too hung up on that point, she drops into her sweet, honey, you don’t want to fight me too hard on this, voice (Husbands know that voice as “Back off Buster,” “Are you sure you want to go there,” or the dreaded, “Fine” followed by deafening silence).  When she knows or believes she is right, which is always, she draws a line in the chicken poop and dares me to cross it – I know better.  Nevertheless, along with the heart of a true environmentalist, she always has good intentions.

She wants to raise chickens and make her own soap, so we can get as far “off the grid” as possible.  What is the grid?  From my viewpoint, it is any modern convenience that mankind has spent thousands of years inventing to make life worthwhile such as electricity, pizza, and Girl Scout cookies, all of which my loving wife believes we can do without.  Not once, has she ever asked me if I wanted to get off the grid!  If it costs me money and extra work and means giving up my favorite processed foods, I do not, but I am just a husband, so what do I know.

My wife is consumed with the idea that doing something with your own hands is rewarding.  I have tried to be supportive of her in that area and encourage her to pursue whatever she likes or thinks might be fun.  The only thing I have asked in return is to be left out of her fun.  If I wanted to do something with my own hands, I would take up golf, bowling, origami, or throw away my remote and walk to the television to manually change channels.  I am more into rewarding my hands by allowing them to rest calmly and unstressed at my side, and I can do that best on the grid.

“But, honey, just think, we could have fried chicken with no worries about all the chemicals they feed commercial chickens.”  That is well and good, but not once in all the years that I have chopped down on a drumstick from KFC or Popeye’s have I ever worried about what the chicken ate before I ate it.  Besides, let me give you a quick lesson in raising chickens to put meat on the table – DON’T!  Unless you get a thrill from grabbing a living creature by the neck and twirling it violently until the neck snaps, repeatedly chasing the dog away from the flopping carcass, and consoling the children because you just killed Bitsy, my advice is to buy your grilling or frying chicken already packaged from the local grocer.  Also, never give a name to anything you may eat later, including chickens, pet rabbits, and obnoxious children.

“But honey, we could have fresh free eggs every morning for the rest of our lives.”  Fresh, I will concede.  Free?  Not even close!  From the day, my eldest son surprised his mama with two baby chicks for Easter, until now, seven chickens later, my wallet has been open.  “But honey, just think of all the free eggs we are getting.”  Again, I will concede that when our temperamental chickens decide to lay, we do get eggs, but they are not exactly free.  After building a 10 X 10 chicken house and pen, reinforcing it with new wire three times to keep the opossums and raccoons out, buying a trap for the smarter critters, all the accessories for feeding and drinking, a 50 pound sack of chicken feed every other week, flock blocks, etc., I figure I have, over the past three years, dropped the initial cost of $300.00 per dozen eggs down to about $29.95 per dozen.  Now when I hear, “But honey . . . ,” I weep.

Having chickens is a sacrifice, but it is a sacrifice that keeps my wife smiling.  The chickens are part of her master plan to get us “off the grid.”  She has this grand idea that we can grow our own food and eventually drastically reduce our use of electricity.  A lower food bill and electric bill would be nice.  The money saved would make me feel a little better about giving up satellite television.  I have written about the withdrawals I experienced giving up satellite television in a previous article, but for the sake of the chickens and my marriage, I GAVE ALL or I should say, I GAVE UP ALL!  It turned out she was right.  Other than football season, I have not missed the dozen decent channels, thirty-two shopping channels, cutesy animal channels, badminton channel, the radical conservative network, the conservative liberal network, liberal conservative network, rural farming network, eight romance channels all playing the same godforsaken background music, the Pat Boone channel, twenty channels for kids, at least ten news channels, and fifty music stations.  Not only have I not missed them, but the money I have saved has helped pay my chicken mortgage and pay for the new shoes I am constantly buying because we can’t get the chicken poo smell out of the shoes I bought the previous week.

As if chickens were not enough, my wife decided if we were going off the grid, we still had an obligation to each other to be clean, so she learned to make soap.  Also, she reasoned, eventually, we would need an alternate source of light for the evenings, so she learned how to make candles.  I must admit it was fun helping her research how to do those things.  At first we, she, looked at making old time lye soap by extracting lye from the ashes of burnt wood.  After a little study and watching several YouTube videos on the process, she decided we were not ready to get that deep into soap making, so she buys lye for her soap from the hardware store.  She has since learned the mixing temperatures of essential oils, fragrances, dyes, and goat’s milk to the point that she has soap making down to an art.  Her homemade soy candles are also a work of art; I never knew non-commercial candles would smell so nice.  However, the best part is that she sells some of her soap and candles, which is the part that makes me the happiest.  After all, it takes money to keep her chickens in the lifestyle they have become accustomed.

Happy Easter!

JL

©Jack Linton – March 27, 2016