Rooster paranoia

Early March our baby chicks arrived and I became a mother hen in training. Since then, my husband and I have found our stride as chicken owners. The run is secure, we have automatic feeders and water systems (because, hey, we still have day jobs) and the chickens find safety in a small coop while we complete the larger one.

While the chicks were in the brooder,  we spent evenings entertained by Chicken TV which was better than actual television. We not only spent time watching them, but holding them and letting them climb over us while discussing the different kinds of eggs we’d expect. 

Just before transitioning them from the brooder to the coop, the Buff Orpington pullets loved nestling into our laps. I enjoyed watching as one would nestle down as I ran my hand gently over its head down to its tail. It was so amazing seeing how much these birds had grown in a matter of weeks.

Now, 15 weeks later, we are hearing confirmed cock-a-doodle doos.

Yes. Plural. I’m sure there are two…maybe more? 

The moment crowing happens I immediately try to identify the owner by racing out to the run quickly, but calmly as I don’t want to frighten everyone. 

Scanning the 16 potential suspects for the roo, I see no evidence. They all quickly turn back to their scratching and pecking…occasionally looking over their shoulder:

“Nope, wasn’t me!”

According to those on the “internets” this is a rooster. What are your thoughts?

A couple of mornings ago after letting the pups and chickens out at 5 a.m. The crowing began again. 
I pressed up against the back window and watched in the twilight. 

Soon I recognized two Buff Orpingtons crowing.. one right after the other and flapping their wings with pride as the glottal cackle reared from their yellow feathered throats.

Damn it! 

This is Jackson, the hen. Until I know otherwise.

Unlike the Mottled Javas and Americaunas, our Buff Orpingtons and Welsummers came from a hatchery….we ordered all female. And while I realize that there is margin for error, when you consider we ordered 10 Buffs, three which died within five days…and now two are roosters? Something’s up, or I have some bad karma to remedy.

I began consulting The Chicken Chick, YouTube, and my Facebook Group, Backyard Chicken Project. Apparently, one of the markings is the tail feathers. If they curl down and you have a “sickle” tail feather, you have a rooster. 

This is how I came to name “Jackson”…the Buff who I originally thought was doing the crowing….all the telling signs…thick legs, big feet, tail feathers bending downward like a sickle….but I haven’t seen him, or her, crow.

I make time to sit in the run watching my Buffs specifically…and over time they all seem to have rooster signs. Could it be that the hatchery sent me all males instead of females? 

I now have rooster paranoia. The struggle is real people. 

As I heard the crowing again this morning, I chose to forgo going back to bed and took a camping chair and my coffee to the run. 

I took a deep breath and for the first time in a couple of weeks took pleasure in the chicken antics: the scratching and pecking, the squealing at finding an oversized leaf, the pecking at the flowers on my boots, and the glaring curiousity as to why I’m sipping my coffee with suspicion. 

I browsed my phone and found a video showing hens crowing...as I played it, the chickens listened attentively. Maybe someone would crow, simply to copy? 

Perhaps I have a prideful feminist hen who refuses to give into her assigned role. Possibly, she’s choosing to copy the rooster representing the telling roo sign of that sickle tail feather. Or this hen was simply meant to be a roo, but it isn’t giving in until the bird gets the deserved assignment: that she is, in fact, actually a he.

If that is the case I respect that, and welcome it. How do I question nature?

Too many of us on this earth live lives for others….only because others perceive us to be a certain way, a certain person, personality…a certain gender. 

And for a period of time, it’s easier to be what others expect. Until it isn’t. Until nature rears her beautiful head forcing us to own our identity. Either in a loud cheer or fearful silence.

As I review these dynamics, one of the suspect roos clumsily makes its way in my lap. 

We looked each other over. I take another sip of my coffee and the bird settles down perching itself on my right thigh and finally resting its head on my left. 

And just like I did weeks before, I run my hand gently down from its head to tail. The bird closes its eyes. 

Relaxed.

We’ll all figure this out eventually.

Sound Goals: A mile in Puget Sound

As my bare feet touched the water I was comforted that my 7 mm wetsuit and cap may be enough to keep me warm during my first open water swim in Puget Sound. The water temperature today was 56 degrees, but I didn’t retract from the cold. I look down at Sophia and Kristi’s feet as we enter the water. They have neoprene boots. I chose not to purchase them because I worried it would be more equipment to adjust.

Thankfully Saratoga Passage today was glass. Just seeing the calm conditions alleviated some of my anxiety from earlier.

Lined up with the others for the Whidbey Adventure Swim we all adjusted to the cold. Brief chats revealed swimmers came from all over the country and Canada for this U.S. Master Swim event. I’m completely out of my league here, but my goal this year was to swim a mile comfortably in the Sound by the end of the summer. Today I would try to swim 1.2. 

The horn sounded. The salt water burned my face momentarily as I dove toward the buoys marking the turnaround point. I’m not a fast swimmer. The course would take me about an hour to complete. 

An hour in this cold water. Why am I doing this? I love to swim but the pool is warmer, easier. I don’t need a wetsuit in the pool. 

My wetsuit. It’s so buoyant it feels so unnatural as I work to dig through the water. I feel like lead and it doesn’t feel like I’m necessarily moving forward. Am I kicking? I kick harder.

Stroke, stroke, breathe. Stroke, stroke breathe. I have to find a rhythm.

Looking up to breathe and mark my point, the buoy I’m striving for seems so far and the majority of the swimmers are already way ahead of me. I’m now alone in the water. My heart is racing because I remind myself I’m in the ocean and no longer surrounded by my peers my mind wanders to what lies beneath the Sound. 

Stroke, stroke, breathe. Stroke, stroke breathe. Don’t think about what is below.

Looking up again I see a paddle boarder and a kayaker. I see a thumbs up as I breathe in between every two strokes. I’m on course, I’m doing this. People are watching me. I have to settle in and get my mind on track. I’m not here to be the first one out of the water. I’m here to finish.

Each time my face enters the water, I try to notice the ocean floor. A huge Dungenous Crab scuttles across the floor. Is it crabbing season yet? The seagrass is flowing toward me. I’m going against the current which explains why I feel like lead. 

Finally I’m turning at the halfway point. I met the time requirement which was to finish half the course in 30 minutes or they would’ve turned me around sooner. I’m going to finish this.

My face is no longer cold, but my feet. My feet are freezing. I begin to covet the boots that Sophia and Kristi are wearing. All I can think about are those boots now. Black, snug neoprene would feel so good right now. I’m still in swimmer survival mode, breathing every two strokes. I need a new rhythm, perhaps I can gain a little ground. I decide to add four strokes in between each breath as much as possible. I count them off. 

One, two, three, four breathe. Stroke, stroke, breathe. Stroke, stroke breathe. One, two, three, four breathe….this becomes my rhythm.

But my feet are so cold. Damn. I have to get those black boots. I try to wiggle my toes while kicking at the same time. My toes move. A good sign. If I have hypothermia, will I know?

One, two, three, four breathe. Stroke, stroke, breathe. Stroke, stroke breathe. One, two, three, four breathe…

Now as I look forward to breathe the final buoy is in sight. Far but in sight. On my four stroke count I have more time to explore the sea floor again, but we are a little deeper. The water is darker, but I can make out bits of sand, shells in between the clumps of seagrass. I pass over another crab, it’s on its back, motionless. I wonder what happened to it.

One, two, three, four breathe. Stroke, stroke, breathe. Stroke, stroke breathe. One, two, three, four breathe.

I can hear voices as I near the final turn. Almost there. I wonder how long I’ve been in the water. 

Stroke, stroke, breathe. Stroke, stroke breathe.

The sea floor is getting closer to me. I’m basically at shore, I look up…just a few more feet..but I’ve overshot the finish. Damn it. The steps are far to my right.

Finally my hands hit sand. I try to stand, but my sea legs reject the land. My husband and Sophia are on shore cheering for me and I smile as I wobble to the steps to the timer which signifies my finish. 

58:55. My 1.2 mile swim completed under an hour. Goal accomplished. 

And now, I wonder when I can do this again.

Sound Goals: Prepping to swim Saratoga Passage

Prior to moving here I had some goals for myself: live healthier, hike, eat local, acquire outdoor hobbies to help that quest to live healthy….you get the idea.

After moving here, I signed up for an open water event in Lake Washington. I joined the Master Swim group here, trained and completed the course. It was amazing, but it fostered a new goal: swim one mile in the Sound comfortably by this summer.

Last summer I attempted to swim with an open water group here, but freaked out a little when I noticed the ocean floor visibility went a little cloudy. I maybe made it a quarter of a mile. But there was a part of that swim that was amazing. Seeing how clear the water is and the fish…

Today I’m participating in the Whidbey Adventure Swim for the 1.2 mile course in Saratoga Passage. I can swim a mile, but swimming in the Sound comes with a lot of other things to think of than swimming in the pool. I’m terribly nervous. Nervous about not seeing bigger sea life that may come toward me surprisingly, about the 55 degree temperature, being comfortable in my 7mm wetsuit…did I mention the cold? Then there’s the time requirement. I have to finish 1/2 the course in 30 minutes. In the pool, I have that covered, but in the ocean, depending on conditions. Not sure really.

So, here I go. Headed down to Langley’s Seawall Park. Wish me luck!

Tall ships along the water 

This week I caught a glimpse of the tall ships in their small parade of sails on their way to Tacoma for the Festival of Sails.

The parade of sail in North Puget Sound and the festival are intended to commemorate the 225th anniversary of Captain George Vancouver’s exploration of Puget Sound.

Farm and garden DIY: The never ending chicken coop build

“Hey, what do we have going on this weekend?”

It’s a common question Josh asks each week. The common answer is: “Finishing the chicken coop.” 

Except these days I may insert an expletive in there somewhere.

The Chicken Palace, as we tend to call it these days, has been in progress since the end of March and I’m ready for this to be completed. It has pretty much consumed every weekend and I’m ready to get in some serious hiking.
We’ve been here for a year now and the last six months have been all about our chickens, their coop and our garden. 

The garden is fenced, planted and we are seeing great progress with our seedlings. I think we may be literally giving carrots and peas away in a couple of weeks. The chicken area though continues to be a constant work in progress. 

The run was already in place but needed some securing. The coop however is another matter. 

Josh made plans for a custom built coop. It will be a 12×12 box for our current flock of 16. Why so big? Wel we want to add chicks in the future, right? The plan is to have a slanted roof a cottage style door and window. The nesting boxes are fancy…the will eggs roll to the front. Once complete it will hold at least 40 chickens. 

Not that we necessarily want 40 chickens, but we dream big here. 

We finally have three walls framed and this structure is actually beginning to look like something may be completed one day. Today we are framing he roof and the front for the door and window. The hope is that we can complete this before the end of the month so our chickens will have a larger home and so we can start enjoying life outside our farm here and around the Sound.