Animals, Farming, Pets and Livestock, Quote of the Day, Rural Living

From the Chicken House to the Cathedral

Regard it as just as desirable to build a chicken house as to build a cathedral–Frank Lloyd Wright.

I do like a man who has his priorities straight. Even if I’m not one of them.

Frank Lloyd Wright was, while not exactly a Southwest Pennsylvanian, often claimed as one of ours on account of Fallingwater, a masterful evocation of his theory of architecture in harmony with nature, built for the Kaufmann family of regional department store fame.  It’s only about 70 miles down the road from me, and I’ve visited several times. Every time I do, I marvel at how he did it and how he even conceived of such a thing. I wonder at its grace, at the impossibility of thousands of tons of concrete cantilevered over a natural waterfall (and at the windows — OMG, the windows!). And I support the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy’s efforts to “fix” the inevitable structural failures and shore up Wright’s vision. As of the early 21st century, using modern post-tensioning techniques, they seem to have solved most of the problems. Let’s hope Fallingwater makes it through the next thousand years just like Westminster Abbey and doesn’t end up like Beauvais Cathedral (begun in 1225), which fully collapsed twice before its eventual completion and which has been the subject of ongoing efforts for 800 years to keep it whole and standing.

Today, I entered into a new phase of my microfarming life:

Chickens.

Well, I’ve had “a” chicken now for the better part of a year. His name is Chinggis, and he’s one of a pair of starving, frozen Gallus gallus domesticus I found by the side of the road in late January 2021. (This is me, so of course I did!) His comb had frozen solid and largely snapped off. His feet were red and swollen. His bones were visible all over. But he was feisty! His companion — a hen — was much worse off and ultimately didn’t survive. I give Chinggis credit, though. Pretty sure he protected her, and at least when she died, it was in a comfy, enclosed, draft-free spot in my garage and not being eaten alive by coyotes or racoons. A rooster “knight errant,” if ever there was one, my Chinggis.

Once he was settled, we worked out a pretty nice routine: He’d spend the night in an enormous dog crate (I have two Great Pyrenees — so, that enormous), and then during the day he’d go into a 4’x8′ chicken run I built specially for him, one I moved every two or three days to give him fresh grass to scratch at and into which I’d throw scratch grains and mealworms for him to dig up. He thrived. And became ever handsomer:

But I know he’s been lonely.

And so, for the past several months, I’ve been looking for a couple of hens to keep him company. And I’ve had three different offers of two or three of same, all of which have fallen through due to one thing or another.

Meanwhile, mindful of Wright’s injunction, I’ve been building the chicken house:

Yeah. It’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to building a structure to the glory of God. Honest to that same God, I started out determined to build it from scraps and stuff that I had laying around the farm. And to begin with, I did: The posts; the perimeter boards (there’s a name for them, but I can’t remember what it is — no doubt someone reading this can set me straight); the floor; the windows — retrieved from my “old window graveyard” in the barn (doesn’t every girl worth her salt have one of these?); the 2×4 framing. All laying about. All reused. All recycled.

But.

Then I thought — I’m having so much fun with this: What the hell? And I decided to enjoy myself and build the loveliest chicken house I possibly could, and damn the expense. Hence, the T-111, the trim, the hardware (oh, I discovered a few years ago on the driveway gates I built that it’s possible to spend more on the hardware than it is on the lumber), and the steel roof to match the house. And even the expensive paint.

Lord, I had a great time.

And, yet.

Chinggis was lonely.

A week or so ago, my veterinarian (a farm girl herself) came to the rescue and offered me two hens.

There’s a back story. (This is me, so of course there is!) Apparently, these two hens are “red sex-linked,” a cross between the Rhode Island Red and the White Plymouth Rock. It seems it’s easy, with this hybrid, to tell the males from the females at birth by the colors. (Any of you who’s ever tried to sex small chicks will probably understand why this might be a helpful tell.)

Red sex-linked are prolific layers and generally rather nice birds. However, these particular two lovelies were being savagely henpecked by their peers. (Yes. The term “henpecked” was originally coined to describe the vicious behavior of female on female. Go figure.) My veterinarian didn’t like to see that, as their feathers were pulled out and their skin was torn apart, so she offered them to me.

And I took them.

I picked them up yesterday morning on a different kind of “chicken run.” Brought them home. Put them in the coop. Put Chinggis in a cat carrier in the coop for the first 24 hours while the girls acclimated. (Lord, he was pissed. He stomped heavily around, moaned a lot, and didn’t even crow this morning.) Meanwhile they settled in:

And so, this morning, I woke up and went out to check on them, and:

My first egg!

Shortly thereafter, another one:

I let Chinggis out of jail, and they’ve been lovely together since. Relaxed and mellow.  Charming.

Meanwhile, I took my first ever “farm egg,” and decided to use it for breakfast.  A Very British Breakfast.  One, appropriate to Remembrance Sunday, and one which will evoke memories for British children of my generation and before:

Boiled egg and soldiers:

(Please ignore the pcat on the ptable. That’s just Psymon. He’s pincorrigible.) Also, yes. I enjoyed my repast with coffee. Hoping that those who love me will overlook that rather continental affectation.

Lord, it was delicious. Just like the breakfasts my grandpa and I used to enjoy in the 1950s.

And in his honor, because I loved — above all things — taking my teaspoon and bashing in the top of the newly boiled egg, and because he always gave me a second chance to do so, I turned my egg over when I’d finished it so I could enjoy bashing the top in again:

Here’s to childhood memories and — most of all — to enjoying the simple, achievable things in life. Most of us can’t build the pyramids, the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower, St. Peter’s, or the Colosseum. But we can build what matters to us and our families.

And if what, or all, we can do is build a little chicken house, then perhaps we should be satisfied with that.

1 thought on “From the Chicken House to the Cathedral”

  1. Hells Bells. It’s raining chickens. See where I said–above somewhere–that plans to acquire chickens had gone nowhere fast, and so when the veterinarian’s abused “MeTooSquawk” chickens came up for grabs I was eager to take them?

    Well, 48 hours ago, one of those previously-set arrangements came to “futrition” (as my former, much-loved, boss would have said). And my neighbor showed up with two MORE ladies. They’re older, and perhaps not so reliable in the egg-production department, but I don’t care.

    Currently negotiating chicken diplomacy WRT border-crossers and intruders, even perfectly legal ones.

    So far, so good.

    And I now have five. Please, Lord, let that be the end of it

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