Broody Girl

Life in the MeadowKnoll chicken yard is usually serene and uneventful, a welcome relief to the chaos of Covid-time. Our five Girls lead a tranquil life, punctuated only by frequent visits from Mom (me), their regular egg-laying visits to the nest box, and the irregular visits of the bull snakes that like to snack on the eggs. Sometimes they’re pretty urgent about it, too. I’ve seen a hen on her nest and the snake curled up beside her, waiting for her egg. When I find these unwelcome visitors, I reach for the handy snake-grabber that we keep next to the nest box, grab the snake, and deposit him (or her–I have no idea how to sex a snake) in the garbage can to await deportation. Bill drops them off on the other side of the lake the next time he goes to town.

Snakes aside, the Girls’ lives are usually tranquil. That changed recently, when Buffie went broody. Buffie is a two-year-old gold Buff Orpington. She’s not the Chief Chicken in our little flock of four Barred Rocks, but she stands out. And the other day, when I opened the nest box and found her fluffed up twice her usual size, sitting on four eggs, three of which she had filched from her sisters. When I took the eggs, our normally placid Buffie growled and bit me. Hard. And refused to leave the nest box, except a quick run for groceries and water.

Buffie is not a bad Girl. Buff Orpingtons are known for their annual (or more frequent) eagerness to raise a family, so she is being true to her breed impulses. But she’s in for a big disappointment because the eggs our little flock produces are infertile. We don’t have a Rooster. On purpose. I’m told that there are sweet and docile Roosters, but I’ve never met one. Mine have always been unruly, combative, and downright macho. The latest fellow was so fierce that I had to wear boots in the chicken yard to keep from being spurred. So the last few flocks have been Girls only. No Roosters.

Another solution: give Buffie a setting of fertile eggs and let her hatch a brood. Could do–but the current flock is just the right size for the coop and the fenced yard. And a setting would likely produce at least one Rooster. (See above.)

So Buffie was wasting her time, making a nasty nuisance of herself in the communal nest box, and sitting all day in temperatures of over 100. I know that the heart wants what the heart wants (as one of my Facebook friends noted), but this Girl needed to forget about being a mom. So she got to spend time in the Girl’s Retreat, a cage (a live trap) set up on a couple of crates where she can’t claim squatter’s rights on her sisters’ eggs and the moving air can cool her off and break her broodiness.

The Girl’s Retreat is stocked with water, food, and some nice little food treats, and it sits in the middle of the chicken yard where Buffie is in the company of her sisters. All she has to do enjoy a few snacks, cool off, and become a Girl again. I’m happy to report that three days did the trick. Buffie is now back to her normal cheery self. She has forgotten all about being a mother, and life in the chicken yard is tranquil again.

Except for the snakes, of course.

Book report. Many distractions (mostly volunteer work for Story Circle, where we’ve been creating a new website). I still have several weeks to go on the current Dahlias project, The Darling Dahlias and the Voodoo Lily. I hope to have it finished so you can have it in October. However, the Enterprise novella trilogy (the second in the Pecan Springs series) will be out in July, so you’ll have something to read while you’re waiting.

Reading note. Who knew what would happen next? Who could guess? That I would fall headlong into a mystery. That I would find myself pulled into the parallel universe that all the other animals exist in, simultaneous with us. In other words, before a couple of days had passed, watering and feeding the chickens, I had fallen in love with them.–Alice Walker, The Chicken Chronicles




32 comments on “Broody Girl

  1. I’m so glad to hear there will be another book in the Darling Dahlias series! I’ve become a huge fan of the series during covid-19 and while WFH in the Boston area. I make it a point to take a lunch hour – like Lizzy and Verna – and sit outside reading a chapter or two. I have read everything in your China Bayles and Beatrix Potter series, too. Your writing skills are much appreciated.

  2. We had chickens when I was a kid. Belligerent roosters didn’t last long (they were dinner), but we did have some friendly ones that got to live. Best ones were some bantam Silkie roosters, who followed me around like pet dogs and liked to be hand-fed. The Silkie hens were maybe broodier than the Buffs, and were great mothers. We did end up with some unusual-looking crossbred chickens that were half white Silkie, half Buff Orpington or Dominiquer, though.

  3. Susan, thank you for this wonderful view into your world. I am a long-time fan of your work and the China Bayles series ranks among my all-time favorite series. I gobble them up as soon as they come out! It makes me smile to read about your chickens and think of Caitie’s girls. I guess Extra Crispy was not based on your personal experience with roosters! Looking forward to the novellas to get my Pecan Springs fix!

    • You’re right, Vicki. Extra Crispy is an exemplary rooster–but then, he’s fictional. I’m sure there are some out there in the real world–I just haven’t been lucky enough to live with one of them. 🙂

  4. I have 10 hens and a rooster (Bob Bob). He is very much a darling and has never been mean or tried to go after anyone. In fact, the girls just put him in his place every day and he is very submissive to them! My girls are all between 2 and 4 years old and egg laying is erratic. My favorite series of yours was the one you and Bill wrote together. as Robin Paige. Other than that Ruby is my favorite character

  5. Love all your series, but the Darling Dahlias is my favorite series. Eagerly awaiting the next one in November. I have read all of the “Death at” series, and am listening to them as they come out on audible. Also have read and listened to all the Beatrix Potter series, and am working through the China Bayles’. I am a devoted gardener, keep chickens, and bees.
    I was recently in Temple,Texas for about 10 days, but hardly left the house because I was caring for a sick niece. Had a whale of a thunderstorm, which we rarely see in California.
    I was thinking that maybe a cookbook of the Dahlia recipes could be published, making it easier to find the recipe I am looking for?
    I also am a former kaypro computer user. My very first home computer, which I loved!
    Take good care, and thank you for all the enjoyment (and education) I get from your books.

    • I’d love to do a cookbook, but they’re such a huge amount of work, Kimberli. Not the recipes so much, but the photos and layout. It’s really easier to put the recipes on the website. I keep meaning to do more of that, but this year has been even busier than usual. You wouldn’t think so, with Covid keeping all of us at home, but it true. I’ll post more of them when I can.

    • So am I, Reina! The Girls are under strict orders to resist blandishments from such creatures. 🙂

  6. Love this story, thank you. We had a beautiful and beloved Buff Orp in our flock named Sunny; my daughter who may have been 11 at the time wrote a book about her called See-You Sunny and the Panda Mystery. We have long loved chickens and mysteries in this family. She’s now 17, and still has chickens; one of her quarantine projects is building them a new coop. It’s still in pieces in the backyard, but she’s making progress!

    I am wondering if Alice Walker’s book mentioned above would be good in audio or print do you think? We have rediscovered our love of audio books on long walks during quarantine! But as you know sometimes the good old fashioned print is better.

    I have read every book you have written except the Darling Dehlias. But I got the first Darling on audio a couple months ago, and love reading it that way! So onto a new series for me!

    We had two Silkie roosters at one point (you can’t sex Silkie chicks), but even those tiny roosters were loud and one of my neighbors complained so we had to find new homes for them. However, my point here is that Silkie roosters are not as scary!

    Thanks for all you do!

    • Anne, I have Walker’s book in print–don’t know about the audio. You could listen to a sample and see what you think. There’s probably a link on the Amazon page. Love Silkies!

  7. Totally OT to the chickens, and not that you need plot suggestions, but how about a “ghost story” book on the 1918 flu pandemic? Along the lines of Widow’s Tears or Queen Anne’s Lace?

    • Margaret, nice idea. I’ll give that some thought–but I have another historical plot i’m itching to work on: Elizabeth Blackwell and the creation of her illustrated herbal in the 1730s. Yum yum. But yes, a really nice idea. Thank you!

      • Ooh…great idea. It just happens that “Widow’s Tears” and “Queen Anne’s Lace” are my two favorites from the China Bayles series .

  8. Always love your stories about the farm, Susan. I’ve got to share something with you…last year you wrote about getting the Painted Buntings to use your feeders by having millet in them. I immediately went to our Wild Birds store and told them about your excitement and purchased a perfect feeder and millet. I’ve waited a long time but about 3 weeks ago I finally saw the Buntings using the feeder…now they are there every day. Thanks so much for sharing that information…I believe we have more couples this year, too….oh, I forgot to mention that we are in NE Medina County!!!!

  9. Ooh….I understand about the rooster – and some chickens too! Some years ago I worked at one of the local parks feeding the animals and closing the gates at dusk. I took care of the peacocks and pea hens, sheep, goats, rabbits, geese, feral cats, and a calf named Norman that I hand fed. Norman eventually became a big strapping steer in his own right who came when I called and eagerly gave me an affectionate lick. He would even tip his head so I could give him a smooch on his kissing spot ….the center of his forehead. All of the delightful critters knew my voice and responded with trust and calm, but then there was the barn with the chickens. Oh those chickens (and roosters). They would basically attack when I went in surrounding me with angry clucks and flapping wings. I would have to do a little dance to keep from getting my ankles pecked! Ack!

    • What fun, Linda! Love your story about Norman–sounds like a sweetie. We had peacocks, too–the cock was named Picasso. He was the Real Deal–loved them all.

  10. My girl friend had chickens, ducks, geese and goats, a mini farm. I was baby sitter for her so she could run some errands. A neighbor came by and said they needed a rooster and dropped one off. My girl friend was not happy, she grabbed that rooster by the neck, put it in the car, no box or anything, and drove over the the neighbor’s, grab the rooster again, threw him in the yard, and told the neighbor he was wrong, she did not need a rooster. Thanks for the memory, that was many years ago. I love your writing, can’t wait for July!!!!!!!!

    • Funny story, Elaine! On my grandmother’s farm, it was the roosters who ended up in the pot for Sunday dinner–as soon as they were big enough to eat!

  11. Love the ongoing saga of life at Meadow Knoll. The psychology of chickens was fun. Chickens are very interesting and their individual personalities amazing. Can hardly wait for the new books. Sorry Buffie is thwarted on her desire for motherhood!

  12. What a cute and happy story Susan! Just what I needed today, as the corona news up here in Dallas County is so depressing! Take care…

  13. Errrr…hooray for your problem-solving abilities with chickens. I am a city girl all the way and cats are the absolute extent of my knowledge of animals. We have five, and life is a circus at best. As it is well over 100 degrees each day, the cats are grooming themselves with enthusiasm even the a/c keeps a nice steady 75ish degrees. I am a pro at cleaning hairballs out of all surfaces. Great story and glad that Buffy is restored to her usual cheery chicken self.

  14. Loved you Buffy’s story. I have always wanted a few chicken, but life got in the way. As a child I would visit my Aunt Leila and Uncle Cecil in Bowie, TX. Aunt Leila had 4 hens no rooster. One hen regularly laid eggs with 2 yokes. Imagine a fried egg with 2 yokes. What a treat for a 6 or 7 year old ! Glad your Buffy has given up her maternal mood.

  15. A highly educational narrative about chickens. I know little of farm animals, but my sister and I are in a casual discussion about buying farm land in Tennessee. We plan to construct an enclave of small homes as we settle into retirement.
    While I am not certain I want chickens, llamas seem fascinating.
    Thanks for sharing.

  16. Ah, this brings back memories of IL home and the chicken coop, daily egg gathering, cleaning out the you know what to put on the strawberriy plants, and our annual trip to my Uncle Al’s Chicken Ranch in Minnesota where he raised chickens for eggs and restaurants. His coops were a block long. I wan’t allowed to help gather eggs, but my brother could as long as he didn’t wave his arms or wear red. Thanks for bringing these wonderful memories back

    • I have no idea, vovogirl. There are a ton of comments on all 3 of my FB pages! I always read every one.

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