By Diane Lockspeiser
One of the young hens seems to think that she’s a princess. No matter how many times we chase her off of the front porch, she insists on hopping over the railing to lay her egg on the big comfy red cushion that’s on our gliding chair. No other place will do for her. I am going to have to resort to covering it with something unpleasant for a while. I’ve heard that aluminum foil works well to dissuade dogs from going onto furniture, so I’ll try that first.
Some other living beings around here that demand royal treatment are the cucumber vines… or I should say WERE the cucumber vines. I pulled them out when they turned bitter on me just because their conditions weren’t perfect. I had enough pickles already made for the year anyway, the main reason that I grow them. Evidently, when cucumber vines feel stressed, which they seem to do easily (too hot, too cold, not enough water, too much water, etc, etc, etc.), a chemical they produce, cucurbitacin, goes into the fruit and makes it bitter. This was upsetting to me because, since I was using the older ones for myself and selling the fresher ones at the farmers’ market in town, I didn’t realize that they had turned bitter until I had already sold several. I apologize deeply to anyone who bought them.
Meanwhile in the chicken coop, the girls have been rearranging themselves every night on the roost. The dominant chicken (or rooster, if there is one) always sits top and center to “rule the roost” and the others situate themselves according to the pecking order. Our coop has two roosting bars, an upper and a lower. The younger chickens have started to assert themselves more as the older group ages, and a couple have now established themselves on the top bar, but not yet the center. Some of the older ones have decided to move to the less crowded lower bar, which is easier for them to get onto and off of. I find it interesting that the one and only old biddy left from the oldest of the three groups still always goes up to the top bar to roost right next to the dominant chicken even though she has a very hard time making it down from there in the morning. She is the oldest chicken that I have ever had, and yet still very assertive, so I started calling her the Queen Mother.
She hasn’t laid an egg for a long time now, but until just recently had been helping with what I call “babysitting duty”. I don’t know if this is normal, but my chickens seem to think that they need to take turns staying with the newly laid eggs until I come to gather them. Well, the Queen Mother was on duty one summer day as I went to their yard with a large watermelon rind for them to peck at as a treat. As I put it down, I heard the rather loud THUD of a heavy old chicken jumping down onto the wooden floor of the coop. She came positively barreling out of the doorway and shoved the others aside to be the first to have a go at that rind. Make way for the Queen Mother!~