Why did the Chickens Cross the Road?



© Jeanne E Webster.  All rights reserved

It had been an amusing couple of weeks, to say the least.  It all started when our neighbor’s chickens crossed the road and came to breakfast at our birdfeeder.  All 10 of them—eight hens and two roosters—cleaned up the stray bits of bread crumbs and seed set out for the sparrows, juncos, titmouse, woodpeckers, and such.  No, the blackbirds were not allowed…no way!  It is a posted area.  I’d show you the sign but can’t seem to find it anywhere.

The chickens quickly had their way with the breadcrumbs and scurried back across the road, faithfully returning on a daily basis every morning for a month or so.  We eventually felt sorry for them and brought home a bag of chicken scratch.  My husband was in his glory as he would strew the feed out front, followed by the throng of hungry chickens.  Their owner lived at the residence but seemed to be behind on “lunch-money,” as the entire flock would search the neighborhood frantically for grub.  We don’t know what the problem really was; there just wasn’t much activity over there…except for the chickens.  Anyway, my husband waved while getting our mail one day and told Charlie we’d been feeding his chickens.  He hollered a quick “Thanks,” saying he’d gather some eggs for us in return for the chicken scratch. 

Busily fixing dinner and all the trimmings one day, I noticed an egg crate by the back door as I set out some trash.  There sat 18 large brown eggs, all wet and smudged with dirt but unbroken and rather handsome.  I brought them inside and showed them to my husband.  We were so delighted at our neighbor’s kept promise. 

Early the next morning the chicken man appeared in his yard, gassing up his 4-wheeler and readying to go off deer hunting.  Bursting with a ton of holiday spirit, I hastily tore off a leg and most of one breast from our roasted turkey, threw in an enormous slice of apple pie, wrapped them in foil and sent my husband out to give to the poor fellow for giving us all those good eggs.  The man was tickled pink and asked my husband if we liked venison, to which my husband replied, “Sure.”  The fellow said if he got a deer, he’d give us some.  I guess he didn’t have any luck, as we haven’t seen any deer meat at the back door.

 The chickens continue to run the roads of the neighborhood, always stopping off to chomp up whatever is left over from the little birdies.  Their number is down to nine now, as one of the brown hens didn’t make it across the road fast enough.  I don’t think it was Henny Penny, as she was the fastest in the bunch.  Yes, I had gotten to calling them names already.  Makes it sort of personal, I guess.  I’m sure those black old buzzards had a heaping big breakfast that morning, whoever it was that was too slow crossing the road.  Not much left now ‘cept for a few leg bones and a feather or two.  I’ve heard the age-old question, “Why did the chicken cross the road,” a hundred times but didn’t really know the answer.  Well, now I know…to fix breakfast for the buzzards! 

It’s funny…the neighborhood sparrows have come to hang out in our boxwood shrubs out front.  They hide in them til the chickens are gone then the lookout peeks its tiny head out of the green branches, does an about-face and gives the all clear.  The air just hums as they all come swarming out of their hiding places and fly over to the feeder again.  I was telling my husband, I hope they haven’t come to take up residence.    I love birds, but enough is enough. 

Well, I must get to checking the crockpot for the country pork stew I set out this morning.  It’s almost suppertime.  You all have a good day now…ya heer?!


Seedy Stuff

Illustration from Sing a Song for Sixpence (18...

Image via Wikipedia

Four and Twenty Blackbirds All in a Row

©2011 Jeanne E. Webster

Have you given some thought to having backyard guests this winter?  It is a nice winter activity, so install some bird feeders and you will be enthralled all winter long within your very own bird habitat.  It’s best to begin feeding in late summer or early fall to promote your yard as a food source for the feathered critters.  Remember:   always provide fresh seed, clean feeders, and fresh water at all times of the year.  These provisions will help nurture the birds with good healthy food, and you’ll be thrilled by their joyful behavior and vibrant colorful displays.  Birds are migrating most of the time, so look for different ones that are merely passing through. 

Our back yard has several feeders thoughtfully distributed around the yard.  Our largest feeder dangles out back from a black pine tree, and it is the farthest from the house.  It will serve the starlings, blackbirds, and grackles.  These birds are scrappy and arrive in flocks, engulfing the seeds in minutes.  We use the mixed seed variety for them, containing flecks of corn along with actual seed.  The corn mix slows down the ingesting stage, prolonging the actual feeding time.  Occasionally we have a visit from the local red-tailed hawk, as his meals are fresh starlings and blackbirds.  I wonder if that old nursery rhyme about the four and twenty blackbirds was written because of their massive presence:

Sing a song of sixpence a pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened the birds began to sing,
Oh wasn’t that a dainty dish to set before the king?

A bit closer to the house are feeders for smaller birds, like sparrows, nuthatches, cardinals and such.  Here we serve a mixture of sunflower seeds, millet, milo, safflower and wheat.   Having these feeders closer to the house allows for greater ease of viewing.  Some are suspended on the edge of the eaves or from shepherd’s crooks a few feet from the house.  We always have a thistle feeder for the finches.  This type of feeder has two socks that hang below the seed container.  The finches adorn the butterfly bush next to the feeder like ornaments on a tree while waiting their turn at this feeder. 

Three suet feeders dangle from tree limbs or garden poles, all filled with homemade suet treats.  Most birds seek it out, but our aim is mostly to feed the woodpeckers.  The downy, hairy and red-bellied woodpeckers, and yellow-bellied sapsucker love the suet blocks.  To prevent pesky birds from hogging the suet blocks, cover top of block with duct tape or foil, leaving bottom clear.  Hang from the top side so birds will have to hang upside down to feed, making it harder to access and the suet lasts longer.

Here’s a suet recipe you might like to try.    

1-Cup lard

1-Cup crunchy peanut butter

1/3 Cup sugar

2 Cups quick cooking oats

2 Cups cornmeal

1-Cup flour

1-Cup birdseed

Melt lard and peanut butter.  Add sugar to melted mix.  Combine remaining ingredients.  Form blocks and freeze.

You may purchase the suet blocks at your local hardware store or variety store.  Reuse the wire blocks when emptied and fill with your homemade mix.  The birds will love you for it!  (jew)