Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Lil' Red, My Little Red Hen

In my previous life, I lived a cushy life. Had my hair and nails done at a salon almost weekly. I had a membership at an exclusive health club plus I had a beautiful home gym in my home. I went almost daily somewhere to "race walk", like the various school and our local university tracks. Drove a beautiful corvette that I stored every winter. Now, I look at myself in my mirror and say "how did you ever stand it?" What a waste that existence was!

Now I think about all the money I spent on those trivial things.......and think about all the great homestead tools I could have bought instead! I keep picturing my first husband, (who was a Long Island transplant) if I brought home a pet chicken and told him, that she was going to be living in a dog kennel in our kitchen! Wow! What a reaction that would have set off!

My present husband and I were certainly meant for each other, just didn't find each other till later. So we are making up for all that lost time. Anyway, I received a call from my mother in August of 2000, and she told me to come to her house and she had a chicken for me. I thought she meant one in the freezer or something along those lines. She said to bring my cat carrier......??????? So when I got there, my niece was carrying a big Rhode Island Red chicken around under her arm. Now, I was into homesteading, but had no experience with chickens as of yet, but I had to act like I was not afraid of being pecked and know what I was doing. So I brought her home.

She had come onto my parents' porch the night before, and my father saw her and shooed her away. He had no idea where she came from. They live in the country, but do not have animals themselves. In the morning she was back on the porch perched on a bench with her head under her wing, sleeping. So the kind hearted Daddy that I have, fed her some scraps.

So I brought her home in the carrier and she seemed fine. I was cooking supper and my husband was sitting on our deck with the cats and our dog around him, when she just flew up onto his lap. She just sat there. I think she was trying to butter him up to letting her stay.

I was trying to figure out where to keep her. We live deep in the state forest in upstate New York, and there are lots of critters out in that forest that like chickens. So I dug our dog, Nikita's puppy kennel out that she had long ago, outgrown. Made a little box for our chicken to sleep in. Added newspapers on the bottom and fastened a water and a feed dish on with one of those little bungee type hooks. I named her Lil' Red. Her and I bonded almost instantly. She followed me everywhere. Even met me at the car when I got home from shopping or anywhere. She was noisy when I was gone. My husband said she'd cackle like crazy if she heard me drive in the driveway and she was inside in her kennel.

I knew absolutely nothing about chickens. So I went to our local feed store and bought a bag of laying mash and crushed oyster shells (they told me that I needed it for her). Soon it became apparent that she loved being a house chicken! I had read that you can't really keep one alone as they like to be in a flock and they won't lay if they are alone. Well, our Lil' Red made us and our other animals at the time, 2 cats, 2 horses and especially our dog, Nikita her flock. She would go out with the horses and they were fine with her there picking up their scraps. Nikita and her though hung out together and she loved to be out there with Nikita when she was eating a bone, so she could pick up the bits that would drop from it. Nikita would growl at her, and it never phased her one bit.......she'd just scratch and peck her heart away.

Then we got different cats. One in particular, Callie, really liked Lil' Red alot and hung out with her. Though there was a period in Callie's life where she got real sick and almost died. I nursed her back to health and she is good still today. But while she was sick, she would not turn her back on Lil' Red and acted like she did not trust her. Once she was okay again, she was back to playing with her and rubbing on her beak.

I will finish this story later this week.

Hope everyone has a happy homesteading day!

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