Back Home with my Peeps.

We’re happy to be back in California. Since we had an early start on travel day, it was still daylight when our commuter flight glided up the coast and after an apparent sprinkling of rain, the Santa Ynez mountains stood soft and green against a crisp and clear fall sky. It’s always hard to say goodbye to New York but with winter edging closer, it’s not all bad to be back in SoCal.

It's not NYC, but it ain't shabby! (image from

We arrived to find the house transformed once again by elves Julia and Grant, who put up all our Christmas decorations while we were away. Thanks to them (and a BIG thanks to them!) the homestead is now ready for the holiday onslaught.

The CE thinks we have enough Santas. I disagree, don't you?

And, of course, being home means life with chickens, and we were very happy to see our clucky little girls.  I’ve been asked before whether chickens are smart enough to remember humans and I think the answer to that is yes. When a stranger approaches the hens will hang back for a bit, presumably checking to see whether the new human is concealing a meat cleaver behind his or her back. My impression is that they do recognize me, or, at the very least, they know the sound of my voice.  If I’m wearing a hat, however, all bets are off – they won’t come near me. But then again, truth be told, I don’t look all that great in a hat.

Coco contemplating a jailbreak

Just how smart are chickens? A 2005 study by the Biophysics Group at Silsoe Research Institute in England found that chickens “probably show more cognitive ability than people would generally credit them with.” Using colored buttons correlated with food rewards that were larger when the bird opted for deferred gratification, the researchers found that chickens can anticipate the future and demonstrate self-control.

Well, some of them, at least. Not included in that group would be our Lucy. I confess, regretfully, that I do not love Lucy. Of the five in my new “crop” of hens, Lucy remains a shoo-in for Birdbrain Award of the Year. Lucy may be the living, breathing Exhibit A definition of “running around like a chicken with its head cut off”. Lucy is, I’m afraid, a dud.

Those speckles are clearly not linked to brain cells.

Speckled Sussex are billed as good layers with a docile, friendly temperament. Wrong on all counts so far. Lucy is not docile, not friendly and not laying any eggs. At least not yet – maybe she will surprise us soon.

Our resident red-tailed hawk wasted no time in welcoming us home. The morning after we arrived, I let the ladies out to free-range while I cleaned the coop and saw a too-large-to-be-a-crow shadow swoop past the window. Indeed, the hawk had spied our birds and actually touched down on the ground – far too close for comfort! I rushed out all mother-hen-like and sent him on his way but we know he will return, again and again. It is a constant worry.

I would like some hawk repellant in my stocking for Christmas this year! (image from

Other than daily threats of death and mayhem from Mr. Hawk, the chickens are doing just fine. I see a squabble here and there but no significant pecking order issues so they seem to have all that worked out. Hope is the undisputed leader and everyone seems happy with that.

Pippa is perhaps the pluckiest member of the flock - small but mighty!

We are getting two to three eggs daily now. Hope is a laying machine now that she’s left the broody life behind – proof that a two-year-old hen is not past her prime. Coco and Tulip are matching her egg for egg and as they lay more their eggs are increasing in size.

Tulip lays beautiful mahogany-colored eggs.

These are the jewels that await us in the coop each day.

No eggs from Luna yet but who cares? If anyone can get by on looks alone, it’s little Luna!

Pretty girl!

From our peeps to yours, hope you’re enjoying the weekend and the start of the Advent season…

About polloplayer

Empty nester searching for meaning of life through the occasional chicken epiphany.
This entry was posted in All Things Poultry, Chicken Facts and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Back Home with my Peeps.

  1. Chicken Emperor says:

    It has indeed been comforting to settle back into chicken ranching after the excitement of NYC. I did some heavy chicken yard cleaning yesterday and replaced all of the leaves in the chain link enclosure where they spend most of their time; this as a nod to clean surroundings keep the birds happy and healthy.

    I was dialing the phone to schedule a cataract surgery for myself to try to eliminate the white “floaters” that were obscuring my vision while reading today’s blog. Fortunately, I then noticed it was actually snowing on the site. Never underestimate the creativity of the Chicken Lady!

  2. Katherine says:

    Welcome back! Lucy may be less Lucille Ball and more Lucy Lawless. Perhaps a discussion with the hawk is in order – something along the lines of “those Speckled Sussex are mighty tasty…they others not so much.”

    Your decorations put me in the holiday spirit, and in that vein I took a LOT of artistic license and wrote you a variation on a classic:

    The 12 Days of Gutsche Christmas are
    12 santas perching
    11 ankle stitches
    10 balls for Chloe
    9 foreign cities
    8 kids plus grandkids
    7 chicks a clucking
    6 enviable vacations
    5 trips back East
    4 Persian rugs
    3 cats on prozac
    2 dogs to snuggle
    and a Birdie who is cage-free

  3. Tina says:

    It is hard to write a comment after Katherine has posted one as I can never seem to come up with anything as clever or witty 🙂 But I wanted to say how fun it was to see the chickens again- and those eggs are gorgeous!! Also Evelyn wanted to thank Hope for the birthday gift. Hope is one thoughtful chicken!

  4. Alexandra says:

    OMG! O_o I’ve never seen a bird like Luna! What’s …erm… breed(?) is she?

    • polloplayer says:

      Luna is a Silkie. They commonly come in white, black, buff and splash coloration. I think they originated somewhere in Asia and are prized for eating in certain areas for their black skin. Here in the US they are raised by backyard enthusiasts like myself as pretty little ornaments. She’s the sweetest little bird:-) Glad you enjoyed the post.

      • Alexandra says:

        Thanks for your answer! I’ve just read an article about Silkies. They are so funny and beautiful! At the end of the article there was a picture of the dish made of them and it just felt so … wrong.

        Gosh, she’s so funny! I’ve never heard of them before, what a great discovery for me today- thank you!

  5. Chicken Emperor says:

    This is the right time to point out that the uber-clever commentator, using the nom de guerre of “Katherine, has more than one talent. While in NYC I come to hear that this so-called “Katherine” entered a large poker tournament here in SB, with several hundred players duking it out. “Katherine” apparently came in 11th (as I understand it), missing the final table by one position, but still winning enough dough to keep her dog Karma in kibble for many a moon to come.

    So now comes the time to end the charade. There is no more “Katherine” on this site. Please all salute the word chucking, clever slinging…………..Poker Playing Poet of Poultry (P4)!! “Katherine” indeed.

    • Katherine says:

      10th, I tell you, 10th! JUST out of the money. But you really can’t put a price on 5 hours in a window-less room listening to nothing but the shuffling of cards.

      I’m all over the moniker P4! Just think – P4, the fourth moon of Pluto was discovered in 2011, and P4, the tenth seat of Poker was also discovered this year. The planets are aligned. Watch out, CE, I’m orbiting. (I just hope I don’t get demoted like poor Pluto.)

  6. Pamela Gilbert says:

    Beautiful…Christmas Santas (never can have too many); chickens and views.

  7. I would attempt at being witty, if I hadn’t been woken up at 445AM by a 3 year old disguised as a 5 year old requesting yogurt sippy, and if I had had the chance to drink a hot cup of coffee while telling the kids to stop playing with the hideous Santa Toy that sings BORN TO BE WILD at decibels that should be illegal. KEURIG??????

    • polloplayer says:

      This is why I recommend having chickens rather than childn. And I would recommend arranging a serious and fatal accident for that Santa – and possibly for whomever bestowed it upon you (unless it was one of my boys in which case I think it’s the cutest thing ever) Sorry you’re having a tough day.

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