My friend Debbie is like a foster (great?) grandparent of sorts to my youngest chickens. She donated the fertilized eggs to Harriet when Harriet was determined to be a mama. She also came over to meet the hatched brood and croon about their loveliness.
All very fitting for an animal crazed grandparent-of-sorts!
Debbie lives just outside of Portland on a bit of land with her husband. Her children are grown, but she still raises an animal family that includes 2 sheep, 5 goats, 27 chickens and a dog.
She also sports an amazing green thumb and grows (and cans) a wide array of fruits and vegetables. She credits her dad for instilling in her a love of gardening. She followed him around when she was young, growing up in California.
Last fall I scheduled a visit to Debbie’s. I dragged along my friend Shelly, a professional photographer, and, Jake, (then) 9-year-old nephew, photographer wanna-be. They shot photos while Debbie and I chatted.
Looking around at the animals wandering about, I asked Debbie what her favorite animal was. Without hesitation, she named the goats.
Her answer: Because they’re likeable, fun, playful and have great personalities.
Since I know goats have been gaining popularity in urban settings, I asked her if she had any advice for folks looking to get into goats. She suggested getting weathered males because they have the best personality (this is assuming that you’re not getting goats for milk.) She also said you should get at least two goats. One goat will be too sad and lonely. They’re herd animals and get along best when they have friends. Friends of the goat variety, that is.
Her favorite goat book is: The Backyard Goat, An Introductory Guide by Sue Weaver
Being a chicken girl, I wanted to know about the chickens.
Does she have a favorite breed? Yes, Buff Orpington.
What about a story about a chicken? She had one. A bitter sweet story about Bitty, a chicken she hatched herself in an incubator. Bitty was born on Thanksgiving day. She hadn’t thought far enough in advance to realize that Thanksgiving Day is probably not the best time for a new chick to be born. As a result, Bitty became somewhat of an indoor chicken. She loved to come in and eat the dog’s food and hang out.
Unfortunately, Bitty’s short life ended abruptly one morning after she’d been sent outside for the day. A coyote hauled her off. Debbie had the unfortunate experience of watching helplessly as it happened.
But hard losses haven’t slowed Debbie. Currently she has what she terms a ‘special needs’ chicken. Her name is Runtly. When Runtly hatched out at Debbie’s place, she had a hard time breaking through her egg’s membrane. As a result, she seems a bit, um, special. She’s unsteady on her feet, can’t jump up on the roost and seems to have a lower IQ than the other birds. But, says Debbie, “She’s so sweet…just what I need is a special needs chicken…me and my tender heart!”
Debbie sells some of her eggs to pay for chicken food. And gives her sheep’s wool to a friend who spins it. When I asked her if she would do anything differently her answer was this: “Yes, I would have started 20 years earlier!”
Below are a few of the (almost 400) images that Jake took during our short visit. This was his first day using a ‘real camera’. He has since turned 10 and acquired a camera of his own, so I’m thinking you might be seeing more of his work from time to time.