Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

Chicken Necklace.

Posted on | January 18, 2014 | 11 Comments

I bet you are waiting with bated breath to hear if the dead chicken necklace stopped Bella from killing chickens.

"Doesn't this dead chicken match my eyes perfectly?"

The answer is no.  And yes.

It’s true that the chicken necklace was a great hindrance to her usual romping and wrestling with Bruno.  Her speedy race to the pond to bark at vultures was more of a clumsy waddle as she stumbled and tripped over the carcass around her neck.  She got snagged when squeezing through the cattle panels to nestle amongst the hay rolls.  Plus, no one was interested in giving lots of puppy love to a puppy wearing a dead chicken.

But I also saw her curled up comfortably on several occasions, using the dead chicken as a nice, fluffy pillow.  Several afternoons I caught her gnawing contentedly on a chicken leg.  And once I saw her spinning around gleefully and then happily chasing the feathers that flung loose and floated down through the air.

Seemed like the chicken necklace was not as traumatic as it was portrayed to me by other farmers.  Rather it seemed like a combination of good and bad.  And the results remained to be seen.

By day 4 there wasn’t anything left of the chicken necklace except a wing and a chunk of thigh.  Hard to say if the rest rotted away, disintegrated from being dragged all over the property, or was eaten away.  So I cut away the twine from Bella’s neck and chest while lecturing her firmly.

“Do NOT kill chickens.  Do NOT kill chickens.”

"Who, me?  Also, I love you."

"Who, me? Also, I love you."

Then I turned to Bruno.

“Do NOT let Bella kill chickens.  Keep her with you at all times.”

"Was there another choice?"

Then I just hoped for the best.

Bella did kill a chicken a couple days later.  But she hasn’t killed any since then and it’s been almost 2 weeks. Which means the chicken necklace was worth it.  I think.  Probably.  Maybe.

And the term “chicken necklace” has gained a lot of popularity around here.  When used properly it refers to a process or state of being that involves a strong tolerance for the negatives and a healthy appreciation of the positives, all with an uncertain outcome.  My friends were fascinated by my experiment with Bella.  Probably because, as it turns out, our lives are filled chicken necklaces.

For the past 2 weeks, I’ve been committed to eating healthy.  That means no chocolate chocolate only once a day, no junk food junk food once a week, and no eating after 8pm 9pm 10pm 11pm.  The first part of that commitment is miserable, the second part isn’t too bad, and the last part is easy.  Since I go to bed by 10:30pm.  I’ve noticed my clothes fit a bit looser.  By “looser” I mean looser than they were before Christmas but as not as loose as they were before Thanksgiving.  I hope to get back to the waistline I had before the entire eating holiday season started but there’s no guarantee.  A friend who is also dedicated to a new and improved waistline asked how my healthy eating was progressing.

“Oh, you know,”  I said.  “Chicken necklace.”

“Yeah,” she sighed.  “Me, too.”

After an annoying run-around with school officials and an aggravating amount of paperwork, I got Pretty transfered to a different middle school.  She’s excited about being with some of her old elementary school friends and I’m excited about the better academic opportunities.  Unfortunately, it’s not in our bus district, so for the first time ever I will have to drive a child back and forth to school.  And now I’ll have 4 kids in 3 different schools.  While I was having some drinks with friends, another mom mentioned that I must be proud of my victory over the school administration’s bureaucratic gridlock and the upcoming semester at a new middle school.

“Well, it’s a chicken necklace for sure, ” I replied.

“Of course it is,” she agreed.  “It’s the public school system.”

Amen, sister.

At home I’ve finally gone on strike and stopped all washing, cleaning, or picking up after my family.  It just didn’t seem fair that I spent the days I worked and the days I had off doing all of the household chores while begging everyone to pick up after themselves.  Instead I’ve settled for keeping my beach room upstairs neat and tidy.  Then I sit there reading, napping, or practicing with my knitting videos while the rest of the house descends into unkempt filth.

Knitters gonna knit.

On one hand, it’s stressful for me to walk through a cluttered family room and dirty kitchen.  At this point, the floors are so covered in crud and piles of dog fur that I wouldn’t even dream of walking around barefoot.  There’s barely even enough clean counter space left to make my morning coffee.  On the other hand, now that I’m not the full-time maid in addition to my other full-time job, I have time to exercise at the gym every day.  I get 8 hours of sleep on the nights that I’m off instead of whatever I can squeeze in after putting kids to bed, cleaning the kitchen, sweeping the floor, walking around putting clothing, books, couch cushions, and shoes where they belong, and hanging up wet towels in the bathroom so they’ll be dry for morning showers.  I’ve had time for a haircut, breakfast with a friend, lunch with my mom, and planted all 85 tulip bulbs I had stored in the farm fridge.

My family is, of course, hoping the house will get dirty enough that I’ll fold.  They know that dirty bothers me more than them.  I’m hoping they’ll realize that a dirty house isn’t as appealing as all the ridiculous plaques make it seem,….

Huh. The kids didn't seem so happy when their homework papers got stuck in the spilled syrup still on the kitchen table from breakfast, when their basketball jerseys were lost amidst the piles of dirty laundry before their game, and when they stepped in chicken poo that was tracked into the house and never swept up.

the house hasn’t been magically cleaning itself all these years, and if everyone just did their share, it wouldn’t be so overwhelming.  In the meantime I intend to hang tight, spend lots of time outside, and focus on learning knitting in the round.

“What’s going on here?” asked an old friend standing in my squalid kitchen.

“Oh, I’m not cleaning until everybody else starts helping out, too.  There’s no reason I’m the only that vacuums and mops.  Or clean the bathrooms.  Or puts shoes and backpacks in the mudroom instead of leaving them piled by the door.”

“That’s not going to work,” she said sadly, shaking her head.  “Never gonna happen.”

“It might.  It could.  Probably.  Maybe,”  I replied.

“Well, how’s it going?” she smirked.

“Kind of a chicken necklace,” I admitted.  “But there’s still a chance….”

“No chance, honey, ” she said as she headed to her car, stepping over a butter wrapper and someone’s coat on the floor.  “Married with kids is the ultimate chicken necklace.  Get used to it and just get a maid.”


To top off the week, I finished a 12 hour night shift, got the kids on the bus, did the barn chores, slept for 90 minutes, and then dragged myself to the kids’ school to see Middle compete in the annual spelling bee.  I work night shift specifically so that I can be at the kids’ school for these types of events.  And so that they don’t have to go to camps or daycare when they’re out of school on breaks.  It sounds like a great way to have your chicken and eat it, too.  Until you’re running on 90 minutes of sleep and there’s no telling when you’ll be headed back home for a nap.

The spelling bee began with the word “tag” and I gave great thanks for the 3 cups of coffee I tossed back on my way to school.  By the time we worked our way to “pillow” I realized that even when the caffeine wears off, coffee has the added benefit of being a diuretic.  So that when you have to sit quietly in the media center and cannot leave without disrupting the spelling bee, the desperate urge to pee will keep you awake the rest of the time.  Bonus.

Eventually, it got exciting enough that the fluctuating mix of emotions—anxiety when a child looks like he or she doesn’t know the word; joy when your child spells a word correctly; anguish when a child returns, weeping, to his or her seat; shame when you have no idea what the word just called means, never mind how it spelled (mugwump???)—-was its own stimulant.

When Middle was the last kid standing and won the bee with the word “vivacious”, it was thrilling.  I wouldn’t have missed that minute for all the sleep in the world.  We celebrated that night over cake….

The vivacious winner.

and later in the evening a city friend called to chat.

“I wasn’t sure if you’d be at home or at work.” she said.  “How is night shift going?”

“Chicken necklace, ” I responded, thinking how I would have hated to miss that spelling bee if I had been working day shift.  “Just like a chicken necklace.”

She was silent for a moment.

“I don’t know what that means,” she finally said.

“Oh, well—-” I started.

“NO!  Stop!” she yelled.  “I don’t want to know.  I really do not want to know.”


City people.

Guess the phrase might not catch on everywhere.

In the meantime, congratulations to Middle!  He got a cool trophy and a write-up in the school paper.  Now he’s going on to compete against 60 other kids in March and if he wins there, he goes on to Washington, D.C.  The teacher gave him a packet with 8 pages of words to study.  It’s fun and exciting.  Challenging and nerve-wracking.  Plus, it’s going to be a lot of work. Who knows what could happen???


Chicken necklace, kid.  Chicken necklace.


11 Responses to “Chicken Necklace.”

  1. Sherry Herry
    January 19th, 2014 @ 5:37 am

    I had a chicken killing dog. After losing three turkey’s and two different flocks of chickens I had to give her away before I killed her. Congratulations on the spelling bee win. Good spelling skills doesn’t run in our family.

  2. Sandy
    January 19th, 2014 @ 5:49 am

    Just a note on our experience with Pyrs and poultry. We got both a male and female puppy about 3 years ago for our farm. While the male (Boss) never touched a chicken, we came home to the female (Bertha) nursing/playing with several dead chickens (probably around 8 in a 1.5 year period). We then separated Bertha to a pen with just goats while allowing Boss access to our farm poultry. It seems that Bertha has out-grown her tendency to kill chickens, or in her case play with them to death since we haven’t lost any for about 1 year now. Another interesting statistic I heard (from a video cast of Joel Salatin talking about pastured poultry) is that while approximately 80% of male Pyrs will bond with poultry only about 20% of females do. I thought it was an interesting, and in our case – true statistic.

    Best of luck! Hopefully this will work out as she matures as it did in our situation.

  3. Lisa D
    January 19th, 2014 @ 7:05 am

    Congrats to Middle!! I, too, find words on that list I have never heard of before. As Aidan likes to ask, “Mom – how did you ever make it through college?” HA!!

    Looking forward to seeing you in that pickup line 🙂

  4. Linda A.
    January 19th, 2014 @ 10:03 am

    I’ve had my pyrs with my chickens for years, but each puppy or adult that has joined us, has been slowly and carefully introduced to the chickens. They are the hardest for them to guard. Puppy in pasture in small kennel to get used to them. ONLY out when I am there and on lead (using clicker/treats for calmness around them), lots of on lead work and again, in pasture with chickens. leading up to dragging a long line, again when I am there.. to finally me hanging out – pyr off lead but supervised. NEVER allowing even a joyful play jump at them and still , not allowing them free with the chickens until about 1.5-2 years old. Takes patience, but worth it.

  5. Jill
    January 19th, 2014 @ 11:17 am

    congrats on the spelling bee win! That is tremendously exciting!!

  6. Ann
    January 19th, 2014 @ 11:54 am

    So proud of Rawlins! Keep us posted about his progress. Hope all goes well with Shana in her new school.

  7. Andrew Ovenden
    January 20th, 2014 @ 7:11 am

    Congratulations to “Middle.”

    My granddad used to do the “chicken necklace” with his dogs back in England when I was growing up. Or, sometimes, it would be a duck necklace. Never a goose necklace though. Probably because the geese were three times bigger than a Jack Russell and would have honked like a freight train and beat the living heck out of them.

    Cheers, Andy

  8. carolyn christman
    January 24th, 2014 @ 3:38 pm

    Thank You for the gift of the term ‘chicken necklace.’ So true, fits much of life, and will be treasured here. For example, this weather is a chicken necklace — no ticks, no mowing, no sweat. Appreciate the positives, tolerate the negatives, love what is. cheers, carolyn

  9. Tanya K.
    January 26th, 2014 @ 2:10 am

    So very funny- I’m on a housekeeping strike as well (the place is disgusting and no one else seems aware). And work night shifts. I feel that if I work while my children sleep, I’m not missing so much of their lives. It was hard, however, to give up watching them breathe in their sleep. Now I make my husband do that.

  10. “Time Or Monies.” : Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk
    February 7th, 2014 @ 8:35 pm

    […] that I have created my own language, I have added another term.  And I just thought you should know.  It all started with the fact […]

  11. Paula
    February 14th, 2014 @ 8:00 pm

    Loved your blogs,

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