Coop d’Villa, Tales from the Coop!

Coop d’Villa, Tales from the Coop!

FHNA is visiting with various Finn Hill residents raising chickens and learning a little about the pastime more popular than you may imagine. The City of Kirkland updated its ordinance last year with regards to raising chickens. See this link for more information. If you have a story to relate regarding your own Coop d’ Villa, email us at

In our first story of this eggsciting series, we hear from Bill Blanchard, who’s  brooding over a milestone birthday had him sharing something in common with his  favorite hen.

Tales from the Coop – Jennifer

by Bill Blanchard

It was mid-February.  My wife, Joanie, and I had departed the dreary Seattle skies and headed for California to spend a long weekend in the quaint Sonoma County town of Healdsburg.  We both looked forward to a few days of relaxation in wine country, but I had the added anxiety of a milestone 60th birthday.

But when we landed in sunny San Francisco, I received this text:

One of the hens has been tucked in her cubbyhole all day.  Normal?  Yes she is breathing.

Jennifer the Strutt

Jennifer the Strutter

Our neighbor, Marit, was watching our four chickens and two dogs while we were gone. She regularly takes our Labradors for walks in the woods and is joined by other neighbors and their dogs. They begin at the south end of our street, 74th Place, and head north towards Big Finn Hill Park. As they walk down the road it is quite an image: dogs running, jumping and circling the neighbors as they stroll and visit.  The calm is occasionally broken by a directive to the dogs, “Off” or “Down,” as they jump for treats kept in the walkers’ pockets.

When all return, the dogs are worn out and I have half a dozen fresh eggs for Marit and any other walkers who joined her that day.  Our chickens are Ameraucanas, bred from Easter Eggers. We love the brown and blue eggs; for us about four eggs a day.

But lately egg production had been down and I knew just the hen Marit was worried about. I had been worried about her, too. I showed Joanie the text.  “I’m worried about Jennifer.” I looked at the Alaska Airlines ticket booth. “Do you think we should go back home?”


Not a moonwalker but…

Of the four chicks we raised, Jennifer was my favorite from the start. As a small chick, she always had a demeanor, like Michael Jackson as a small kid singing with his older brothers. Perhaps it was her feathers, beautiful golden brown. Or her eyes, more focused and defined. Her stride is always confident.

And from the start, Jennifer received more of my undivided attention. I held her more. I’d stroke her back and talk to her, sometimes several times a day.  This was my own experiment in raising chickens.  By giving her more attention, would she become smarter, better looking, a higher achiever?  The possibilities were endless!

But now something was wrong.

Jennifer had recently been showing really bad behavior. I had to take her out of the coop and  put her in the chicken run just so she would eat and drink. Once there, she would strut around and stake her territory, which had become everywhere, and then take a few nips at the other chicks. Were the results of my experiment taking a wrong turn?  Had I raised a spoiled brat?Jenn 2

Maybe she was sick. She just stayed inside and I could relate. I was just coming off a month of being sick with a bad cough and that whole time I just felt like staying in, too.

Or perhaps it was the long gloomy Seattle winter and she was, like many of us, just experiencing seasonal affective disorder.  Maybe a trip to sunny California would cheer her up. It sure was working for me.

Onward and upward

Joanie and I had boarded our flight in San Francisco and continued on to our destination. Once there, our first outing was a morning hike in the Redwood forests. Redwoods can live over 1000 years but need a very specific climate to reach such ages. The northern California fog keeps the temperatures mild enough for their tremendous growth. As we climbed the mountainside, Evergreen trees replaced the Redwoods. Evergreens can survive both harsh and moderate climates.  The altitude made my glum attitude about getting older fade away; it was replaced with the joy of hiking with Joanie.

That afternoon we stopped at the Twomey Winery just outside Healdsburg.  While we enjoyed a glass of Merlot, Joanie and I discussed Jennifer. Perhaps Jennifer was like the Redwoods, needing a consistent temperature to thrive.  The winter had been cold, and this year I had replaced the heat lamp with a conventional bulb. The three other chicks were doing fine with the more severe temperatures.  Were they the Evergreens to Jennifer’s Redwood?

We had dinner at a local restaurant called Barndiva – very Sonoma Chic, which is different from San Francisco Chic. It is more about layering and when you look around Barndiva, you can see the layers in the décor as well as the food. They use local ingredients and believe a great meal should have elements of both celebration and tradition. “Goüt du revenez-y” – “The taste you return to.” I guess that worked because we’d been here eight years ago.

It was crowded so we sat at the bar. With the bartender making exotic cocktails right in front of us, and even though I was in the middle of wine country, I decided to have a Ninth Ward. Fennel-infused vodka, a bit of citrus, a mist of Herbsaint over a sea of egg white foam and was garnished with bronze fennel from their gardens.  The egg white foam reminded me of Jennifer. Wait a minute. Now I began to wonder about my obsession with a chicken.

The next morning, my birthday, I woke up thinking about Jennifer again and turning 60 in our ‘eco chic’ hotel room. Healdsburg’s H2 Hotel combines fashion with the natural environment. All the surfaces are green and minimal. As I lay on a huge bed with an even larger down comforter, I pondered my age. To change the subject, I mentioned Jennifer. But Joanie had had enough. She pulled out my iPad and, within minutes of searching the internet, had found the solution to my obsession. Jennifer and I had the same problem: brooding.Jenn 3

I was thinking too much about getting old and Jennifer was going through a cyclical phase.  A broody hen wants to hatch some baby chicks. They sit on their eggs for days, sometimes weeks, and are no longer contributing to the daily egg production. They can become restless and crabby with a tendency to give a swift peck at anyone who approaches her nest.  That was my reaction when anyone said “Happy Birthday.”

So Joanie and I took off for Bodega Bay.  After a long walk up the coastline, we stopped at a wine shop with a deck that overlooked the bay. We relaxed on Adirondack chairs and watched the sun set.  While sipping on a local pinot, I realized that Jennifer would just have to get over her brooding. As for me? Well that, too.

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