Around the Island

Richard’s Almanac: All cooped up

Mr. Lomuscio reflects on an Easter spent caring for his daughters hens.

I hope that everyone had joyful and happy Easter and Passover celebrations with family and friends.

I did not travel anywhere. Instead I stayed home and took care of my daughter’s animals — one dog, two cats and five chickens — while she and her husband and two children left for a camping adventure on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. That small piece of Virginia below the Eastern Shore of Maryland. They went to where the wild horses are.

I did not think, when I agreed to take care of the critters, that the task would be so time consuming. Bear, a two-year-old lab mix, was very needy. She would not stay at my house for more than an hour or so. She was happy being in her own surroundings for much of the day and at night. 

But did she love her walks. Two a day at Wades Beach and Shell Beach. And she loves the water. Her only issue seems to be with other dogs — she’s not always super friendly to them. But we really did not meet too many, particularly on the early morning beach walks. I also spent time walking her on the roads near my house. After dinners, I’d give her some leftover treats. Then she’d go to the door to go to her own house and bed.

Then came the cats. I was given instructions to leave the kitchen window open just enough for them to go in and out. I questioned this and asked, “What if a possum or squirrel decides to come in?”

I was told that because of Bear, it was not an issue.

The cats received dry food in the morning and wet and dry food at night and always had to have fresh water. Their food was always gone. I got the feeling that the dog was eating it up — particularly that delightful smelling wet food. But no one seemed to be starving. They continued to have loads of energy.

The chickens are another story. There are five of them and each lays an egg a day. I was given instructions to check the coop in the afternoon — that’s when the eggs are there. I was trying to carry the eggs in my hand and managed to drop a few. But most of them made it into the house. 

And they taste so good whether hard- or soft-boiled or poached or scrambled. Delicious yolks.

The laying area of the coop must be refreshed with wood shavings on a regular basis and the chickens’ water and food must be monitored. The food cannot get soggy — and we have had plenty of rain.

My daughter lets these hens “free-range” most of the time. I was reluctant to do that — I did not want to lose any.

Then one day when the sun was shining I opened the coop and let them out. They all seemed to know what to do. I went about my business. I went to check on them and saw them clustered on the side of the house scratching the dirt and pecking. I had recently planted grass seed and they were gobbling it up.

And so the week ahead looks pretty busy, but I do have some help coming. Two of my grandchildren from New Jersey are on their way to stay for three days.