A postcard from Sam Miller — indexer, molecular biologist, poultry addict.I’m sure she didn’t intend to turn me into a poultry addict, but that is what happened when Deb Burns at Storey Publishing e-mailed to ask if I was available to index a new title. I had written indexes for a few books about horses without even feeling a glimmer of interest in owning a horse myself, but the book Deb offered me on that day, Chick Days, by Jenna Woginrich was the beginning of a very different story.
Three major tidbits in Chick Days caught my attention. First, a rooster is not necessary for egg production. I am a biologist, so that should have been obvious to me, but sadly, this was a surprise. Second, my cats (and there are quite a few of them) would not immediately and unavoidably hunt down, torture, and consume adult chickens. And third, chickens have personality. I am not a big fan of the “ambience” of roosters, but I do love character in my pets. The icing on the “character” cake was that some breeds of chickens lay colored eggs. I was hooked, and luckily, my husband Andrew was, too.
Our unsuspecting pigs were about to get a few roommates. Herbie (the Love Bug), Stretch, and Spider Pig are Kune Kune pigs, a small, extremely friendly breed that grazes tidily instead of rooting for their food. They live in a three-quarter-acre fenced pasture with some woods, a barn, and a small pond. We decided to build a chicken coop within the fenced area and let the chickens forage with the pigs.
|Stretch and Herbie the Love Bug grazing before the chickens arrive|
The first order of business was “Operation Build Some Sort of Coop.” We decided not to buy a prefabricated coop — they seemed more expensive than necessary. However, we didn’t consider the impact that a professional building inspector (Andrew) would have on the costs. Approximately $450 and 3 weeks later, we were the proud owners of what is probably the first chicken coop ever engineered to withstand both the category 5 hurricane winds and large earthquakes that are possible here in South Carolina. The ramp easily supported Spider Pig when he attempted to climb up and have a look inside. If we ever are hit by a hurricane, I am going to take shelter in the coop!
|The Super Coop|
|Snoopy and the Red Baron hunting for bugs|
We have found that the chickens do, as promised, have personality. They proudly announce the arrival of each egg with a crazed-sounding jumble of cheeps and chirps and sing happily to us whenever we come to visit them. It is hysterical to watch them rush to greet us. They wobble back and forth and appear to be running as fast as they can with their “hands” tied behind their backs. The ladies love to hunt for bugs, scratching madly at the ground, then hopping quickly backward and looking down with enthusiasm to see what treasures they have uncovered. And every night at dusk they meander slowly toward their coop, climb the ramp, and rustle around inside, murmuring quietly and hopping around as they organize themselves on the roosts for the night.
With the addition of the chickens, our family was complete. There were now 6 dogs, 11 cats, 3 pigs, and 8 chickens. Perfect! Until we saw the Craigslist post about peacocks. . . .
— Sam Miller, Flying Pig Farm
Samantha Miller is a molecular biologist by day, a freelance indexer by night and weekend, and an animal lover at all times. She has a BS in biology from Stanford University and an MS in civil and environmental engineering from MIT. Sam and her husband Andrew live on an 8-acre minifarm just outside Charleston, South Carolina. When they aren't working or playing with their critters, they enjoy running, backpacking, and scuba diving.