Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Small World Chickens Vs. The Coyotes


The Spess Gang and most of my Small Town World is in mourning this week.

Remember when I told you about Dad’s chickens? He loves those babies! He’s had a ton of fun, raising them and figuring out the best way to keep them.

He shared a ton of eggs. He shared with his kids (yay!) his employees and friends.

shell-tiny And we all adored him for it.

At first, the eggs were itty-bitty, but they got bigger. Much bigger.


Dad and his wife discovered if the chickens got to range a little in their yard, they’d eat some green growing things and make the eggs even better and more nutritious.

So the other morning he turned his hens out to forage–all twenty-nine of them–and went inside to eat breakfast and get ready for work. A while later, he went out to put them back inside as he left for work when he saw something that didn’t belong.

A four legged critter with a furry tail. Coyote! She had chicken dinner for breakfast.


When he got to the scene, he found one dead hen, a pile of feathers and 12 hens sitting in the trees and other hard to reach places. Since one scrawny coyote probably couldn’t eat that many chickens, Dad figures there was a whole gang of them. (I’ve been told coyotes run in packs, not gangs, but I think street terminology fits here.)

One hen did limp home the next day, but that’s it. Only thirteen hens, and somewhere, not far away, a pack/gang/gaggle of really fat coyotes.

shell-2 We’re hoping to relocate a few wild dogs.


Designer Chicken House


When was the last time you were in a chicken hen house? Unless you gathered eggs just this morning, I’ve got you beat! I was in one yesterday. 🙂

Technically, it’s not a chicken house yet since it hasn’t had any chickens in it. (Except me.) It’s a gonna-be CH. That’s G-Man up there, putting a vent in the roof so the chickens won’t melt in the hot weather.

And, no, it’s not a chicken mobile home so it won’t always have wheels. It’s on a trailer because it’s going to my dad’s house sometime in the near future so he and his wife (and kids, I’m hoping!) will have organic fresh, fresh, fresh eggs.

One of the things I like best about Dad’s wife is her healthy way of feeding my dad. She likes organic and fresh and healthy. Smart lady! So she’s thrilled to have fresh eggs in the near future. (I’m hoping to cash in on a few eggs myself.)

My man was hard at work (hence the serious look) but he stopped for a moment so I could take his picture.

These are the chicken boxes (nests) and roosts. If you were a chicken, wouldn’t you want to live here? I would!

I’m thinking I might campagne for a potting shed made out of one of these buildings. With G-Man’s carpenter skills, it could be perfect!

This is the front door. The one the humans will use.

The little hole at the bottom is the door for the chickens. And the picture window is so they can see the lake. 😉 Not really. It’s so they won’t smother in the summertime. (They’ve made sure it’s breathable in there.)

  It’s a good-sized picture window, isn’t it? I hope the chickens enjoy their designer house, because I plan to enjoy their eggs.

When I was a little kid in Old Ford, we had chickens that lived in a house out behind our yard, but it wasn’t nearly as nice a chicken house as this one. There were several little brown hens and one big, mean rooster that lived there.

I stayed far away from that rooster because he liked to flog humans if he could.

Once the bad boy just smacked me on the knee with his wing and it felt like I’d skinned it on the sidewalk. It hurt!

Then one day, Grandmother was outside hanging out clothes on the line and the silly rooster snuck up on her and started the flapping-kicking-pecking-attack-thing he liked to do.

The next day we had chicken and noodles for dinner–courtesy of Mr. White Rooster. 🙂 Grandmother made the best noodles in the world! (Click on best noodles and it’ll take you to her recipe.) And Whitey wasn’t so bad himself.

Have you ever been in a chicken house? Did you ever chase your grandma’s chickens to see if they’d lay square eggs?

Want to compare notes?



Grandma Stories

An adult male chicken, the rooster has a promi...

Image via Wikipedia

Grandma and Grandad Reeves used to live in Park Hill, Oklahoma. (Near Tahlequah.) Before that they lived in Stinnett, Texas, Olive, Sapulpa, and The Ford. After that, they lived in C-Town. 

Grandma’s philosophy was a person ought to move once every five years so she could keep her closets cleaned out.

Grandma raised seven children and worked alongside Grandad most of the time. After nearly all their kids were grown, they started a chicken farm at Parkhill.

Someone must have sent a memo that it was a fantastic time to get into the chicken business to all the WWI veterans.  Once the G’s got in it, the bottom dropped out.

They kept the farm, but moved back to Green Country to make a living in the oilfield.

After a while, though, they moved back to Park Hill and lived there until their house, which had eleven-teen chimneys, burned down. It must have burned to the ground, because we went to visit them not long after and I don’t remember seeing any of the house still standing.

Grandma and Grandad lived in the barn while they rebuilt. (Later, they lived in a garage while they built their house at Dog Center.) No matter where she lived, Grandma liked to keep a milk cow and some laying hens.

I don’t know where the milk maker and egg layers stayed after the G’s made the barn their bedroom/living room/kitchen. And I have no idea where they showered.

If I were guessing, I’d guess they bathed in one of those square metal tubs, but I really don’t know. 🙂

One summer while the G’s lived at Park Hill, Deb and I went to stay with them for a week. I hate to say it, but Park Hill could possibly be the most BORING place in Oklahoma–for a ten and seven-year-old at least.

We read the books we packed until we were cross-eyed. We played Grandma’s treadle sewing machine, pretending it was an organ. We walked to the mailbox and back several times a day. We climbed the tall trees in front of the house and tried to see all the way to Texas, looking for Aunt Carol. (She didn’t pop in.)

One day we climbed the peach tree, next to the bedroom window. It was big for a peach tree, but brittle. About the time I had my feet higher than my head, the brances I held onto broke and I landed on Debbie, who was sitting in the crotch of the tree. We were both about to tumble out, when Grandad, who was in the garden, ran over and caught us.

I was hoping to break an arm so we could go home, but I failed.

Then they took us fishing. Not in a pond. We went fishing in the Illinois River! That was either before the canoes started herding down the river or else we were on an arm where canoes didn’t go. 

I love fishing! Grandma said they took me fishing for the first time when I was 6 weeks old. (But I really don’t remember.) When I got big enough to hold the pole, they’d give me a cane pole with a weighted line on it, but no hook so I couldn’t hurt myself. She said I’d sit for hours, trying to catch something. Almost made her feel guilty.

Back to the Illinois River–We fished and fished, waded out in the river, waded back in and had a ball. We had a picnic, then fished some more. I don’t remember how many fish we caught, but we had so much fun doing it!

Grandad always kept hunting dogs, which he called wolf hounds. They chased coyotes rather than wolves, since wolves are kinda scarce in Oklahoma. He kept quite a few, and they always had a community pen where they lived.

Except for one dog. His name was Lightfoot–named after the people Grandad got him from. Lightfoot was impossible to keep in the dog run because his favorite thing was chasing chickens, and he’d tunnel his way out to do it.

As I said earlier, Grandma always kept laying hens, but she didn’t want anyone or anything chasing them. Not even her favorite grandaughter. She said it made them lay square eggs.

Finally, Grandma’d had it with Lightfoot. “Julius, if you don’t keep that dog penned up, I’m going to shoot him!”

“That shotgun doesn’t shoot straight, Abigail,” he answered with a slow grin. “You couldn’t hit him.”

“Oh, is that so?” Grandma gritted her false teeth. “See that branch on the tree?” (It was hanging right over the dog’s head about 10 feet high.)

“What about it?”

“Watch me hit it.” Grandma took aim at the tree branch and pulled the trigger.

They had Lightfoot’s funeral the next day.

To this day, when Dad tells that story, he laughs until he has tears running down his face. And to make matters even worse, Grandma made Grandad dig the grave for the hound.

Grandma and Grandad Reeves knew what it took to make a good marriage. Move often. If you fish enough, you can forget your problems. Protect your chickens and keep a shotgun handy to blow away sneaky varmints. 😉