BYC Member Interview - BY Bob

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BY Bob

Come say hello to @BY Bob! He's been a member since January 2016 and comes to us from Pennsylvania.


1. Tell us a bit more about yourself.
I was raised and have stayed in Central PA. I grew up in a rural farming community but moved to what my father calls the big city over 20 years ago. Fluffy Butt Acres is actually the backyard of our suburban lot.

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My wife and I have been married for over 30 years. We have two daughters; one is a prosecuting attorney and the other an architectural engineer. We have one granddaughter Eve.

I am a microbiologist by training and currently work for one of the 4 largest healthcare companies in the world running Business Operations for one of their business units. The chickens are truly my stress reliever. I try to start and end every day with them.

When not working or hanging with the hens I spend my time working on my 1985 Alfa Romeo Spider or driving my Guilia Quadrafoglio.

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I also love to tell stories. If you are going to read the rest of this profile, I think you are about to experience how much I like to story tell.


2. Why and when did you start keeping chickens?
My wife got us started this time around but my relationship with chickens started way before I met my wife. As a young lad I had chickens. The two in this picture are Speck and Brownie. Every time I went to the coop and run, they would fly up to my shoulders and hang out with me.
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One Saturday my oldest daughter was home and we had to run to Tractor Supply for litter pan liners and food for the cats. Tractor Supply had the only litter pan liners that my wife liked so there we went. Everyone decided to come because they knew the chicks would be there and they wanted to see them. We did it all the time.

"Look how cute."
"That one is standing in the water."
"Did that one just poo in the food dish!"
"They are just too cute for words."
"OK lets get out of here."

This time was different and my wife couldn't take it. She wanted chicks to raise. I was immediately opposed. I knew how this would work out. Just like my brother she would give them up. She would last longer but once they were no longer cute little chicks she would tire of them and I would have a decade of chicken responsibility thrust into my lap. All that work required to take care of all those meat roosters I raised as youth came rushing back.

"No" I said, "they are too much work".
"I'll take care of them"
"You don't know what you are getting into"
"You do, you will help me"
"No"
"My friend Jody has chickens, we can do it"
"We can do it, I just don't want to"

Honestly she was wearing me down. Then I saw the sign, 6 chicks minimum. We do not live way out in the country. We have the largest lot in our development but a development it is.

"There is no way we have room for 6 chickens, the mess, the coop, etc."
"What if i can find someone to take 4 of them?"
I thought this was my way out so I grabbed it. "If you can find someone to take 4 of them, you can have 2."

She was thrilled. She immediately called her friend Jody. She already has chickens, what’s 4 more? Well apparently 4 more chickens was more than Jody could bear. No was her reply.

We have all seen people whose dreams have been crushed, whose very joy has been sucked out of their life by say a pass interference that wasn't called (see New Orleans Saints). Those photos of fans so devastated that they cannot leave the stadium until hours after the sporting event. Those people looked cheerful compared to my wife. She was destroyed. I have never seen such utter devastation on my wife's face.

It was so bad my daughter came to me and said, we have to get her these chickens Dad. Look at her. So without any place to put them, no coop, no brooder, no anything, we bought 6 leghorn chicks (supposedly all hens), a heat lamp, chick starter, a food dispenser and water dispenser and headed home. I told her we had to find a home for four of them but she did not care. She had her chicks. Here she is holding one of them.

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At first I thought an old aquarium would be big enough for the chicks, not even close. I remembered an old foot locker my youngest had used at college that had gotten left at our house. However, I needed to cover it or the 3 cats would have a field day with the chicks. My oldest was an engineering student in college and she reminded me that she had brought some chicken wire home which she had used for a college project. We had a lid. The chicks had a place to grow up. My wife was thrilled and our journey began.

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3. Which aspect(s) of poultry keeping do you enjoy the most?
For me it is watching their interactions with us and each other. They each serve a role in the flock. Their unique personalities show through all the time. My job is stressful and chicken TV each morning and evening helps to relieve the stress of the day. The girls are always making me laugh.

Before COVID (I think we will all be using this phrase now), I used to travel a lot for business. I have flown a million miles on American Airlines alone. Because of that I installed wireless cameras in the coop and run complex. The idea was that no matter where I was I could get a stress relieving chicken fix. Of course, it also enabled me to check up on how my wife was keeping the hens as well. “Hey, the waterer in the run is empty” or “Maleficent is not on the roost” became frequent calls to home.

The real benefit of the cameras quickly became my ability to view them without humans present. To watch their interactions and behaviors when not actually present revealed a whole new world to me. It drove me to study them more and I have even taken courses in order to better understand what I am seeing.

I share many of these videos on my thread but some of the most memorable include:
  • Watching my Alpha Hen, Patsy, take out a young rooster that had just tried to mount a hen without permission. She took him down!
  • Patsy behaving like a linebacker on the roost at night, running down its length and shouldering others out of her way so she could get the prime roosting spot
  • Daisy ending over aggressive pecking behavior on the roost by grabbing Patsy’s comb and holding it for a good minute or more
  • The night Aurora pulled Sydney off of the high roost (because she wanted that spot) and dominated her on the floor of the coop. This one was not for the faint of heart but enforcement of the pecking order rarely is.

Here is Patsy giving Jabberwocky a Smack Down after he took offense to Patsy knocking him off Hattie.
(no audio on this one)


4. Which members of your flock, past and present, stand out for you and why?
There have been 2 hens that have really touched me. Daisy & Maleficent

Daisy
Daisy, who on my thread I refer to as The Greatest Hen Ever, rekindled my love for these amazing animals. Daisy was a white leghorn and a prodigious layer; I tracked her egg product on BY Chickens for 365 days. She laid 360 eggs. That is production unmatched from any hen we have had.

She came to live with us as a very young pullet. I could not catch or even touch her when she first came. As she grew up, she learned that actually I wasn’t all that bad and we became best friends.

She would come by and jump up in my lap to see what I was doing or sit down for a visit. She was very smart. She knew her name, would come when called, and would jump into my lap on command. As alpha she was a benevolent dictator often stopping excessive pecking by our number 2 hen Patsy by grabbing her comb. This in spite of Patsy being twice her size.

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Daisy found humans endlessly entertaining and was always in our business. You could not enter the backyard without her checking you out. She had limitless curiosity and nothing was out of bounds to her. She was a card and would take selfies like the below.

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Daisy left us too soon because of salpingitis.

Maleficent
I never thought I would have another hen touch me like Daisy did but then Maleficent came along. She came to us 6 weeks old and her and I had an instant bond. While her sister Aurora would not let me near her (Aurora still won’t let me touch her), Maleficent came to me and started hanging out with me right away. Maleficent is still the only hen to roost on my shoulder, nuzzle my neck, and purr.

Maleficent is the fastest hen I have ever seen. She could take food from anyone. This video shows her getting far more than her share of pasta taking it before the other four hens simply because she was so fast and fearless. At this time she was the bottom of the pecking order but that did not slow her down.

Maleficent was personality plus. In fact she quickly had the biggest personality in the flock. In the winter here with the snow cover there is little free range for them. So I have a chair in the run where I will sit and spend time with them. My number 2 hen at the time, Lilly, was quite mean to the newcomers so I built a “roost” in the run at my eye height. Maleficent would come and “roost” next to me when I was in the run so that Lilly couldn’t get her and we could spend some time together.
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Like Daisy, Mal would sit in my lap, only we never got to the point where she would do it on command. Mal would sit with me for long periods of time while the flock went off and did something else. While she knew her name and would come when called she also had a sense of when I was exceptionally stressed. Those seemed to be the times that she would pop up in my lap and stay for a while.
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Mal was always trying to break into the house or Big Coop as I call it. On one occasion she and Aurora were too late to roost in the coop and the automated door shut them out so where did they go, to the big coop. My wife opened the back door to see what was going on and in Mal and Aurora came. Right to the living room to watch TV. I like to think that was one of her great success stories that she would tell on the roost at night.

Maleficent was the only hen I have had that went broody. Unfortunately, it was in October when it would have been way too cold to let her hatch so I had to break her. I made arrangements for some fertile eggs so that the next time she wanted to do so she could hatch and raise some chicks. It is one of my regrets that I did not bring her inside and let her hatch at that time

Sadly, Maleficent and I would not have much time together, not even a year. She had a penchant for roosting outside the coop. One evening while I was in bed sick, she did not go in the coop to roost and somehow a predator got to her. We have never determined what exactly it was or how they got to her but Mal was taken from us before she was even 1 year old.

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5. What was the funniest (poultry related) thing(s) that happened to you in your years as an owner?

I have two stories, The Thanksgiving Chicken and the Human Roost, and one video.

The Thanksgiving Chicken
Our first flock members were all white leghorns. Wonderful birds but very sleek and slim. When poor Elphie passed we got Patsy and Lilly to replace her. One thing, Patsy for sure and Lilly as well, could not be described as is slim. We had gotten them shortly before Thanksgiving and my niece was really fascinated by chickens. She started asking if she could touch one of the fluffy chickens. I said to her that we would see later.

After dinner was over and some of the table was cleared I decided to go and get one of the new hens for my niece to touch. It was dark by now and I knew I could easily pluck one off of the roost. Actually I remembered while walking out to the coop that sometimes Lilly would sleep in the nesting box because the pecking order wasn’t set yet. I opened the nesting box lid and there was Lilly. Easy peasy, I scooped her up and took her to he house. I had intended to have my niece come out to the deck and pet her there.

That would not be what would happen.

When I got to the back door, she did not have shoes on and it was very cold outside. So my wife said to bring Lilly in for her to pet her. When our dining room table is fully extended there is almost no room between my wife’s chair at the end and the backdoor. Here is a picture of the table extended. The geometry is important as it will impact the consequences of this simple thing, voluntarily bringing a chicken into my house with the biggest meal of the year on the table.
So I entered the house with Lilly in my arms. I was kind of positioned behind my wife and I let my niece come behind my wife to pet Lilly. All was good. And then…..

“Can I hold her? Please. Can I hold her? She’s so fluffy and soft. Pretty Please?”

Then from my mother, “Let her hold the chicken”. This from a woman that my whole life growing up would have nothing to do with chickens and refused to EVER touch one let alone have one in her house.

I knew in my mind that this was a bad idea but my mother told me to do it. How could I not. So I proceeded to show her how to hold the chicken and then handed the chicken past my wife to her so she could hold her. She did a great job properly supporting Lilly and all was good. Amazingly, no one took a photo of her holding Lilly.

While she was holding Lilly her little brother came over to pet the chicken as well. She turned to let him. By turning to let him pet Lilly, she effectively blocked me from Lilly as hers and my wife’s bodies were between me and the chicken. Then the expected happened…….

“I want to hold her? Please. Can I hold her? She’s so fluffy and soft. Pretty Please?”

And mother again, “Let him hold her. It’s only fair.” This woman my whole life told me one thing over and over, “Life is not fair.” is now telling me to make it fair.

Now my nephew at the time was not very old, maybe 5? [I am no longer sure and there are no pictures to check the date.] I did not like this idea at all but Lilly was already outside of my control. My niece turned to her younger brother and proceeded to hand him Lilly, with no instruction. Disaster was about to ensue.

Except it didn’t. Lilly managed to hook one of her toes in his shirt and held herself up. I could see the setup from where I was, out of reach of the hen. I started counting in my head. I knew this would be limited in time and I wanted to get Lilly back quickly.

Then the unthinkable happened. My wife reach over and unhooked Lilly’s nail. When asked later why she would do something so foolish my wife responded, “I didn’t want her to put a hole in his shirt.”

What happens when a hen starts to fall through the air? Crazed flapping began in earnest. My nephew fell backwards as the wings started to beat his face. If I had been able to reach her this was the moment all could have been avoided. Unfortunately both my niece and my wife moved backwards towards me and away from the flapping even further blocking me. Lilly never hit the ground and she actually hovered for what seemed like forever. Unfortunately I would never make it to her.

After hovering like a helicopter, Lilly started to gain altitude. The closest thing for her to land on was the table. The table that had on it a partially eaten turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and multiple pies. Lilly hits the table and immediately takes off heading right down the length of the table. All she wanted to do was get as far from this situation as possible. All I could do was to watch in horror praying that she did not step in anything too important. ½ way down the table was my favorite pie. The only type of pie of which we only had 1, the cherry pie.

Lilly stepped right into the middle of it. It was the only thing on the entire table that she touched.

Now she was headed down the table with cherries all over her foot. Did I mention that we had just replaced our carpeting? It was not even a month old and I had a frantic chicken running down the table headed towards the living room with only 1 person in her way.

My mother, the instigator of this whole series of events, the woman who hated chickens and swore she would never touch one, was the only person between Lilly and freedom. The only person between Lilly and an expensive carpet cleaning bill. This woman as calm as if she did it every day simply grabbed Lilly when she got to her like it was no big deal.

I finally got un-trapped from the end of the table and went and gathered Lilly up. Back to the coop she went. Both her and I relieved that she was back where she belonged. When I reentered the house my sister-in-law was describing how we could just cut Lilly’s footprint out of the pie and still eat it. I never said a word. I walked over grabbed the pie, took it to the run and dumped it in for the girls. It was a Black Friday surprise I am certain they never forgot.

Here's Lilly:
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The Time I was a Roost
It was a dreary and drizzly day and after 90 minutes of sitting out with the ladies it was getting old. The big ladies had all gone to bed but the littles were squeezing every last piece of daylight before they went to bed. Then Maleficent decided to stop by, one jump and she was up on my leg, then she moved to the arm of the chair next to me and from there to the back of the chair where she settled down for a moment. Ok I thought, a new roosting location. I can get you easily from there no problem. Here she is on the chair back.

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Aurora did not like this one bit but she must have thought I need to join Maleficent. She went to jump directly onto the chair next to me but there was no cushion and she fell through the seat before I could catch her. The next thing I know Maleficent is standing up and talking to me. She proceeds to walk across the back of the chair to my shoulders and settles on my left shoulder, nuzzling my neck. Aurora has started yelling from the ground and before I can react has taken off and is flying towards my face. I froze in shock. She cleared the brim of my hat and landed on my head!

I tried to take some selfies of the situation as I could not believe what was going on. Here is one.

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It took me a while to realize this but Maleficent had decided to sleep on me for the night. As I said, Aurora is clearly the alfa hen as from my head she started trying to bully Maleficent. Now my head is not flat (in case you were wondering). Somehow she had the balance to sit on a hat on my head and reach down to my shoulder to peck at poor Maleficent. This ended after a while and I swear Maleficent was purring as she tucked herself around my neck.

My wife took this one
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Boo
Lilly plays a major role in this one as well. I was integrating two new chicks, I thought they were pullets but one would turn out to be a cockeral. He is Lilly's victim this time. Jabberwocky is minding his own business inside his safe coop. Little does he know that Lilly has a surprise for him. Don't blink because I just caught on the run cam as it happens right at the beginning of the video.

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6. Beside poultry, what other pets do you keep?
We have two cats, both 17s, Isabel who is 17 years old and Davis, the Norwegian Forrest Cat that weighs in at 17lbs.

Isabel
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Davis
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7. Anything you'd like to add?
To everyone out there that is selecting chicken breeds by the description, flighty, aggressive, friendly, etc. Please consider this. Those are gross generalizations. My study of all my chickens has led me to the knowledge that just like humans, each chicken has a unique personality.

For example, Leghorns are frequently described as flighty stupid birds. My experience with them has taught me that they can be curious, intelligent, and extremely friendly. Yes Daisy could and did like to fly. My other leghorns rarely flew. Quite the opposite of the usual descriptions.

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Some other sage advice:
  • Purple corn tastes better
  • Patience and Cheese Its will earn you friends
  • The Alpha hen determines the best roosting spot and she is free to change her mind
  • Time spent with chickens is never wasted
  • Sometimes just being there is all your friends, feathered and otherwise, really need
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@BY Bob

For more information about the interview feature and a complete list of member interviews:
introducing-vip-member-interviews.905602
 

BY Bob

Proprietor, Fluffy Butt Acres
Premium Feather Member
5 Years
Jan 1, 2016
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Hershey, PA
My Coop
My Coop
You're a great storyteller @BY Bob and this made me laugh. Your cats are beautiful!
And I feel a sneaking sympathy for poor Jabberwocky.
You are most kind. It was flattering to be ask to do this. I did very much enjoy compiling some of my favorite stories and really going down memory lane a little.
 

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