BYC Member Interview - Callender Girl


BYC Staff
Premium Feather Member
8 Years
Dec 12, 2013
@Callender Girl

Come say hello to Callender Girl! She's been a member since September 2018 and comes to us from north central Iowa.

1. Tell us a bit more about yourself.
A former newspaper editor, I now feel relieved of the necessity to perfectly spell, structure and punctuate everything I write. I fully embrace my imperfection – sometimes!

I live on a northern Iowa acreage near the small town of Callender – the inspiration for my member name, although my girlhood days have been over for decades.

I bought the property when I had to relocate my miniature goats. They had lived in my backyard in a large town for more than four years, with the blessing of the city attorney and local cops. But a Realtor, looking to sell a property in the neighborhood, launched a complaint. My goats went to live with a friend until I could buy them a country home.

At the time, mine was a two-person household. Jim made my life bigger and better in so many ways for more than 20 years, and could build and/or fix everything. Unfortunately, he had what proved to be a terminal disease. Jim had to leave home almost two years ago and was living in Des Moines where there is a Veterans Administration hospital. He died in hospice in September. I’m sure he would find my recent attempts at farm construction and repair both sadly inept and totally hilarious.

2. Why and when did you start keeping chickens?
I grew up in southern Iowa, and my family always had “Banty” chickens, Mallard ducks, assorted house birds and lots of four-legged critters. I was a shy kid, and those animals – along with my books – were my best friends.

I got my first hens almost seven years ago from a 4-H kid, then added a trio of Iowa Blues. A mink killed all of the original four except the Buff Orpington, Honey, my dowager hen. She escaped by flying to the highest roost until I could arrive and run off the killer. Honey has since survived bumblefoot and a leg injury that resulted in a permanent limp.

I also have Cochins, Bantam Cochins, Salmon Faverolles, Wyandottes, Easter Eggers and Buckeyes, as well as a single Sapphire Gem, Bielefelder, Speckled Sussex, Midnight Majestic Marans, Welsummer and Prairie Bluebell Egger (accidental house chicken Dottie).

A nearby breeder loved her runner ducks and convinced me that I would love them, too. She was right. I have six runner hens and two drakes, all raised by me since they were days old.

I took pity on the last two goslings at the local farm store three years ago. American Buffs Gussie and Golly are endlessly entertaining, incredibly personable sociopaths. They have no remorse whether kicking ducks out of the kiddie pools, stealing gardening gloves or chewing holes in the house trim and wooden patio furniture.

3. Which aspects of poultry keeping do you enjoy the most?
The best thing about poultry is just about everything – except cleaning coops, especially those of the waterfowl. Ugh. I have too many coops – especially when it comes to cleaning time – but I think it cuts down on squabbles and lets the small groups bond better with each other.

I got chickens so I could have eggs from humanely raised birds, and I especially like having a colorful egg basket. However, non-layers are allowed a dignified retirement.

“Non-perfect” birds are also welcome – I can relate to their condition. During a mixed-species misunderstanding, a donkey fractured my pelvis in two places and crushed cartilage that can’t be repaired. I don’t always walk so well myself, and balance is still an issue. Sometimes, I intend to go right and end up going left instead. It keeps life interesting.

My birds are a constant source of entertainment.

The geese like to spontaneously “herd” the runners, moving the ducks single file like a parade to nowhere. Gussie and Golly put up a good front with the ducks, but they can be cowed by a single chicken who stands her ground.

The ducks are pillaging marauders who follow me from coop to coop, stealing chicken feed whenever they can. When they aren’t thieving, the runners often gather around the water dishes and chatter, like office workers gossiping around a water cooler.

Chickens create high school cliques. They hang out together for meals and socialization; some are mean girls, some are cool kids, some struggle to fit in.

Tossing grapes into the yard creates a free-for-all; chickens play an insane game of keep away, while ducks try to swallow every grape they can as fast as they can. The geese rush up to the chaos but are easily scared away by the frantic smaller diners. They come crying to me and want to be fed separately. And, of course, I do.

Everyone is loose together during the day when I am home, which is most of the time. My donkey accident forced me into six months of non-walking “retirement,” and I learned that I am pretty good at not being employed.

Coops are within earshot and sight of the house, and there are fences to keep everyone off the road and out of the ruminants’ pens. However, the naughty Easter Eggers keep finding new ways to escape into the goat and sheep pens, and they have persuaded their Sapphire Gem coop mate to do the same. The goats, especially, are not amused and sometimes drop their horns to meet the birds’ behinds.

4. Which members of your flock, past and present, stand out for you and why?
Few of my birds enjoy cuddles; one exception is Maxie. A Blue Cochin Bantam acquired as a chick this spring, she has terribly crooked toes. Maxie survived a bout of pasty butt, and I did my best to make cardboard shoes but wasn’t very successful. She apparently forgave me and is always happy to hop onto my lap where she talks quietly and sweetly.

House chicken Dottie perches on my arm on command, and takes field trips outdoors – but away from the other chickens who frighten her. She was bullied by broilers at the feed store when she was a chick and apparently remembers the mean girls. All attempts to make her an outdoor chicken have failed miserably.

Dowager hen Honey doesn’t want to be snuggled. But when I yell, “Where’s my fine hen?” she knows I’m calling her and not all those “common” chickens.

Speckled Sussex Bronwyn is my most unhelpful helper. She lives to “work” with me – which often means scratching through and/or spilling the bucket of scooped-up poop, digging up plants I’ve just set in the ground and sticking her head in nest boxes while I’m gathering eggs.

While Gussie will allow me to pick her up and nestles her lovely goose face on my shoulder, Golly won’t put up with such nonsense. I have taken a wing to the face multiple times and once had to explain how a goose blackened my left eye.

5. Beside poultry, what other pets do you keep?
Two mixed breed rescue dogs live with me; the newest came from a group that specializes in placing “unadoptable” dogs. George is totally blind and completely lovable. His terrier sister’s high energy sometimes makes her a bit tougher to love – but I do. I spent several years as a hospice home for a dog breed rescue.

Three cats live in the basement where their job – which none of them take seriously – is to keep mice from coming up into the house. Dubbed the “Bad Cats,” they delight in knocking things over, destroying valuable stuff and getting oh-so-close to five litter boxes but making deposits next to those containers. The fourth house cat lives upstairs. Magoo was born in my backyard and without eyes. His “disability” keeps him from trying to leap onto counters and shelves; he’s a perfect indoor cat.

A feral ginger cat hangs out in my barn; it shows no interest in my poultry and vice versa. I’ve never gotten close enough in more than a year to know if Pacey is male or female. I doubt I ever will. Pacey appears to have a real taste for rabbits as I frequently find bunny bits in the hay shed.

I still have two Katahdin sheep and four miniature goats. I’ve had more of both but am not replacing ruminants. Taking care of them in winter is less and less fun with every passing year.

6. Anything you'd like to add?
I recently spotted this delightful sign that sums up what I try to do every day: Human-kind. Be both.

2021 was a challenging year. In addition to losing Jim, I lost my favorite remaining pygmy goat, Eliza; a Sapphire Gem, two of my original runners and my mama cat.

I’m mentioning the losses only because throughout the year – except when this darned computer refused to work – I have relied on BackYard Chickens members to distract me on the bad days, provide an outlet for my unused journalistic skills, offer helpful advice with both poultry and non-poultry challenges and, in general, be my friends. Thank you all so much.

@Callender Girl

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Dreaming of Spring
BYC Staff
Premium Feather Member
6 Years
Jul 16, 2015
It's nice to officially meet you @Callender Girl . I'm so sorry for the loss of Jim. He sounds like he was a wonderful man.

You have kept lots of breeds of chickens. I like the cochins too, especially the bantam ones. They are great little birds. I too have some buff geese, so your descriptions of yours made me laugh.

Bless you for giving George a home, as well as all the other dogs you have helped. That's a hard thing for you to do, but the dogs appreciate the kindness, especially at the end.


Premium Feather Member
May 7, 2017
East Texas
Your's is the best interview that I've read. Your writing is so wonderfully descriptive, and I love your life philosophy.
I'm terribly sorry for your loss, but I do admire your survival skills.
Also, I have to say, until now, I thought you were a former pinup gal, who couldn't spell. 🤣 (no offense was intended, I can't spell either.)

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