Have you heard about The Herd?

(8 minute read)

A group of giraffes is called a tower. A gathering of zebras is a dazzle. A loveliness of ladybugs. A snuggle of sloths. A smack of jellyfish. A mob of Kangaroos. A conspiracy of lemurs.

The collective nouns for penguins are raft, waddle, rookery, colony, and huddle; But flamingos in a group are referred to as flamboyance. Then the usually solitary, but sometimes together in a small family is a prickle of porcupines. Most of us know: school of fish, whale pod, lion pride, barrel of monkeys, wolf pack, elephant parade, gaggle of geese, bevy of swans, and a murder of crows. 

What do you call a group of chickens?

 (This sounds like a riddle) 

A group of chickens is a flock, but a group of chicks that hatch together are called a brood, and a group of chicken eggs is called a clutch.

So the big question of the day is what do you call two Aussiedoodles, one tabby cat, one maine coone, one morgan (horse), and fifteen chickens? 

The Herd.

Recently, one of my blog followers asked me to write about “the herd” that was mentioned and pictured on my New Years day post. We affectionately refer to our animals as “the herd.” As in, “Did you feed the herd yet?” Or “Who is watching the herd while we are out of town?” The herd encompasses all of the twenty animals we have, but more often we refer to the main four that live, eat, sleep, and migrate (around the house) together. As different as they are from one another they indeed travel and live as a pack, or a dazzle, or a gaggle, or a parade, or a herd.  Koda, Summer, Sansa, Ruger, Kip, Smoke (RIP), chicken #1, chicken #2, chicken #3, chicken #4, chicken #5, chicken #6, chicken #7, chicken #8, chicken #9, chicken #10, chicken #11, chicken #12, chicken #13, chicken #14, chicken #15, and chicken #16 (RIP).  For the record, I had some really creative names picked out for the chickens (Miss Texas, Miss Arkansas, Miss California, etc) but they arrived in a box at the post office all looking like the same tiny peeping black downy chicks, identical, absolutely no way to tell them apart. So they have always identified as a group. The only exception is one scrawny less pretty chicken who is most attracted to me, jumping up on my lap; we call her Ugly Duckling. There is also a chicken who insists being the final one ushered (or chased into the coop), her name is Karen. 

So what is the story behind this herd? Who? And why?

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was our bustling herd of animals. Back in 1993 we first became parents, we thought life with one baby was busy. After a year or so, once we figured the parenting thing out, we added another baby. Then our capacity to love grew with each additional child. By 1999 we had four children in the house. Then a few years later, more space in our hearts and we added a kitten named Liberty (aka Kitty), then a year later along came Dot, an Australian shepherd. Fast forward a dozen or so years, our human children started leaving for college and careers. Sadly Dot and Kitty lived out their final days. And a big void widened that we decided to fill with two aussiedoodle puppies, Koda and Summer. Around that same time we were preparing for our last child to leave for college, we rescued a tabby cat, Sansa. I truly believe the puppies and kitten helped us transition into the “empty nest.” I shared the day by day details about the rollercoaster of life raising two aussiedoodle puppies at the  beginning of my blog in June of 2018. I laugh now about how busy I thought life was.

Then in 2020 the herd migrated to the country. We took on the care of Kip, an old morgan who had been rescued by the previous owner, and then conveyed with the house and barn we bought. He needed some company, so that first winter we added another old rescue named Smoke. Kip and Smoke became fast friends. Then in spring of 2021 we added 16 baby chicks, raised them from two days old, and built a coop and a run that they moved into at around 3 months old. They started laying eggs that October. The herd was in full swing.

Why? Life around children and animals surely requires time and energy. The demands are ever present to feed, clean, ensure good health care, nurture with attention, plan and adapt as they grow. Discipline, flexibility, patience, and a good sense of humor are all needed. The rewards make it worth every penny and aggravating moment when things go haywire (and they do). But for me, it is all about the little pleasures: Kip seeing you walking towards the barn and trotting or galloping in from the pasture eager to beat you there. Opening the chicken run door and all 15 girls come clucking out around your feet excitedly, following you as you go over to clean waters, and check for eggs. Opening the nesting box and lifting up warm freshly laid eggs, all in the same box making you smile that they chose to wait to take turns to use the same box instead of another free nesting box. Little instinctive behaviors of animals make me wonder, how did they know to all get inside the coop (house) after sunset, before dark? They just do. We love peaking inside their door at night and seeing them all lined up side by side, legs tucked under their plump feathered bodies resting on the roosting bar. They look over at us and make the cutest little cooing sounds. Time out at the barn and coop can be freezing cold in winter and blasting hot in summer, but more often than not, my mood is noticeably better (lighter) on my return back to the house, basket of eggs in hand and the rest of the herd awaiting my arrival.

If you have dogs or cats, you know this scene. They are at the window watching and/or waiting right inside the door you enter. Sansa, Ruger, Koda and Summer follow us throughout the house. If I am up in the office writing, all four are positioned in spots around the small room. If I go into my room to change or brush my hair, the parade follows. They do the same with my husband. The herd gets along most all of the time. Ruger, the giant Maine Coone was last to join the herd, but is the cool king. He talks (maine coons chirp) and everyone listens. Summer keeps Koda and Sansa in line, and is indifferent to Ruger (mutual respect). Sansa is the moody, picked on runt of the herd; she is always looking for protected refuge curled up on our laps. If it feels like I am going on and on about my animals, I am. I could write or talk for hours about them. That’s what proud and loving parents do, right?

For Christmas I commissioned an artist (www.petcreationsart.com) to paint a canvas showing the herd. All Sophia, the artist, needed was for me to send some pictures of each of the animals. That was not hard for me, I snap pictures all of the time of the dogs, cats, horses and chickens. They are never all together in the same picture (I cannot even imagine the chaos of that kind of photo shoot). So the artist takes the pictures of peoples pets and can paint them together, using their images to create a likeness to each animal. She captured their coloring, coats of fur and feathers so well. The only correction on the proof she sent to me was Sansa (the tabby) and Ruger (the maine coone). She had them the same size and I had to tell her that Ruger was three times the size of Sansa. So she made Sansa smaller. The final product was amazing! In addition to the canvas for my husband, I had a blanket made (for our son to take back to college). I made the decision to include Smoke (who we lost last summer) because he was part of the original Herd. I also spared her the task of fitting in fifteen chickens so only two are there representing the flock in the painting of the herd. It was not a mural after all. The canvas of the herd is hanging in the mudroom on the wall above the cat litter box across the room from where we feed the dogs and the cats. It is the first thing I see when I walk into the house coming from the barn, and it makes me smile. We love our Herd.

If things go as planned, our Herd will be expanding come April or May. Any day now the kids will be dropping. We are excitedly awaiting news of the four baby Nigerian Dwarf goats. Stay tuned!

Picture of The Herd on a blanket that went back to college with our youngest son.


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