I met Tracy & Keith in June 2016 when they came to my place as part of the Tour D’Coop. They were new to the island and looking to get chickens so were checking out the various set ups and birds. After that, I would occasionally bump into them at garage sales and point out good coop building materials. Nudge, nudge, when are you getting chickens?
Three months later they had birds of their own. As I’ve learned Tracy’s really handy, has all her own tools and great ideas. She built a coop – no plans, just using the materials she’d salvaged – and got six hens: hybrid layers, a Cochin and an Australorp. Over the last couple of years, their flock has grown, or shrunk, as they’ve hatched some chicks, re-homed extra cockerels and lost some to illness. Right now they are down to three hens and one cockerel – all of them from my birds.
I commute via the GERTIE bus and ferry four days a week. Tracy is my afternoon bus driver on three of those days. It’s our opportunity to spend 30 minutes catching up, talking chickens and yakking about island life. She has a notion that she’s shy, but when you see her in action you wouldn’t believe it.
Tracy is a storyteller and keeps her bus passengers entertained with wide-ranging tales of her life. Like the time she dressed her daughter as road kill for Halloween: the costume consisted of all black clothing bisected with a yellow stripe down the middle, and pinned to it was one of her stuffed animals covered in fake blood. Or when the store had run out of pumpkins so they carved a jack-o- lantern watermelon instead. Or when she left the front door open and a hen wandered into the house and fell into the toilet.
She’d be great company if you were on a desert island or trapped in an elevator: she’s knowledgeable about lots of things, is even tempered and creative enough to get you out of that bad situation. A bit of an island MacGyver.
Keith, on the other hand, is the quiet one. He fits the profile of my followers – only 10% are men – apparently they like their chickens but don’t feel the need to yak about them. I find out chickens stories about him from Tracy. For Christmas, he made the flock warm oatmeal with pomegranate seeds that he’d picked out by hand. He’s a softie who doesn’t like to butcher their unwanted cockerels. He built the maternity ward for their broody hens and chicks and calls the flock ‘his girls’.
They’ve been together nine years. Each of them has a daughter, from previous relationships, now in their mid-twenties. When the girls left home, Tracy planted a bug in Keith’s ear about moving west. They decided to check it out on vacation, staying with an aunt in Vancouver and on her recommendation came to ‘Magical Gabriola’.
A year later, they left Espanola, Ontario: they’d bought an RV, packed up their two dogs, Monty, a Great Dane, and Lily, a Cocker Spaniel, and headed to Vancouver Island on their big adventure. (Sadly Monty died last year. Their new Great Dane, Eddie, is a tad more rambunctious and sees the chickens as animated dog toys). With no plan as to their final destination they landed on Vancouver Island and then headed to Gabriola. Long story short, they’ve never left. I guess they didn’t need to go any further to know they’d be happy here.
Keith quit his job in Ontario when he couldn’t get a transfer, taking the chance he’d find employment here. Turns out he didn’t have to: five months later his old employer, Praxair, tracked him down to offer him a position in their Nanaimo office. Since then, he’s been promoted to Territory Sales Manager. Tracy’s had lots of jobs, including roofer, shipper/receiver, veterinary assistant and a school bus driver.
Tracy’s featured in a few of my blog posts and that’s because she’s my best chicken friend, someone I can count on to help out at the drop of a hat. Tracy and Keith helped move a rabbit hutch I was given – no small feat as it weighed a lot and then we had to carry it – with extra help – to it’s final resting place. Tracy came over in between GERTIE shifts and totally transformed it into a new coop. My job was to fetch and carry, offer a few suggestions and make sure I had some cold Vodka coolers on hand.
When we were at a creative impasse she would say “Let me think”, which was my cue to shut up for a minute. I could feel the wheels turning and then she’d blurt out a solution, which always seem to work.
A few months after we finished that coop I wanted to tweak the doors and add some more nest boxes, so she came back again, tools in hand, to build them. Our next project is to re-do the roost bars in my coop – an easy fix for her.
They also helped me move a mobile chicken tractor I was given by Anne and Steve. I’d like to do a few tweaks on that too – I haven’t mentioned that to Tracy yet, but I’m sure she’ll say yes.
I felt I reciprocated a bit when they went to Ontario for her daughter’s wedding last August and their hen died just as her chicks were hatching. I rescued the two hatched chicks and the remaining eggs for a successful hatch. Their birds have also benefitted from lots of donated produce I pick up from two food recovery programs and give them several times a week.
I’m sure Tracy (& Keith) will feature in a few more blog posts in the coming year. Stay tuned because they’re always entertaining.