Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

October 22, 2012

Pleasant Hill Ramblings: Pet sitting for dogs, cats and chickens

By Jean Clark
Chronicle contributor

CROSSVILLE — Most pet owners face the dilemma of who will care for their pets when they travel. Should they impose on neighbors or family, take them to a pricey kennel or try to take them with them?

Joan and Joe Gittings of Pleasant Hill have a unique problem. Not only do they have a dog and cat, but they also harbor five chickens and a silky rooster. They enjoy traveling in their retirement years and often face the dilemma of what to do with their cherished animals.

When they were up north for the month of June, wonderful neighbors Duncan and Barbara Everett minded the brood, making sure they had food and water in the backyard coop and chicken yard of the Gittings' home. Other neighbors enjoy taking scraps to them and watching their antics also.

However, the Gittings' home is surrounded by dense woods and is rather isolated from their nearest neighbors. A wily raccoon (maybe two) soon realized that no one was home at the Gittings' at night. One-by-one the chickens and rooster disappeared until only a few were left.

Dismayed by this loss, the Gittings decided to take measures to prevent this from happening again. As many do these days, they googled portable chicken coop and through the magic of the internet located a “chicken tractor” constructed by a high school boy living north of Cookeville to earn extra money.

This coop has a 3x8 foot yard with a 3x6 foot house on top of it. It has two nesting boxes, a wire bottom in the house, with one door. Joe modified the coop to give the chickens more “wing room.” The yard has two doors to make it accessible from both ends. The most important innovation is that it is on wheels.

They restocked their little farmyard with one Black Star pullet, two white Delawares, one Dominicker and one Welsumer from a farm nearby in Browntown. All were happy with the new digs. Now, the Gittings were faced with a new problem. How to transport this elegant coop from their backyard to their good neighbor “chicken sitters.”

On the advice of a friend to visit a festival on Hwy. 127 N, Joe was intrigued with Farmall Cub tractors. Back to the internet and Google he went. He found a 1955 Farmall Cub tractor for sale in Deer Lodge, Morgan County. When he proudly boasted to his daughter on the phone about what he had bought, she excitedly interrupted him with “Corvette!” after hearing 1955.

Well, anyway, the tractor is just right for transporting the portable coop. There are other members of their animal family, too. They also own a horse, Ditto, and a donkey, Chico. They board at the small farm of another Pleasant Hill family, the Stampfls. Their silky rooster came from the Stampfls' flock. Joe rides Ditto around Pleasant Hill and sometimes hitches Chico up to an Amish style carriage. If needed, Joe can attach a sickle bar mower to the tractor to cut weeds in the farmyard and has a disc plow and full set of cultivators in case the land needs plowing.

The portable chicken coop, or chicken tractor as it is called, got its first trial run in September when the Gittings went to the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion in Tennessee/Virginia and to Land of the Lakes in Tennessee. The coop was transported to the Everetts' fenced-in yard. The chickens like to have outings occasionally. So all of the neighbors were treated to the flock de-bugging the Everetts’ vegetable garden and sometimes crossing the road to check out their lawns. They all made it safely back to the coop, and the Gittings were delighted with these new arrangements.

Now, did Joe and Joan grow up on farms? No, but when he was growing up, Joe's family had a cottage in northeastern Pennsylvania, where he became friends with the kids living nearby, often riding horses with them and helping with their farm chores. Joan has always loved animals and shared the care of a flock of Rhode Island Reds in Massachusetts. She enjoys the diverse personalities of “her girls,” considering them “living lawn ornaments” who rid the yard of ticks, bugs and even garter snakes.

Joe is the president of the Victim/Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP), on committees at the Pleasant Hill Community Church and participates in peace vigils at Oak Ridge and elsewhere. Joan volunteers at the Second Chance thrift store in Crossville and leads the Caregivers’ Support Group for the Pleasant Hill community.

They both visit the three Head Start Centers in Crab Orchard, Bondecroft and Monterey, where they share music and storytelling. Many of their songs (Joe plays the banjo) revolve around their pets. They participate in Dave Myers’ Community Supported Agriculture project and enjoy visiting his farm. Myers has also cared for their flock in the past. What a delight to have this talented and caring couple for Pleasant Hill neighbors.


The Shalom Center for Continuing Education is sponsoring programs Oct. 25 and 26 in Pleasant Hill regarding "Faithfully Facing Dying." Schera Chadwick of Final Exit Network Associates will give information of options during the time of dying.

On Thursday evening following a 5:30 p.m. potluck in Adshead Hall of Fletcher House, there will be an introduction and overview to issues, including the difficulties of conversation with loved ones and family. On Friday from 9 a.m. to noon, Chadwick will discuss the Final Exit Network program.

There is no charge for the program, but bring a dish to share if attending the potluck.