Saturday, October 31, 2009

Spring Chicken

Here is one of those healthy Spring Chickens. This guy was one of the first to hatch, in late May, so he is about 5 months old. He has his dad's comb, the "rose comb" typical of Wyandottes, which is much more resistant to frostbite than a big single comb. Otherwise he looks a lot like his mama, a Brahma. Look how tall he his--his shoulder comes halfway up the neck of the chicken standing next to him! He is also broad--broader than he looks in this photo. But Brahmas are "slow to mature," so he may be 6 months old or more when he attains his full size. (By contrast, industrial meat production birds reach 'slaughtering size' between 6 and 8 weeks (WEEKS!) of age. Such rapid growth is quite injurious to the chickens in question...see below for our 6 week old chicks, who are healthy and happy but not too substantial yet. A couple mouthfuls, tops.)

A lot of this guy's height comes from his giant legs. Click on the photo to get a better look at those honkers. He looks almost like he's got stilts when he stands erect. I call him "Legs." He's big and handsome, and I feel affectionate towards his Brahma half. I feel hopeful that he will display all the watchful and generous qualities of a good roo, without being a jerk. I'd love to keep him in the flock. We will know pretty soon, as he is quickly becoming a man. He just got his crow last week. His crow was awful at first--it sounded like a chicken being deflated--but it is getting better with practice. C'mon Legs! Be a good rooster!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Chicken Talk IV: No Spring Chicken

Here's another question of chicken talk: what does it mean to be "no spring chicken?" Well, chicks hatched in the spring are healthier and more vigorous than those hatched in the summer or early fall. Spring hatchlings have months to feast on the ample forage, and to feather out and grow healthy and strong before the weather turns cold.

Our last batch of chicks are no spring chickens: they hatched the second week in September. Six weeks later, at the end of October, they are still kind of little dudes. Their wings and breasts and backs are fully feathered, and they even have teeny tailios, but they are still sporting their baby-chicken neckfuzz.

Their mama is still taking good care of them, snuggling them in a nest at night instead of roosting on a perch. Soon she will wash her hands (wings) of motherhood though, and start roosting on her own. With November breathing down their fuzzy little necks, I hope these little guys and their teeny feathers are big enough to take it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

How far out are you, man?

Meet the David Bowie Rooster.

He is an Ameraucana. The other three Ameraucana roosters look just like David Bowie Rooster, except they have large, full tails. They have the same kind of hair-band look going on with their rockin' white neck feathers, so I call them the Aerosmith roosters. David Bowie Rooster has no tail, because the Aerosmith roosters peck it off him. All four of them are kind of jerks.

"Why have you named a chicken after David Bowie?" you may be wondering in horrified fascination. Three reasons. Firstly, I think of the human David Bowie as having big hair and then dwindling down to a tiny little ass, like this roo. Plus, this roo is not as a huge of a jerk; he's more quiet and watchful, as human David Bowie may or may not be. But mainly, I like the Flight of the Conchords song "Bowie's in Space", so a fake version of human David Bowie is often on my mind, being sung about under my breath.

Bowie's in... space...

PS: don't get too attached to David Bowie Rooster. For the sake of the hens, there is going to be some serious Ameraucana-rooster-thinning soon.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Do the hustle!

Here is Uh-Oh Chicken, dancing her little heart out (PLEASE excuse my chicken-training outfit):

Look at her go! She's dancing so fast she's blurry! OK, so you and I know that she is just turning in a circle to the right. But I'm telling her she's dancing.

Though it's as exciting as ever (...) to practice clicker training on a chicken, we haven't done it in a while. Training took a hiatus while I went out to California last week. Then, when I got home again, I did something so distressing to my back that I couldn't bend over to pick up a chicken for a couple days. But now I'm better, and yesterday I went out to see what Uh-Oh Chicken remembered. We reviewed the entire shaping process, and I leveled off my criteria at 'turning halfway around.' But with a few more sessions she'll be turning and turning in the widening gyre. (...or is that falcons?)