Friday, November 27, 2009

How come Amy is magic and my hero.

The other evening I decided to move the not-spring-chickies up to be with the grownup chickens. Their mother had notified me that it was time: she was sick of them, she explained, and was ready for them to be big chickens on their own.

So at dusk, I grabbed the Mama and one baby, and moved them into the garden. Then I came back for a few more babies. Then a couple more. Soon I had moved all apparent babies. But as I counted the babies with the mama, I kept coming up with "six." Correct number of babies? Seven. "Hmmm," I thought. "We have minus-one babies."

Wherever this singular baby was, I thought, it would be very upset. Chicken babies do not like to be alone in the great big world. But I couldn't find the missing baby anywhere, and I couldn't even hear any agitated peeping. Eventually, I took a closer look at a weird shadow in the baby enclosure. It turned out to be not a weird shadow, but a creepy surprise: the missing baby. It was still, and quiet, and kind of smashed into the corner closest to the garden.

I got the total heebie-jeebies. I remembered my now-prophetic-seeming dream in which a little chicken had been killed by a kitten. Had a kitten gotten into the baby chicken pen? That didn't make any sense. I paced around the gravel outside the baby pen in tight, agitated circles. I did NOT want to crawl in the baby pen and get the sad, creepy little body of the dead little chicken. On the other hand, someone had to do it.

So I decided to see if Amy was awake from her nap.

"Amy!" I said in relief when I found her barely awake and in the kitchen. "Something happened at the chickens." I made a couple more circles and gave a garbled explanation of events. She grabbed some gloves and came outside right away.

That was really nice of her. But HERE is why she is magic and my hero: she crawled in to get the chicken baby, and she got it, and it was not dead. It wasn't even really hurt. It had just gotten its head stuck. That's right: I conscripted her to deal with a dead chicken on my behalf, and not only did she do it without raising a single objection, she crawled out of the pen and held out to me a living chicken. So: magic, and my hero.

Here the little chickens are, enjoying the big-chicken life on a tall, grownup-sized perch. Little baby Stuckface is on the extreme right, this time with her head stuck outside the photo frame. (Will she ever learn?) I banded her so I could keep an eye on her, and she is doing great.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Too many roos on the coop floor

This blog is maybe 95% chickens, and 5% Flight of the Conchords. I don't know why; it just happens.

Even after a few sessions of rooster-eliminating, we still have waay too many roosters. Although not all of them are mature, about 33% of our chickens are roosters. Optimal percentage? Around 8%. It's going to be a surprising day for roosters sometime soon.

In the meantime, here is a Flight of the Conchords song that pertains. Caution: The title is "Too Many D-cks on the Dance Floor," and the expurgated word is not "ducks." It is extremely applicable. Sing it with me:
"Too much time on too many hands / Not enough ladies, too many mans..."

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Our two main enemies are kittens and hawks. Hawks and kittens.

The other night I dreamed that the friendly little chickies had been kittens. I don't know why by kittens. In the dream, I held the broken body of my favorite little chickie, which was very sad and also creepy, the way dead things smaller than a breadbox are when you hold them. And then I woke up.

Understandably, I was a little anxious when I let the chickies out after the sun rose later on that morning. But everyone was fine, cheeping and peeping as per usual. I had a talk with them as they came out: "Listen, kids. Kittens look cute, but they are fluffy, bloodthirsty killers. If you see one you should tell your mom." They were all, "Whatever, lady. I hope you brought delicious apple cores." And I was all, "OK, I did."

That evening, for a special treat, I let the mom and chickies out of their super-safe baby area. They were thrilled about all the new forage. I stayed with them so I could hustle them back in in case of hawks. But good fortune smiled on the chicken family, and they were threatened by neither of their natural predators. No hawks or kittens menaced the quiet gloaming.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Molting: It ain't for sissies

Here's a surprise fact about chicken keeping: when chickens get old enough (let's say...two), one day you look at them and they do not look so good. They seem disheveled. "I hope that chicken is okay," you say to yourself. And then a couple days later they look like this:
Auggh!! And this isn't even the worst of it. A few days after this picture was taken, this hen was down to a number of feathers that was extremely close to zero. (let's say...two)

At that point, the chicken looks horrible. Just...horrible. I don't know why she hangs on to those last two feathers, either. They don't keep her warm, they don't help her fly, and they certainly don't do much for her dignity. But they're all she has. Maybe I do understand--she's all cold and cranky and naked, and she looks ridiculous, and she just wants those two feathers. Okay.

Eventually things get better. Here is that hen now, a few weeks later. Her new feathers are small but shiny and they cover her naked skin.
"Phewf, glad that's over!" We all are.