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one chicken leads to another

My first two chooks, Mapp and Lucia. Lucia was alpha hen. She woke up every morning, laid an egg, woke up the others and led them all over the garden, and dropped dead suddenly at three years old.

Mapp started laying six months after Lucia. She lays a handful of eggs every year and then goes broody, sitting on the nest all day trying to hatch baby chicks out of straw. At the end of the Summer, she picks herself up, shakes herself off and rejoins the flock. She will turn eight this Spring.

I tell you, laying eggs isn’t for pussies.

This year, I’m seriously considering calling her bluff. The farm where I bought these two also sells fertilized eggs. I’m thinking of popping half a dozen under Mapp to see what happens.

Most likely to happen: nothing. For once in her miserable life, she doesn’t go broody. Or she doesn’t do it right. Or they aren’t properly fertile.

Worst case scenario: they all hatch and they’re all roosters (but I wouldn’t find this out until I’m completely attached to the little peckerheads). That would be tragic. I couldn’t keep them all, I’d rather not keep even one, but I couldn’t bear to let them go for fox food. I’d have to market them as hand tamed pets and sweeten the deal somehow. Maybe give them away with a little watercolor portrait.

There are all sorts of in-between scenarios, like she could panic and murder those weird little fluffy things that destroyed her precious eggs. That happens sometimes. But ideally (and this is a long shot) I’d get a couple of good hens, and these ones would be properly hand-reared and friendly.

We’ll see. I’ve never heard of a bantam living past nine, so this is Mapp’s last chance. I promised her if she lived through the Winter, we’d give it a try.

She didn’t understand a word of that, of course, but still. You don’t break your word to a chicken.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

March 16, 2018 — 8:35 pm
Comments: 8

Sensible chuckle

It started with zoo keepers, but the funniest ones are from the punters, naturally. Twitter hashtag #rateaspecies rates animals as if they were Amazon products.

I buy a lot of stuff on Amazon. If you pay too much attention to the ratings, you’d never buy anything.

March 15, 2018 — 11:06 pm
Comments: 7

Chickens! In cool tinted specs!

A chicken’s vision is weighted toward the red/orange and away from blue/green. Makes sense when you remember their ancestors were woodland creatures and, then as now, they peck a living by spotting edible seeds and insects in grass and leaves. The downside is the sight of red, red chicken blood can make a flock go cannibal. In a big flock, little injuries happen and may not be noticed until it is Too Late. It starts with a peck and ends with…everyone eating Mabel alive.

So this guy invented red-tinted chicken specs that effectively make a chicken colorblind. They’re hinged. When the chicken leans forward, the lenses swing away and the bird can see normally. On the ground, where the food is.

Yes, they work. No, you can’t buy them any more. They’re mounted on a chicken’s beak by inserting a pin through the nostrils. It probably doesn’t hurt, but you know how people are about these things.

These days, they do the same job by beak trimming. A blunt beak isn’t good for plucking feathers (which is usually how a chicken gets the injury that leads to blood that leads to tragedy). Used to be, this was a pretty awful practice. There is feeling in the beak as it gets closer to a chicken’s face. These days, though, they have a neat procedure where they run a laser across the beak of a young bird, which cuts the blood vessels and the tip of the beak later falls off.

Make sure to follow the link and watch the lefthand video (it shows funny chickens in spectacles, not having stuff put through their nostrils).

March 13, 2018 — 8:08 pm
Comments: 16

The case for the prosecution rests, M’lud


Sorry. Got jammed up tonight (if you’re impressed with the post I didn’t post, you should see the work I didn’t work!).

I leave you with this iconic image and remind that the avian asshole on the right is a European robin and the poor birdie on the left is an innocent blue tit. I’m telling you, they’re a menace. A tiny, beautiful menace.

Teehee! Blue tit!

March 7, 2018 — 10:51 pm
Comments: 11

The last thing this poor girl ever saw


Okay, not really. Just a photobomb. (Video at the link).

This is a European robin, Erithacus rubecula, like the one I posted about last week. If you read the text, they’re all awwwing and cooing and wishing they had something to feed the adorable robin.

I guarantee you, if we could speak robin, that little thug is tweeting something like, “hey! HEY! I didn’t authorize you to take pictures! Come over here and I’ll mash your beak in for you, you big pink pansy!”

What would it be like to be a belligerent, psychopathic asshole trapped in the body of a tiny adorable feathery tennis ball?

March 6, 2018 — 9:03 pm
Comments: 17

Robin on the chicken house


The robin here is a European robin (Erithacus rubecula). There are lots of other birds called robin redbreast in the world. Our own American one is a very different beastie, actually a breed of thrush with the charming designation Turdus migratorius.

Brits love they robins. It’s one of the few birds that stick around for the whole Winter. Hence they frequently feature on Christmas cards, which puzzled me mightily at first.

They’re cheeky little peckerheads, shaped like chickadees. Red breasted tennis balls. The classic picture is a robin on a spade handle, because they follow gardeners turning earth, looking for worms. I always know where Jack is in the garden, because our robing follows him around and yells at him.

We’re probably on our thirtieth robin by now, but we always have one and they all look the same to me when I chase them off the chickens’ food.

They are not shy. They’re fiercely territorial; they’ll fight to the death with other robins and take on much bigger birds. In fact, I strongly suspect if we could understand and speak robin, we’d find them the most horrible little assholes in the bird kingdom. But awwwwwww, aren’t they cute?

Uncle B took this picture in the garden today. It’s not his usual razor sharp focus because the little bastard was hopping around and wouldn’t pose.

Another day off work today. In fact, I doubt I’ll get in for the rest of the week. Tonight is the last night in the twenties, but it’s not much warmer tomorrow and the wind is going to double into the 40 mph range. Then Friday the wind dies down and heavy snow is forecast.

It’s the wind that’s the problem for us. It’s blowing hard from an unusual quarter, right across an enormous sheep field, picking up snow and landing it in our garden. Our central heating can’t handle it, so I’ve had to pile up in bed under the electric blanket.

I’m trying real hard to look sad about that..

February 28, 2018 — 8:27 pm
Comments: 14

No, in fact, I did NOT go to work today


Indeed, it snew. I reckon we got about three inches, but bitterly cold so it’s icing over fast. More on the way. The roads are clear, but I doubt the bike path is. Luckily, I’m not due back until Thursday.

I’ve had to replace the chicken’s water twice today. I will allow, it’s stupidly funny watching a chicken try to drink ice (that look of puzzlement!), but none of my chickens set foot outside the house today. Cold, plus three of them have never seen that white stuff before. They want no part of this nonsense.

Charlotte snuck out when Uncle B went to stock up on coal and wood and he snapped this picture of her walking in his footsteps. Charlotte is the elderly cat, you may remember, who was horribly mauled by…something back in the Spring. I was sure we would lose her.

Gosh, I wish people aged like cats. Here she is old, scarred, krunky…and looking exactly the same as she did when she was young and strong and padding around in the snow in Rhode Island.

February 27, 2018 — 9:10 pm
Comments: 10

I know that monster!


I flip through a LOT of pictures online in the course of a day. Every once in a while, something turns up in an images search that makes me go what on earth is going on here?

Like the picture above. Goodness knows what I was looking up when this thing appeared in my search results. When I followed the link, though, turns out I know this beast! This is Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins sculpting a megatherium — a giant prehistoric South American ground sloth.

He’s one of the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs (though a megatherium is a much later beastie than the thunder lizards). Uncle B used to live near this park and we went there a lot. This was the first attempt to make life-sized scale models from the big old bones that were all the rage in Victorian times. In the 1850s, would you believe?

Giant cement sculptures. They look all weird and wrong to us now, as paleontologists have re-imagined and re-re-imagined how the bones went together. Who knows? Maybe the Victorians were closer. We haven’t found too many giant corpses with the skin still on. Anyway, I loved that park. Even if the Crystal Palace itself burned down in 1936.

Right! Remember to come back tomorrow, 6 WBT, for DEAD POOL ROUND 107.

February 22, 2018 — 9:33 pm
Comments: 5

It sounds worse than it is


At last, I got my caput mortuum! I didn’t order it specifically, it was part of a package of pigments. Cheapest way I could get my hands on a sample of all the colors I wanted.

But I have found it! The holy grail! The pigment that best matches color of a chicken’s comb with the sun shining through it! It is cadmium vermilion and I am inexpressibly chuffed.

It looks brighter when you mix it up.

Have a good weekend, everyone, and may all your chickens have bright and shiny combs.

February 9, 2018 — 10:32 pm
Comments: 11

Oh, Monday!


Well, my day started with thundersnow and went downhill from there. First snow of the year, and it came down like a bastard for about two hours. Then the sun came up and the temps rose and it all melted away. It was pretty while it lasted, but no fun on a bike.

Oh, and a badger crossed my path. An actual one. He ran up the driveway and disappeared in a bush. This was pretty cool to see, but not great news if you keep cats and chickens.

I’d like to point out that I have now seen a badger and a weasel out my front door. That sounds like the start of a really odd English blues song.

Then I had two meetings today. Two. I moved to Olde Englande to get away from this piffle.

How was your day?

February 5, 2018 — 9:49 pm
Comments: 10