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Damn.

Well, dammit, I found a hen dead in the run this evening when I went to lock up. Chickens do that; they just fall over. But this was a shocker because it was Coco — the biggest and youngest bird in the flock.

She was the all black hen, and a lovely iridescent thing she was, like a fat raven with a big red comb. We were admiring her earlier today, pecking around in the sunshine. Not even a year old.

Her sister — these are the only two of our birds that probably were biologically sisters — is the paralyzed one. Frightened by a fox in late Summer (we guess), she hurt her spine somehow and can’t stand. I decided I’d stick with her as long as she was alert and had an appetite, but I didn’t truly expect to see her live out the Winter.

She’s fine. She’s hanging in there, hard. I mean, she’ll never mature, but I feel rather fiercely that if she wants it, I will give it to her. Goodness knows she’s no extra trouble.

Stupid mortality wins too many as it is.

April 22, 2014 — 9:24 pm
Comments: 21

birds and artards

So, ten white Gibson Les Paul electric guitars, four white Thunderbird basses, 70 zebra finches. It’s art. Or, if you’re called something gay like Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, it’s music.

If you’re anywhere near Salem, MA, you can go see it at the Peabody Essex Museum. NPR is all over it, of course. The installation requires a highly controlled environment, an on-call veterinarian and a staff of full-time behind-the-scene poop-wipers. The result sounds like somebody absent-mindedly tuning up before a gig (the guitars are clearly open-tuned to a chord). It has all the soothing, pleasant mindlessness of several wind chimes in a light breeze.

Reddit has a subforum called /r/mildlyinteresting where an awful lot of official state-sanctioned art seems to belong these days.

January 22, 2014 — 11:29 pm
Comments: 13

To all those we leave behind in 2013

Sorry for late. I couldn’t get my blog to load earlier and we celebrated midnight with neighbors.

Happy New Year, folks. Many thanks for hanging out here with us; it means an awful lot. I can’t think how homesick I’d be without you.

Let’s hope 2014 is…better. We can hope for better, right? Better isn’t greedy, is it?

January 1, 2014 — 1:01 am
Comments: 22

Hello, stoopit

I don’t know why I even look at the Mail. I’m convinced half the things in it are fakes or put-up jobs, and the other half are low rent and tacky. But there’s lots of it, and the internet has been boring lately.

Oh, well. This guy and his wife rescued two battery hens. And then, worried that the chickens would feel the cold, had little woolly pinafores made for them. Looking at the pictures, those birds do not look happy to me. I’m sure they’re like, “can we go back to our nice warm barn now?”

Though it can be hard to judge the mood of a chicken, I’m pretty sure my girls are missing Lucia. She was, after all, the one who told them what to do. Now they just drift around looking listless and unhappy. The weather isn’t helping. They don’t even come out of the hut most of the day.

With the death of Lucia, there’s room on the perch for Coco (who grew up to be a big, beautiful bird) in the main house, and Maggie (the crippled one) can have the nest box for the Winter, so she’s at least with the other girls. At last my whole glum, abbreviated flock is together now.

Dear Abby – I think my chickens are depressed.

November 12, 2013 — 11:34 pm
Comments: 17

Remember, remember…

Lucia, our head chicken. Boss lady. We called her the Mary Poppins of hens; practically perfect in every way. I always said I’d build her a monument when she went.

Well, she went. I found her dead in the nest box this afternoon, not a mark on her. Heart attack, I guess. She was three and a half; we were expecting her to make five or six. I think she just awesomed herself to death, like a comet streaking across the sky.

I am sad. I shall drink now.

November 5, 2013 — 8:50 pm
Comments: 50

LOL WUT?

Ladies and gentlemen, behold — the levitating chickens of Whiterun.

I’m playing through Skyrim again (because awesome is why) and this time I’m doing it with a few mods. Many game companies have traditionally and wisely encouraged players to build and distribute game modifications — bits of extra programming that add anything from new types of clothing to extra music and sound effects to whole new storylines. These extras don’t cost the company anything and help prolong the shelf life of popular games. Also, they sometimes poach talent from their best modders.

Generally speaking, most add-ons behave well. But occasionally, not. What you’re looking at is a glitch, an unintentional result of who knows which mod I have added. Someone somewhere used an identifier for chicken that someone else had used for the height from the ground of a catapulted stone.

Imagine my surprise today when my brother in arms let go the catapult, and every chicken in the neighborhood shot 50 feet straight up into the air, hung lazily in the sky for a moment and slowly drifted down like rose petals. It was…majestic (though I missed a pic of the first time it happened when, like, fifty chickens did this…I was just too transfixed with awe to remember the screenshot button).

Just a reminder of the strange and wonderful things that can happen when multiple people work on the same body of code. And speaking of Obamacare, more and more pols are ‘fessing up that, yes, actually they realized the law meant that millions of people who liked their insurance wouldn’t actually be able to keep their insurance.

I’m transfixed with awe about this one, too. Did they think that would just…blow over? That the joy of the poor gimps who finally got health insurance would drown the screams of the many millions of not-rich people who took a big ol’ financial hit? The level of denial or magical thinking or just plain stupid here is just…I just have no words.

October 29, 2013 — 11:27 pm
Comments: 22

The saddest lil’ chicken in the flock

Oh, god, look at that chicken! She’s fine. I mean she’s bitchier than an imperial crap-load of instant PMS cubes, but that, ladies and gentlemen, is a perfectly natural end-of-season chicken moult.

There’s supposedly a relationship between egg laying and moulting. The better the layer, the faster and more complete the moult. Then a good hen brushes herself off, grows new feathers and gets back to the business of laying eggs.

My girls usually shed a feather or two but otherwise sail through the moult looking okay, but they aren’t exactly cham-peen egg producers. Lucia puts a little more oomph into it, as befits Head Chicken.

Those awesome professional egg-a-day hybrid layers supposedly drop all their feathers in one big go, and you find them next morning clinging to the perch looking like an oven-ready roaster.

Violet didn’t go quite like that, but it was the most spectacular moult I’ve seen. The henhouse was like they’d had a pillow fight in there — feathers EVERYwhere.

And there she was, smoldering in the back of the run, giving me her best stink-eye. I think this process must be pretty uncomfortable, because she’s in an incredibly shitty mood. And she’s not a nice chicken to begin with. We don’t call her Violence for naught.

Anyway — yes, she was easily my best layer this Summer. Here she is in happier times — like, two months ago.

A hard moult is just the price you have to pay to be Miss Awesome Comb 2013.

September 23, 2013 — 9:12 pm
Comments: 17

Duck!

Last one. No, really, this was probably the last really hot day of Summer. Heavy rain tomorrow, then nice enough for the rest of the week, but ten or twenty degrees cooler and windy. That’s it. The end.

The Daily Mail says it was the hottest September day for seven years, but you know. Pff! The Mail. Still, it was pretty toasty.

So we packed a lunch for Bodiam Castle — that’s the really cool ruin with the big moat and the ducks and the steam trains. It’s a pretty easy trek for us (and takes us past our favorite Chinese takeaway), which makes this one of our best options on a hot day. Also, the kiddlets went back to school yesterday, so it was just us dessicated old people. Ahhhhh. Such a quiet, polite bunch.

I love the way the ducks and the fish totally ignore each other.

Oh, also — points to the Brits: I love it that we aren’t forbidden to feed either (throwing food into ponds was aggressively illegal in New England). Does the heart good to see people and nature enjoying each other so much — and so what if sandwich ends are not the optimum diet for any of us?

As for politics — help me out here, folks. I’ve wanted to talk about the Syria thing all week, but I just can’t work out the angles. Obama and Kerry both — especially Kerry — made their names in politics as totally anti war. So what is it about this one stupid bad-guys-versus-bad-guys civil war that’s got those two all revved up to put their whole careers on the line, just to lob a few pointless missiles in a vaguely menacing direction? I can’t make this make sense.

September 5, 2013 — 10:30 pm
Comments: 31

Head chicken

So, this happens. Every night.

I had hoped to integrate the little girls into the flock not long from now, but Maggie’s still quite unwell. She’s got some leg movement back, but not much. Still, she’s eating. She takes an interest in her surroundings. I just can’t give up on her yet.

So, long story short, the little girls come inside for the night again. They sleep in one of those big plastic cat carriers. And Coco is a little restless, shut up in a box, and apt to steamroll over Maggie in an unhelpful way, so I let her out for a while until everybody settles down.

In case you can’t quite make it out, that’s the top of my head. With headphones. She loves the headphones.

August 8, 2013 — 10:08 pm
Comments: 29

Return of the Swan fambly

We’ve seen a lone swan in the field several times this year, so we assumed there wasn’t a swan family. But lookee here what I spotted in the back field this afternoon.

Those aren’t six headless swans, they’re six enthusiastically grooming swans. Though the bird at the far left is a little too enthusiastic, judging from the cloud of white feathers on the ground.

Short post, but Monday night is Garbage Night and Bath Night, so we’re pretty excited around here.

August 5, 2013 — 10:23 pm
Comments: 27