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Homeboy

red-tailed-hawk

This from the country show on Saturday. Whenever it’s on offer, I always pay a couple quid to hold a raptor (that’s me on the left). Homeboy settled down eventually and let Uncle B snap some better pics.

Hope you had a nice long weekend, full of all the red-tailed hawks you could possibly desire.

May 29, 2017 — 8:38 pm
Comments: 20

Got a haircut today. And it’s raining.

poland

Pic unrelated. That’s from somebody’s Pinterest page of Poland hens.

Go on, click. Nothing’s as cheer-you-up as a whole page of chickens with afros.

We needed the rain. We haven’t had a proper soaking literally for months. That may seem improbable, given England’s reputation for raining all the damn time, but we do get periods of draught.

When that happens, the irrigation ditches run low and the foxes and badgers(!) use them as super highways. Our neighbor across the way shot a fox with his (the neighbor’s) big Buff Orpington cockerel in his (the fox’s) mouth. Given that shotguns are all they’re allowed here, I didn’t like to ask after the rooster.

One of these days, I’m going to open a Twitter trolling account in the name Buff Orpington.

Oh, and I found the identity of Jack’s nemesis, the big ginger-and-white cat who’s been beating him up and stealing his lunch money. He’s a feral unfixed male who was deliberately introduced to the farm two farms over as a rat catcher. I wonder if they’d notice if his balls turned up missing…?

May 18, 2017 — 7:42 pm
Comments: 24

Optimism-of-Yesterday

chickenoftomorrow

The story that goes with is a bit of a downer – it’s about the beginning of factory farming – but I wanted to leave you with a happy image for the weekend.

Something I learned from my chicken behavior course: you know today’s meat chickens are mature in six to eight weeks and ready for market, yes? That’s because they’ve bred them (the old fashioned way, generation-to-generation) to be eating machines.

So. Fine. Six weeks of gluttony and out. There are worse lives, even in modern agriculture.

chick But when you want to make more of these little porkers? You have to raise male and female eating machine chickens to adulthood, without letting them get too obese to function and breed.

That means the parents of these little chubboes are kept strictly to regular chicken rations, making them crazy hungry all the time.

Adult meat birds have the worst escape record of any commercial chicken. Or the best, depending on how you look at it.
 

Woops! I wanted to leave you with a happy picture. Here’s an adorable fluffy chick I stole off the internet. Have a good weekend!
 

 

May 12, 2017 — 9:22 pm
Comments: 10

Awww!

crow

Somebody’s opened a crow cafe in London – like a cat cafe, but…you know…with corvids (there’s also a rook and a raven).

Good idea. I like corvids. We had a couple of pet crows when I was a kid. I’ll tell you stories some day (some other day; it’s late and I have to go take a bath).

rook

Their rook probably needs a buddy. Rooks are the sociable ones. You know the old saying: if you see a solitary rook, it’s a crow; if you see a bunch of crows, they’re rooks.

The trees around our house here are alive with rooks and I’ve been awfully tempted to feed them.

Know how you tell the difference? Crows and ravens look pretty much alike, except ravens are bigger and shaggier. But rooks have a strip of unpleasant-looking crusty white flesh where their beaks meet their heads. Thusly:

And on that educational note, I’m off to my bath. Toodle pip.

April 19, 2017 — 9:14 pm
Comments: 20

Weasel and the Swan

swan

Today I played the banjo to a swan for an hour. There were three of them in the big field behind the house, but two of them flew away while I was fetching my ‘jo. Have you ever heard a swan fly? It’s like heavy machinery. Whuff-whuff-whuff-whuff.

I intended to write a song especially for him. I was going to call it There’s a Swan in the Big Field Behind the House. But I suck at composing so, really, I just played some of my favorite odd chords at him before settling down to a standard bluegrass repertoire.

First he stood on one leg for a while. Then he stood on the other leg for a while. Then he tucked his head under his wing and had a little kip. Then his friends came back and they all flew off together.

A most enjoyable afternoon.

Have a good Easter, everyone!

April 14, 2017 — 7:56 pm
Comments: 14

Freeeeeeee!

runningchickens

Not my birds. Somebody else’s birds. I didn’t have a picture of mine running. I’ll definitely have to get some this Summer, as there’s nothing quite as funny as a flock of chickens running at you full tilt.

The quarantine was lifted today, at last. It was lifted for most of the country weeks ago, but we are in what is regarded as a high risk area, so we had to keep our birds bottled up a little longer.

On a serious note, the quarantine may have played a role in the death of Violence and Vita. Chickens are susceptible to bacterial infections caught off their own poop, and being locked up exposed them to it for longer periods.

That’s something I learned from my chicken course: for all people go on about the cruelty of cage-reared birds, they are generally healthier than barn-reared or free range birds because their poop falls through the bottom of the cage and away.

So. Today is the start of a four-day weekend for me. Brits take more official time off at Easter than Christmas! I’ll be back here tomorrow with something pointless and inane to say, though. That’s my promise to you!

April 13, 2017 — 9:35 pm
Comments: 10

Chicken drama

byechooks

They came together and they left together. Vita fell ill last night and, before we could get her to the vet, died this morning. Similar symptoms to Violence, but much faster. They were both six years old.

As it turns out, the vet called and told us not to bring her in just before she died. I didn’t realize the prohibition on moving live chickens meant you can’t take a sick one to the doctor, but it does. Quarantine officially over here this Thursday, but there was some discussion whether DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) would want to get involved and might want a necropsy. Their symptoms were not consistent with bird flu, though, so I don’t think we’ll hear back on that score. They can’t take an interest in every dead backyard chicken.

So, symptoms not really consistent with bird-to-bird transmission — Violence died three weeks before Vita got sick — but it’s hard not to think there’s a connection. I’m guessing bacterial infection. A nasty wild bird poop in the run or something.

Vita was the most beautiful chicken in my flock — a big, blowsy bird with gorgeous markings — but she had a sad life. From the beginning, she was the pariah hen. The other chickens pecked at her something awful and she stood took it patiently. Probably what made her bottom hen. Normal chickens squawk and run away from the beak.

Sometimes I’d find her all by herself in the flower border, blissing out in her own private dust bath.

As a precaution, I’ve closed the old run and put old Mapp in with the young chickens. Last I checked on them, they were on the perch as far as possible from her. Ewwww…nobody wants to sleep next to grandma – she smells!

April 11, 2017 — 7:08 pm
Comments: 15

In Memoriam

violence

Alas, no. Violence didn’t make it through the weekend.

Happy first day of Spring. Let me tell you about Violence Chicken.

Her name was originally Violet, for Violet Trefusis (her nest mate is named Vita). And because she was technically a lavender. Lavender is one of the possible things that happens when you breed black to white; you get a white bird with a distinctly purplish cast. But, to be honest, she was a terrible lavender — basically a white chicken with a bit of dirty yellow (though she looks pretty magnificent here, with the sun behind her lighting up her fine alpha comb).

The year we got her, I was determined to have a gold partridge. So I found a farm that had them, and got one and that’s Vita. But every chicken needs a buddy, so the farmer said, “which one?” and Uncle B said, “oh, how about that little white one?” and the farmer grabbed her and stuck her in his hands. The look on B’s face!

She was the only chicken I’ve ever had that didn’t mind being picked up and cuddled. But that’s not because she was a nice bird. Oh, no. She was filled with rage. Hence Violence. When I opened the henhouse to check on them at night, all the other chickens would be huddled on the perch as far as from her as they could get, because she was a peck beast. When she was in a mood, she wouldn’t just peck at my hand, she’d grab a piece of skin at the web of my thumb and worry it like a terrier.

I have seen that bird run the entire length of the garden just give my foot a good peck, because I guess I needed a pecking. She would stomp her feet in rage until she actually traveled in a small circle. She was my littlest chicken, but (after Lucia) she was bosslady. And how.

We used to amuse ourselves greeting her with, “hello, Violence — have you solved anything?” And, “I’m sorry, Violence, but you are not the answer.” Because we are easily amused.

She will be missed. Though, I suppose the other chickens will sleep easier at night. Seems poetic justice somehow that I got the first egg of the season on the day we buried her in Chicken Cemetery.


And speaking of mortality — DEAD POOL! Bikeboy has won it with Chuck Berry. This was mighty unfair on dissent, who had David Rockefeller. Death can be so cruel. Back here Friday for Dead Pool Round 96!

March 20, 2017 — 7:17 pm
Comments: 16

Still with us

stillwithus

Violence is still in chicken hospital. I’m a little mystified – whatever it is should either have killed her by now, or she should be getting better, but she’s muddling along about the same. Puffed up, lethargic and sleeping all the time.

She eats. I’m holding onto that as a good sign. A creature that eats hasn’t given up.

I’ve been resisting taking her to the vet. She’s not a very old chicken, but she’s not a young bird, and our local practice doesn’t have an avian specialist. They are not hugely useful with chickens.

I didn’t think of sour crop. I don’t think her crop feels funny, but tomorrow I’ll take her out in the garden and try to make her throw up. Joy.

Truth is, though I’ve been keeping chickens seven years now, I’ve only had nine in total. I’m not really a very experienced chicken keeper.

Have a good weekend, everyone. And as they say here, keep your pecker up.

Yeah, they really say that here. It’s all I can do not to lose it.

March 17, 2017 — 7:26 pm
Comments: 12

Sick chick

bosslady

No, it’s not bird flu. Symptoms don’t match. That was the first thing I checked.

Violence is an unhappy bird, though. She’s all miserable and lethargic and fluffed up. I looked it up and it could literally be hundreds of different things, but I started her right away on a wormer (they’re all due) and a tonic and scrambled her an egg (I know it sounds wrong, and it’s probably illegal here these days, but it’s the first thing anyone does with a sick chook). She’s currently in Chicken Hospital (a dog crate in the corner of the room).

She’s been sick for a couple of days and I do believe she’s perking up a bit. Might be the wormer starting to work. But today she’s started flicking her head, and that’s another clue. It might be lice or mites of some kind. So when I’ve posted this, I’ll pop a sleepy chick on top of the box and have a good look with the flashlight. At her vent, which is where they congregate. Joy! And then tomorrow lucky weasel gets to soak a chicken in a bucket of warm water.

If you think it’s undignified for me, imagine how the chicken feels.

March 14, 2017 — 8:19 pm
Comments: 22