Checked the chickens on this miserable drizzly December night and found Maggie dead in her nest box.
She’s the black and white one in the front. If you recall, she had an accident when she was about six months old (we think she panicked at the sight of a fox and banged he spine on the edge of the chicken house) and her legs were paralyzed. I didn’t expect her to live long after that, but I kept her fed and clean and occupied and damn if she didn’t live another fifteen months. Reasonably happy, as far as I could tell.
Unlike her sister, the pretty little black hen in the picture, who grew to be a beautiful big fat bird and dropped dead for no apparent reason at less than a year old.
Chickens. They’re a bit like that.
Funny thing, though — we’ve had six bantams now, and every one was a unique entity. They have separate personalities and different tastes in food. I can tell their voices apart. When chickens are added or die, the weight of their personalities changes the behavior of the whole flock. They have chickeny souls, dammit.
And I’m having chicken for dinner again. I can’t process this. I think I shall drink instead.
Join me in a glass in honor of Magpie, won’t you? A nice little bird who never got a chance at the life she deserved.
December 2, 2014 — 10:47 pm
Time for a chicken update, and here’s my whole sad little flock as Winter approaches. Maggie’s still with us — she’s just off-camera in the cage to the left. They spend a lot of time flocking around her, keeping her company, but they would do her injury if I let them at her.
That’s Mapp on the right. She looks like shit because she’s molting, but she is also starting to show her age a bit. She’s four this year. Six is probably the most we can expect. This is hard, because — don’t tell the other chickens — Mapp is my favorite.
That’s Vita in the middle, the biggest and prettiest of the chickens. Big, beautiful, shy, stupid Vita. Stupid, stupid Vita.
Violence on the left, the off-white one. She’s kind of head chicken at the moment, and a lousy job she does of it, too. She’s mean and arbitrary and apt to say “fuck it” in the middle of the day and go back to bed. At roosting time, she becomes a peckin’ machine. The other chickens fear her, but do not follow her.
Everyone who knows my flock agrees, the heart went out of them when Lucia died. She was the Mary Poppins of chickens, practically perfect in every way. She kept ‘em in line. Without her, they don’t explore. They don’t get up to trouble. They don’t get into the vegetable patch and eat peas or show up in my kitchen and poop on the floor.
We had our first fire of the season last night. Cold and wet and bad time for chickens coming. Spare a thought for my sad, tiny flock.
October 7, 2014 — 9:32 pm
Because ducks. Because Aussies are crazy. And because I want to go play Mass Effect (I think I’ll finish it tonight).
No, I did not get a pee sample
September 23, 2014 — 8:44 pm
The Summer fête season is in full swing now. I met this beautiful girl (probably. I was told it takes a DNA test to know gender for sure and they haven’t bothered) advertising a little father/son parrot rescue. He’s got a hand gesture to make her stand up and extend her wings, so I was able to take lots of good pictures. (Here this one is big and in color).
They said the main reason they have to rescue birds is that they outlive their owners. One of their parrots died last month at the age of eighty. Not sure how I’d feel about a pet that was likely to outlive me. I suppose it would be a good thing, provided they didn’t have to power to have me put down when I got feeble.
Took this before I dropped and broke my good old Nikon D40, obviously. Still pondering what to do about that.
July 29, 2014 — 9:28 pm
The gulls are getting hella aggressive at the seaside Scottish town of Newhaven. Okay, that’s not a very good story, but I liked the picture and the link goes to the Metro — always a fun, trashy read. (Don’t miss “man’s trousers blown off by exploding tyre.” No, Brits can’t spell “tire,” poor things).
In other news, Rolf Harris was convicted of sex offenses today and will undoubtedly do time. In case you’re wondering who the hell Rolf Harris is, he’s the guy who wrote “Tie Me Kangaroo Down.” You still shouldn’t give a shit, but at least you know who he is now. You’re welcome for that song going through your head.
There’s been a lot of that going on in the UK lately: going back and prosecuting men for sex crimes they committed decades ago. In many cases, the things they did were common knowledge at the time, but attitudes were different then. Or, at any rate, there was a whole lot of that kind of thing going on. In a sense, it’s not really fair to roust old men out of their beds and prosecute them for ancient crimes.
But in another sense — screw ‘em, these guys were pigs. The fact that they usually got away with it back then is grossly more unfair than the fact that they’re being locked up for it now.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s garbage night. We’re up to four bins now: rubbish, garden waste, glass and other recyclables. If they add another bin, I’ll be officially too stupid to take out the trash.
June 30, 2014 — 10:39 pm
You know, you guys, I would totally forgive you if you came to the conclusion I just sat around and made shit up. I labor myself under a constant feeling of, “wait, that thing that just happened. Did that just happen?”
I’ve posted about the Hungarian laughing frogs before. They’re not native; they were imported to the area in the Thirties, but they like it here just fine. They’re all over the south of England now, and in the early Summer, during mating season, they chuckle and cackle and make the place sound like a madhouse for a couple of months.
They also attract herons, like this bad boy. Our neighbor came over for tea (ugh, yes) and noticed him in the field next door. You have to stand and look through a gap in the hedge to see this field, so we all did that. And just as we did a lamb, for some unfathomable reason, decided he didn’t care for this snooty bird and went for him.
Uncle B was quick enough to get a few shots of it, this being the best. The outcome was disappointing; it just petered out listlessly. Worst steel cage match ever.
Happy to note, the heron was back today in the same spot, gigging frogs.
May 19, 2014 — 10:14 pm
It was fine and hot today, and Maggie got to sit in the sunshine and peck bugs out of the grass. Which, for a chicken, is heaven.
If you’re just joining us, Maggie is my crippled chicken. A fox turned up and panicked the flock last September. We think. They were safely locked up, but we came home to find agitated chooks, feathers everywhere and I think Maggie banged her spine somehow.
Her legs don’t work from the knees down. Yes, chickens have knees, although comparative anatomy would suggest it’s technically more like ankles I’m talking about. The bendy bit in the middle. It doesn’t work.
Medical opinion had it there was a chance the nerve was just bruised and she’d recover, given time. It’s been eight months. It ain’t happening.
But she’s alert. She has a good appetite. She gobbles up treats and shows an interest in her surroundings. She’s really no more trouble than the other chickens. I’m going to stick with her as long as she wants to stick with us.
Since Maggie’s accident, I’ve probably eaten upwards of fifty chickens without shedding a tear. But this is *my* chicken. The heart has its reasons. Shut up.
May 15, 2014 — 10:29 pm
I strongly suspect both these guys are from the same nest. Same species, same size. Jack has been haunting one corner of the garden. He’s either able to climb the tree or he’s waiting for them the fledge and scooping them off the ground.
Blackbird #2 was uninjured, maybe sliiiightly bigger than the first, and very freaked out by the whole Weasel Experience. He kept opening his mouth for food and then spitting it out. I think, actually, the open beak was aggression in his case. Eventually, he got hungry enough to be a good bird. He sure wanted out of the cage, though.
We went out for a few hours yesterday, so I took a chance. I locked Jack up in the house and left the cage outside, high up, near the nest, with the door open. When we came home, one bird was gone and I didn’t find him on the ground. Zo! Happy ending, let’s hope.
Unfortunately, the one left behind appears to be Irritating Spit Bird.
NB: yes, indeed, catnip takes the dick with Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. I think I’m about three dicks behind at the moment. Apologies if you’re waiting. I’ve got an Irritating Spit Bird on my drawing desk at the mo. So, back here, Friday, 6pm WBT, Dead Pool Round 63!
May 5, 2014 — 6:00 pm
In case you can’t quite make it out, that’s me poking a glob of KitEKat on a toothpick into the open maw of Jack’s latest victim (he didn’t mean to hurt innybody, he just wants to playyyyyyy). This is a very birdy place and Jack is a bird-loving sociopath, so I might as well learn to do this now.
Birdy alert and feeding well. Making a nuisance of itself hopping all over my study. Very nearly a fledgling (perhaps it was on its first flight) so it shouldn’t be in care long, assuming it survives the encounter with the deadly cat’s mouth bacteria. In fact, I tried to give it back to its parents twice by putting it on branches near the nest, but he couldn’t quite make his way home. When I brought him in the first time, I thought the cold had done for him and it was quite a while before I got him hopping and chirping again.
I can roughly make out where the nest is, but I can’t possibly get there because it’s very high and the fruit cage is in the way. Parents followed me all around the garden all day calling me the worst names they could think of.
Anyhoo, he’s a baby Common Blackbird (Turdus merula). This is a completely different bird than the New World blackbirds of home. In case you ever wondered why the Beatles wrote a pretty lilting song about a bird that goes SKWA, Eurasian blackbirds don’t go SKWA. They have one of the nicest calls going. Check out their Wikipedia page for a couple of examples.
Have a good weekend, folks, and send nice thoughts to the little birdie.
May 2, 2014 — 10:22 pm
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