Oh, I’m sorry — I have let you down. I could’ve done a really gay Photoshop or something, but I got totally distracted reading news today. From the terrorist attack in Tunisia (who the hell would vacation in Tunisia these days?) to the beheading in France right through to our very gay Supreme Court. I think I’m in love with Antonin Scalia. No homo.
Seriously, that’s not homo. We’re the opposite secks.
Anyway, by way of apology, here’s a picture of my crazy-ass chicken Mapp. She’s my elderly hen, over five years old (I’ve read various accounts of how long a pekin bantam might live, and I think six is about it). I know why she’s lived this long — she never lays me any fucking eggs.
Every year, just as laying season starts (mine only lay in Summer), she goes broody. Sits on an empty nest, refuses to budge, tries to hatch thin air. Screams like a little girl when you pick her up. They don’t lay when they’re broody.
First year she did this I thought she was egg bound, which can be fatal. So I tried all sorts of folk remedies including floating her in a bucket of warm soapy water and lubricating her vent with olive oil, an afternoon both of us would surely like to but never shall forget.
I stopped trying to break her of it. I roust her off the nest a couple of times a day and make her eat something and otherwise leave her to it. When laying season is over, she’ll pick herself up, dust herself off and act like nothing happened.
Hm. Perhaps not such a cray bird after all.
Good weekend, and stay away from the gloating lefties! The worm will turn…
June 26, 2015 — 10:28 pm
That’s not my joke, that’s his joke. The man who owns these ducks.
The summer fête season is upon us. This was taken at the first one in our annual calendar, in fact. Most of them have a show ring and various entertainments, and trained herd dogs are a regular feature.
This guy was good. He had an experienced dog (seven years in training) and a rescue dog (less than a year) and he was using them to herd a dozen ducks through a series of ramps and obstacle courses.
The new dog was very good, bless her heart. Not as good as the old hand but holding her own. The trainer said the experienced dog thinks nothing of rounding up a flock of 500 sheep all by himself.
He had some interesting observations. Like, if your dog runs off and you yell at him when he comes back, he’ll think you didn’t want him to come back and eventually he’ll run away for good. Also, he never trains dogs with food rewards. He doesn’t want them doing their job for pay, he wants them to work out of pride and a place in the pack. He’s obviously put a lot of thought into this.
Anyway, it’s Summer — stand by for livestock posts!
June 9, 2015 — 9:42 pm
Ladies and gentlemen, my one functional hen.
My flock is down to three, and two of my nutty birds have decided they’re going to be mamas. Not only do I not have a rooster, they aren’t sitting on any eggs, but don’t try explaining reproductive biology to a chikken. It always ends in tears.
They stopped laying and sit on each other in the nest box all day, screaming and poofing themselves up to improbable size when you raise the lid. I lift them out several times a day, put them in the warm grass and give them a handful of food. They are quite capable of doing this until they totally lose condition, if not starve to death. Bantams are famous for going hardcore broody.
Leaving this poor bird on her ownsome. Her name was originally Violet, but we changed it to Violence when it became clear she had serious anger management issues. She’s been known to fly clear across the lawn just to deliver that good peck on the foot we all know I so richly deserve.
No more. I think she must be lonely without her chikken buddies. She does a little dance when I walk up, a little dance that used to be a precursor to some serious beak action but now appears to be something approaching delight. It looks something like a honeybee’s waggle dance, but I don’t think she’s trying to tell me anything.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Weasel, this is an awfully grainy picture to come out of your fancy new birthday camera.” Well, let me tell you something, Mister Smarty: this is a teeny tiny section from the middle of the picture, at 100% zoom. Quite extraordinary.
June 3, 2015 — 9:49 pm
What the hell, girls? This thing was on the floor of the henhouse, not in the nest, so I suppose there’s an outside chance some passing robin snuck in and laid it (European robin’s eggs are not robin’s egg blue). But it looks exactly like one of theirs, only stupidly small.
I think I’ll keep it.
Posted in response to this picture kindly sent to me by Clifford Scridlow. It’s a nice try, dude, but I think shame is outside a chicken’s emotional repertoire.
Spare me a thought. I’m going in tomorrow. I don’t feel too bad, but I’m a thoroughly disgusting gurgling water feature on legs. I’ve packed an entire roll of paper towels in my bag.
May 20, 2015 — 8:49 pm
Nothing going on today, so I might as well give you a chicken update. Been a while.
I lost this girl for an hour today. Beautiful Vita. Beautiful, sweet, shy Vita. Beautiful, sweet, shy, stupid Vita. My heart goes out to this bird.
The other girls still pick on her. Not as bad as when Lucia ruled the garden with an iron beak, but after the untimely death of Maggie and Coco, Vita is back at the very bottom of the pecking order. She regularly gets her neck feathers yanked and a sharp peck about her person.
When she went missing, I wasn’t too unduly worried. She sometimes wanders off by herself and has a solitary dustbath on her ownsome. She looks so blissful all by herself in the sun. I eventually found her ’round the back of the house standing on a chair in a sort of chicken trance. I’d like to make it up to her with special favors and treats, but she’s scareder of me than she is the other chickens.
They’ve only just started laying again — yesterday was my first three-egg day of the season. They’re probably enough to keep me in eggs, bless ’em, but I can’t help thinking three isn’t much of a flock.
April 27, 2015 — 9:49 pm
We’re starting to see the new lambs appearing in the fields, which cheers me up no end. We haven’t had a bad Winter at all (sorry ‘Merkins), but I’m still ready to see it go.
March 12, 2015 — 10:19 pm
Yeah. Actual headline. I only posted it for that. I suppose I could do a post on funny English road names, but that’s been done to death.
So, instead, I’m going to post about corvids. Couple of weeks ago, the BBC ran a story about a little girl in Seattle who leaves food for the crows. They pay her back in bits of junk and shiny trinkets.
At the end of the story, they asked readers for any similar experiences and got back some amazing stories. All of them were crows, I think. Worth a read.
We had a couple of pet crows when I was little. My mother was good with animals, so we had lots of them. The crows really impressed me as personalities — smart and alert and a little wicked. They loved to tease the cats.
It’s very birdy where we live now, including a lively colony of rooks. I like the rooks. A few years ago, I was walking home along a busy road and I spotted a rook on the sidewalk. Or maybe a crow. Not sure. Anyway, it was limping badly; it had probably been grazed by a car.
I thought, “awwww…I will throw my coat over him and take him home and nurse him back to health and we’ll be bestest of friends.” I took one step in its direction and it squawked and flew straight into the path of a gravel truck and disappeared in a cloud of feathers and red mist.
I still feel shit.
March 10, 2015 — 11:05 pm
This handsome beast is a breed of chicken known as an ayam cemani (photo stolen from site at link). His feathers are black, his comb and wattles are black, his beak is black, his tongue is black, his feet are black, the ‘white’s of his eyes are black. His flesh is black, the meat on his bones is black, the bones are black. His blood and organs are not black, but they are very dark in color.
It’s an Indonesian breed and, as you might imagine, there are all sorts of legends about the mystical nature of this bird and its flesh in his homeland. Very scarce in the West still, but very desirable among chickenophiles at the moment.
I’m not thinking of getting any. I just thought you might be interested in the new hotness for poultry lovers.
I was crushed when I realized the very first post of 2015 was not to be the Dead Pool. I miscalculated and thought it was. Never mind, never mind. Tomorrow. 6pm WBT. Dead Pool 72!
January 1, 2015 — 9:55 pm
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