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Running late tonight, so I shall leave you with this lovely picture of Violence, which I believe Uncle B took a couple of weeks ago. She looks so coy, and her feathery feet are shown to especial advantage here.

She doesn’t actually look like this at the moment. They’re all molting. They look half plucked. They’re crabby as hell and they look like shit. It’s kind of late in the year for this, but we’re having an unseasonably warm November, so I think their little internal chikken clocks are all messed up.

I try to cheer them up with chikken treats, but if I stick my hand near this one, the pecking starts. We don’t call her Violence for nothing.

Looks like there was a pillow fight with casualties in the hen house.

sock it to me

November 12, 2015 — 11:13 pm
Comments: 10

Somebody else’s cock


This handsome dude is from the animal sanctuary open day we went to Sunday. The place is largely devoted to cats (the dogs are in a separate compound), but there are dozens of chikkens milling around in the open, standing on things, pecking stuff.

He’s a Pekin bantam, like our girls, but I’m not much interested in having one. We had a bantam rooster when I was a kid (or a “banty rooster”, as my mother called him and any other arrogant little man). They have a high-pitched crow that can strip wallpaper.

Somebody asked about my flock. They are currently molting, thanks very much, so they are unsightly and pissy and not laying. Mine never totally molt, but the girl who’s laid the best that Summer always loses the most feathers. That would be Violence this year.

As she is off-white (technically a lavender, but really just a dirty white), the inside of the chicken run looks like somebody’s had a massive pillow fight.

Don’t forget, the Perseid meteor showers peak tonight. This is the best one. We were out watching until the bats came out to play.

sock it to me

August 12, 2015 — 9:34 pm
Comments: 5

Big bird


Artist unknown. I did try.

An emu shut down the A21 in Sedlescombe today. They got it penned in a field, but they still haven’t found who it belongs to.

Used to be a flock near us, now gone. I wonder if whoever it was sold it on.

Anyhoo, the article makes a remark about Rob Hull. He was a British comedian of the Seventies who…had an emu. You kind of have to see it.

Here he explains how to groom an emu. Here’s something a bit more camp, if you like that. British talk show host Michael Parkinson once bitterly remarked that, for all his long career, he would mostly be remembered being knocked out of his chair by emu.

Fun fact: later in life, Hull came to resent emu bitterly. Because that’s what people who perform with dummies always do.

In 1999, Hull climbed up on the roof to adjust his TV aerial, slipped and fell through a greenhouse and died. He was survived by emu.

sock it to me

July 23, 2015 — 10:36 pm
Comments: 6

This crazy ass bird


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…

sock it to me

June 26, 2015 — 10:28 pm
Comments: 14

Release the quacken!

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!

sock it to me

June 9, 2015 — 9:42 pm
Comments: 11

As usual, Violence is the answer

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.

sock it to me

June 3, 2015 — 9:49 pm
Comments: 12

Chikken practical jokes

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.

sock it to me

May 20, 2015 — 8:49 pm
Comments: 13

Chicken update

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.

sock it to me

April 27, 2015 — 9:49 pm
Comments: 8

I’ll see your woodpecker-riding weasel…

Nope. Not my work. Oh, also there is this (which is apparently real).

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.

sock it to me

March 12, 2015 — 10:19 pm
Comments: 12

Don’t touch our ‘Butthole’, say residents

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.

sock it to me

March 10, 2015 — 11:05 pm
Comments: 9