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The Oven Roaster of Turin

broilerofturin

Went to put the Sunday roast pan in the dishwasher — and behold was revealed unto me in the grease thereof the divine image of…a roast chicken, basically. Look at it.

In one of my (many, many) Facebook chicken groups, someone posted that she’d bought two chickens from a local small breeder. A couple of months later, she bought another from the same breeder. The third chicken was the chick of one of the first two and she was astounded when mother and daughter recognized each other and were happy to see each other.

I swear, I’ll end up vegan. Or a Jain.

If only chicken weren’t so gosh darned delicious.

February 20, 2017 — 8:08 pm
Comments: 13

Transgendered chicken edition

suitchicken

Not my artwork. Reverse image search doesn’t tell me the illustrator either. This drives artists crazy – the internet is great at disseminating art, but not so great at making that work for artists.

If you hang around chicken groups long enough, somebody is bound to tell you the story of a hen that turned into a rooster. Not just a lead chicken getting bossy, as they nearly all do, but literally turning into a rooster, with a comb and a crow and everything. I was agnostic on the subject.

Then I accidentally stumbled over an article that explains it. A bit. It’s kind of short.

A female bird has two ovaries, but normally only uses the left one. If that ovary is damaged — say by an infection — the right ovary becomes active. It can happen to any bird, apparently.

But the right ovary produces more testosterone. There’s a political joke in there somewhere, I feel sure.

So the affected bird stops laying (usually) and grows male plumage. There’s a lovely picture at the link of a peahen with the full peacock deal going on. They become sterile – or, at least, never fully develop as males. In one example, the male who favored her continued to court her after the chance. What a puzzled bird that must be.

I wish there was more there on behavior. It’s hard to imagine an evolutionary reason for a useless backup ovary, unless the man-hen maybe takes a role in protecting the flock.

At the bottom of that article is a link to a scan of another article about a particular gender bending hen. The expert quoted says the right ovary actually becomes a testicle, but she also says “A whistling woman and a crowing hen are neither fit for God nor men” is in the Bible. It is not.

Good weekend, all!

January 27, 2017 — 9:33 pm
Comments: 19

…and her name was Lorelai…

turkey

I shit you not, this is printed on the bag our Christmas turkey is in. I’m all for animal welfare, but I kind of feel bad for cutting this bird down in the prime of her life. She was having such a lovely time.

More on “high welfare” farming here.

Don’t forget — back here tomorrow 6WBT for Dead Pool Round 93!

December 22, 2016 — 10:21 pm
Comments: 15

QUARANTINE!

quarantine

Well, hell. It’s not going to be a very Merry Christmas for my girls, looks like. DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) has today issued a 30-day no-free-range order across England (other parts of the UK have their own separate governing bodies).

The Government Chief Vet has declared a Prevention Zone introducing enhanced biosecurity requirements for poultry and captive birds, helping protect them from a strain of avian flu circulating in mainland Europe. The zone covers England and will remain in place for 30 days.

Keepers of poultry and other captive birds are now required to keep their birds indoors, or take appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds.

Outbreaks of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (H5N8) have been confirmed in poultry and wild birds in several countries across Europe. No cases of H5N8 have been found in the UK and this order is a precautionary measure to help prevent potential infection from wild birds.

There’s no keeping ours inside, and it’s impossible to keep them entirely separate from wild birds. We live in an incredibly birdy area — by design. We’re a designated habitat for all sorts of birds, particularly ground-nesting waterfowl. They pay the farmers around here to make conditions hospitable (and when you pay a farmer for a thing, you’re bound to get a hell of a lot of it). But I’ll have to put a crimp in their free ranging for a miserable month. Poor little pecker-heads.

If you want to know more from DEFRA about the outbreak, click the link above or here.

Anybody know where I can get some xylophones?

December 6, 2016 — 9:56 pm
Comments: 11

LOOK AT THESE CHIKKENS!

polands

Just LOOK at them! The breed is (usually) called Polish in the US, or Polands in Europe. Also sometimes Pols, which is closer to the thing. Calm down, mein Führer, they don’t (probably) have any relationship to actual Poland. It’s a very old breed and the name likely comes from the Middle Dutch word Pols, which meant “head.” Because duh.

And yes, they bump into things if you don’t trim around their eyes. Though I saw one lady who hated to trim and gathered the feathers up in a hipster topknot with a teeny, tiny rubber band instead. It was adorable.

Yeah, I want one of these in the worst way. I haven’t worked out yet if they come in a Pekin bantam variant — little chicken, feathery feet — except possibly as an accidental crossbreed. I shall investigate. Anyway, I promised Uncle B our next birds would be lemon cuckoos, which are a pretty little Pekin bantam. Very fat and sweet tempered.

I wonder if I could persuade someone to breed me a Polish lemon cuckoo. Hell, that would be worth doing for the name alone.

Anyway, I bring this up because I was looking for a picture of a chicken skull (as you do) and I found this picture of what a Poland’s head bones look like. I thought it was a diseased chicken at first.

Whatever they keep in that thing, it’s probably not brains.

November 16, 2016 — 10:22 pm
Comments: 20

Now, how do I change the subject?

xylophone

Ah, yes…chickens playing the xylophone. No, no link. Unfortunately, it’s a FaceBook video — I refuse to link to ’em, and I can’t find this particular video elsewhere. Never mind. If you enter “chickens xylophone” into YouTube, you will find literally minutes of wholesome entertainment.

Chickens like sounds. They will return again and again to peck things that have no food value but make an interesting noise, like empty buckets, wooden gates or my banjo.

So anyway, I have thoroughly enjoyed the political salt storm this week. I intend to continue enjoying (and probably posting about it) for some time to come. But, let’s face it, it’s politics — if you get pulled in too far, it will always break your heart.

No hostages to fortune.


p.s. Tell me electric blanket stories. We bought an expensive one last year, got a whole luxuriant season out of it, fired it up this year and…control burnout. To be fair, I think the big fat cat napping on it during the heat-up cycle tripped the heat sensor — but it’s a lousy failsafe design that permanently breaks when overheated. Any advice?

November 14, 2016 — 7:25 pm
Comments: 19

Pitiful.

molting

This woeful beastie is Mapp Chicken, today. I really should have snapped a photo a couple of days ago — you can see here, the pinfeathers are already well grown on her neck. Monday, her neck was as nekkid as an oven-ready broiler.

And her tail! Just a sad nub of pink flesh (that thing we call the Preacher’s Nose and the Brits call the Parson’s Nose – or is it the other way around?).

Reminder: Mapp as she was meant to be. Sexy, sexy bird.

Molting is triggered by the first cold snap. It signals chickens to stop laying eggs, drop their feathers and divert all the protein they would have devoted to egg-laying into feather-building. It means they’re all fully feathered up and cozy by the time the real cold weather hits.

But it also means they face the first cold of the season part naked with uncomfortable quills sticking out of their tender places. They’re cranky as shit.

Which birds molt and how completely is affected by a variety of factors. It’s a rule of thumb that the better the layer, the more quickly and thoroughly the molt. Commercial layers — the kind bred to lay an egg a day for the first year — apparently lose them all at once, overnight. You go down in the morning and find a coop full of feathers and a bunch of joke shop rubber chickens on the perch.

Think of that, and this picture when you see photos of ‘abused’ birds from factory farms — this is what even a pampered family pet looks like during a partial molt.

Good weekend, and keep yer feathers on!

October 21, 2016 — 7:39 pm
Comments: 14

Infinite are the arguments of chicken keepers

pumpkin

It’s that time of year again: the time when hippie chicken keepers claim that pumpkin is a natural chicken de-wormer. According to this bomb thrown into the Keeping Poultry at Home forum, probably not. Though, having read the article, I think the most you can say is not proven. Still, everyone’s chickens love pumpkins, so why not?

Except mine. My flock has an irrational fear of large, frightening vegetables. I hung a cabbage in their run once (a thing you’re supposed to do to keep them amused) and they didn’t come out of the henhouse for three days. Until I made the horrible thing go away.

A big orange beachball puking seeds would probably give them avian PTSD.

October 11, 2016 — 6:42 pm
Comments: 8

The lean season is upon us

buttercup The old girls have stopped laying completely. The young ones have banked it down. Six chickens, one egg a day.

To be fair, head chicken is molting, headcase chicken never lays more than a dozen a year and I don’t know what’s wrong with Vita. I switched from pellets to crumb and that didn’t work out so good, so I’ve switched back.

The cold is upon us and there are feathers everywhere.

Here’s a nice little article from Modern Farmer on the Inner Lives of Chickens.

Do Chickens Have Feelings?

Yes, says British researcher Jo Edgar, who determined that hens, at least, experience empathy. He designed an experiment that simulated chick stress and found that the mother hens behaved as if they themselves were experiencing the pain—a classic sign of empathy. Chickens are also known to display mourning behavior when another chicken in the flock dies, and they will show signs of depression if they are removed from the flock and placed in solitary quarters.

Also hens are notoriously promiscuous, typically mating with several roosters at a time. They have the unique ability to eject the sperm of inferior roosters after copulation[!], however, ensuring that their genes will be coupled only with the most studly cock around.

And A surprising number of people suffer from fear of chickens, a condition known as alektorophobia. My mother-in-law is a chickenphobe. Also my nephew, which was fun — Mapp had a fine time chasing him all over the garden.

And

Recent research has shown that chickens can distinguish between more than 100 faces of their own species and of humans, so they know who you are and will remember you if you treat them badly. They’ve demonstrated complex problem-solving skills and have super-sensory powers, such as telescopic eyesight (like birds of prey) and nearly 360-degree vision (like owls). Chickens are the closest living relatives of the Tyrannosaurus rex (researchers determined this in 2007 by testing proteins from a particularly well-preserved T-rex leg bone), and they outnumber human beings on the planet 3 to 1.

So, you know. Watch yourself. The Time of Chooks may be at hand.

October 4, 2016 — 5:53 pm
Comments: 10

Not my chook

blindchook

Stole this chook off’n FaceBook. I tell you, I like FB so much more now that I’ve quietly unfollowed a bunch of people and added chicken, history and beer groups.

Anyway, this girl has just gotten back from the vet, where she was diagnosed as having gone blind. Judging from comments under the picture, this is not hugely unusual, even in otherwise healthy hens.

In any kind of serious poultry setup, such a chicken would be culled. But hobbyists will make accommodations and blind chickens can apparently do well. The important thing is putting their food, water and bedding in exactly the same place.

The most famous blind FaceBook chicken (why yes, there is such a thing) is Mumble. (Her gallery is here, but I think you have to be a FB user to see it). She was hatched entirely without eyes, which doesn’t look horrible. In fact, Mumble is weirdly cute.

Even most hobbyists would cull a seriously deformed hatchling (Mumble’s owner was advised to do so), but she seems a thriving, happy bird. She’s a year old now, I think. In that time the owner has been contacted about eight other chicks hatched in the same condition. Nature is weird.

Honestly, we should use the domestic chicken as an emblem of something. Fortitude. Placidity. Calm in the face of adversity. Just getting the hell on with it.

Anyhoo, this is a long weekend here. It’s not celebrating anything particular, it’s just known as the August Bank Holiday. And, believe it or not, it’s the last public holiday in Britain before Christmas.

These people need Thanksgiving. They could call it Hooray, We Got Rid of all those Wretched God-Botherers Day.

Good weekend!

sock it to me

August 26, 2016 — 9:25 pm
Comments: 13