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Science is wild

We recorded 333 high-frequency vocalisations from 13 Holstein-Friesian heifers during oestrus and anticipation of feed (putatively positive), as well as denied feed access and upon both physical and physical & visual isolation from conspecifics (putatively negative). We measured 21 source-related and nonlinear vocal parameters and stepwise discriminant function analyses (DFA) were performed. Calls were divided into positive (n = 170) and negative valence (n = 163) with each valence acting as a ‘training set’ to classify calls in the oppositely valenced ‘test set’.

Did you get that? Researchers recorded cows mooing. Horny cows, hungry cows about to be fed, hungry cows not about to be fed and lonely cows. They analyzed them by cow and state of mind (‘valence’ in this context meaning mood). They wanted to know if cows have individual voices, and if those voices remain individually recognizable no matter how the cow is feeling.

Spoiler: they do.

Oddly enough, science is only beginning to explore domestic animals and livestock in this sort of way. I have thunk long and hard about chicken toys, and keeping chickens amused. Not so much for my own flock, which gets regular free range time and a view of the garden when they’re penned up, but I’d like commercial flocks to have happier lives. I like eating chicken and I’d like to feel less shit about that.

Pro tip: ‘animal welfare’ people are the ones trying to make livestock happier. ‘Animal rights’ people are the nutters who think monkeys have human rights and domestic animals are traitors for working with people.

p.s. the cow study was in Australia.

January 15, 2020 — 9:14 pm
Comments: 7

Purty

This is neat. Spanish photographer takes high resolution video of birds in flight and isolates the birds from the landscape. He uses movie cameras and slow motion and films them for several days before picking the image apart in Photoshop.

His name is Xavi Bou and if you click that link, it’ll take you to a Google Images search of his name. Do go look; my little black and white photos don’t half do him justice.

I love watching birds in flight. I could do it for hours.

But tonight, the storm rages, so I’d best be off. Go look at pretty pictures.

January 14, 2020 — 7:26 pm
Comments: 14

But wait! There’s more!

Last one! Meet the test egg. I usually call her Baby.

My incubator came before my Ebay eggs and I wanted to test out the functions, so I pinched an egg from my own flock to experiment with.

Incubators do three things: heat, humidity and turn the eggs regularly. Well, some of them don’t do that last thing and you have to do it by hand, but I got a good one. 100% hatch, y’all.

When the eggs came and it was all ready to go, I thought “what the heck?” and left the test egg in with the others. I really didn’t think, after all the handling, it would hatch.

I was very excited when I candled the eggs on day 7 and Baby was swimming around inside. Yes, they do that. Freaked me right out.

So this is the child of Sam and Millie. He’s off-white, she’s mille fleur and Baby is the same silver color as Spoon. Chicken genetics are very complicated.

She’s much smaller than the polands. She’s smaller than the other pekins, even (she came from a tiny egg from a young hen, so it’s not surprising). But she can see and the polands can’t, so she runs rings around them. And me. Flighty little miss.

And that is my flock: nine chickens. Four male, five female. Four pekins, five polands. I have comfortable accommodations for six, so things are a little tight.

Back to normal next week, but I got one more weekend and I’m going to laze right through it. Happy Friday!

January 3, 2020 — 8:15 pm
Comments: 8

My girl

This is my girl Spoon. She’s my favorite chicken, though goodness knows why. She’s almost been the death of me twice.

She went through a phase where she had to sleep as high up as possible. This meant me, with chest infection, hauling myself up a ladder to retrieve her from the roof of the garage. Next, she got so far up the roof of the house that I had to knock her off with a stick and catch her in mid-air. (I couldn’t really leave her to come down on her own. She would have fluttered down at dawn and been easy pickings for senor fox).

Spoon gets locked in early now.

There was nothing written on her shell and I was kind of named out. She’s an overall silvery color. I was going to go with Sterling, but I thought that was a dumb name for a chicken, so Spoon it is.

Chicken folk call this color ‘self blue’. Self, because her crest is the same color as her body, and the silvery color is bluish, I guess. I forgot to mention yesterday that Albert is a white-crested blue.

If you’re keeping count, that’s the three pekins and the six polands accounted for.

January 2, 2020 — 7:50 pm
Comments: 3

Saved the big boy for New Year’s Day

The fourth and final cockerel: Albert. You get a sense of the scale of him standing next to Po. He was always double the size of the other chicks; I’m not convinced he’s a bantam. Bear in mind this was months ago, he’s much bigger and shaggier now.

He did actually have Pol written on his shell, and that’s what I called him until he developed that giant, preposterous white crest.

You’d think being such a great hulk he could defend himself, but no. Before I had to separate the boys completely, I would frequently come out to find Albert missing. The pekin boys would have chased him right out of the garden, and I had to trudge around the neighborhood in welly boots calling his name, to find him standing someplace awkward, patiently waiting for me. It usually involved stinging nettles.

He’s a sweetheart, but he’s too big for my flock. Too big for the girls, too big for the cages. I had someone lined up to take him, but she had another cockerel foisted on her the week before. It didn’t work out.

I do the best that I can for him, but it’s awkward.

p.s. he goose-steps.

sock it to me

January 1, 2020 — 7:39 pm
Comments: 3

The Chicken of New Year’s Eve

This is Po. Guess what was written on his eggshell? Though why you would need to note the egg was a poland when it seemed polands were all the seller kept, I do not know.

Looking at his beautiful round crest, you’d be forgiven for thinking he’s a hen. In fact, as I mentioned earlier, all my birds were misidentified as hens at this age and I breathed a sigh of relief.

He later developed the spikey ‘potted palm’ hairdo and the male saddle and sickle feathers. His color is called white-crested cuckoo. Yes, his crest went white.

The smallest of my boys, he has a thin and squeaky crow but makes an astonishing range of quiet verbalizations as he pecks around the garden. Squeaks. Trills. A funny sort of clicking or purring. I do wonder what he’s trying to say.

 

 

Welp, here we are at the ass-end of 2019 and I don’t really know what to say about it. Some bad things happened, but we are solvent and well and I’m afraid to complain for as long as those two things are true.

Best wishes for the preposterously named ‘2020’ and we’ll see you on the other side of the fireworks!

December 31, 2019 — 6:40 pm
Comments: 15

Monday’s chook is full of woe…

This is Rackets, the first of the boys. You can see his crest is just starting to get loosey (when mature, the girls have afros and the boys look like potted palms). Not long after this picture was taken, I found him unresponsive in the grass and he died an hour or so later. No idea why. Very sad.

One lady on the chicken forums said she gave up on polands because they always reached two months old and fell over dead. I suppose I should be grateful it was only the one.

He was chamois colored, like Chel — the only color to repeat — but there wasn’t anything written on his shell, so I named him after Nick Rekieta.

If you don’t know the name, Nick Rekieta is a small-town lawyer with a YouTube channel. He occasionally does short explainers (here’s a good one on impeachment), but his stock in trade is live streams that go on for hours while he drinks whisky and reads lawsuits line by line. It’s surprisingly interesting.

It takes twenty-one days for a chicken egg to develop and hatch, and the incubator sat on my desk the whole time listening to Rekieta (AKA Rackets). When little Rackets hatched, it looked for all the world like he was trying to follow the sound.

Which…I dunno…could be. They learn in the shell, and mother talks to them when hatching time is near. I’d like to think he imprinted on Racket’s voice.

I’d also prefer he hadn’t died.

December 30, 2019 — 8:22 pm
Comments: 7

Happy 27th, which has no significance at all

Another pretty girl. She had “ch” written on her shell which, I correctly guessed, stands for chamois. So her name is Chel (like the Portal character; I’ve always assumed that’s short for Michelle).

To answer the question I’m sure you’ve asked by now, no. They don’t see very well at all. When they panic (which is often) they zoom around and bump into things. The pekins take terrible advantage of them.

I honestly can’t tell if they’re crazy and stupid or just blind.

I tried trimming their crests around their eyes, which helped a little. But it takes patience and a long time holding a chicken on your lap waiting for an opportunity (they hate having their crests touched), which I have not been willing to do in December rain.

Yes, it’s still raining. Yes, I’m going mental. It was glorious and sunny on Christmas Day and only on Christmas Day (a true xmas miracle) but it’s gone right back to shit ‘n’ chips.

These are pictures from Summer. There is nothing sadder and more hang-dog than a wet poland.

December 27, 2019 — 6:00 pm
Comments: 18

Happy Boxing Day!

Our Christmas was lovely. Our Christmas dinner exceptionally nice. We mostly gave each other things to keep warm, like nice socks, and we were happy with that. We R old.

So, anyhoo — TADA! I finally got those poland bantams I’ve always wanted. I had to make ’em myself. I bought an incubator and six hatching eggs off Ebay. Everyone reassured me they wouldn’t all hatch.

Spoiler: they all hatched.

The problem with polands is that you can’t tell the males and females apart until they’re at least two months old. In fact, I posted pictures of mine at eight weeks to a chicken forum and several experienced poland keepers told me they were all female.

Spoiler: they weren’t.

Some of the eggs had a scrawl on the bottom to indicate what they were, so I named them based on that. The is G at eight weeks old. She’s a Golden laced poland bantam.

And she’s a very pretty girl, too, but frutty as a nootcake.

December 26, 2019 — 6:20 pm
Comments: 18

I’m dreaming of a white chicken…

Baby Sam wishes you the merriest of Christmases!

December 25, 2019 — 12:00 pm
Comments: 11