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Lookit the fuzzy distraction

Sam as a newly-hatched chick. I’d like to call your attention to the tiny fuzzy claw hooked over my little finger. Even at this age, pekin chickens have feathery feet.

I’m having some trouble adjusting to my regular working schedule after all this time. You mean, I have to go in to work tomorrow? But I went in to work today!

July 8, 2021 — 8:11 pm
Comments: 8

Happy hatchday, boys!

My two pekin cockerels. The one on the right was hatched on the Fourth of July, which is why he’s named Sam. The one on the left is named Mo because he was originally named Molly and he let me down. He hatched a few days earlier than Sam. My first ever home grown chick, in fact.

I asked our good old country vet if he would neuter them for me. He refused. The one time he tried it, he said, the bird died on the operating table. Apparently, chicken kidneys are very close to chicken gonads. Makes you wonder how French farmer’s wives have managed to grow capons all these generations.

This picture was taken, obviously, before these two became blood enemies. That happened suddenly one day when they were about 18 months old. One afternoon Mo, number two cockerel, decided he was number one cockerel and kicked the shit out of poor Sam. I didn’t know what had happened until Sam turned up missing at roll call. Eventually, he came out of the bushes the muddiest, bloodiest chicken you ever saw. No real harm done, but he was it was a sorry sight.

If you can’t see what’s going on here, Mo is having a happy dust bath in a pot of soil – one of the many, many things my chickens do to annoy Uncle B.

Hope you had a great Fourth. I went back to work today – officially off furlough – so I has a sad, as the meme cats say.

July 5, 2021 — 5:31 pm
Comments: 11

Then there’s this garden drama

In this hole, there lives a chicken. At least, I hope she’s still there – I haven’t seen her today.

She’s a jaunty little orange poland hen who vanished over the weekend, presumed devoured. But then she appeared briefly the next morning, nervous and starving hungry, before zooming out of reach and disappearing. Same again the following afternoon.

Broody! I knew they had a hidden place they were laying eggs (I get more eggs when they’re locked up), but I’ve looked all over and couldn’t find it. I finally managed to follow her back to this hole.

It goes way back and is too small for the fox (I hope). It’s covered in layers of brushwood. I think she’s okay in there.

It’s about six feet from the bin that It raids at night

But here’s my dilemma: I’m pretty sure she’s sitting on duds. They’ve been laying there (or somewhere hidden) for months. And, anyway, if they aren’t duds, the LAST thing I need are more chickens. Giving them away wouldn’t be easy, either – they’re mixed breed mongrels and chicken keepers are snooty about that.

I could try to catch her and snap her out of it, but it’s awfully distressing for the chicken. Not to mention the eggs, if they’ve started to germinate.

Pekins go broody at the drop of a hat – they’re famous for it – and I have plenty of experience shooing them off empty nesting boxes. But this girl is not a pekin. She is serious, is sitting on actual eggs, and has a shot at being a mama. I really hate to interfere.

One way or t’other, we’ll know on the 4th of July.

June 23, 2021 — 6:46 pm
Comments: 15

Werewolf, probably

This is the bin I keep my chicken food in. It’s large and has clips on either end. Something has been raiding it for a week. Something big.

I didn’t think much of it at first. I assumed whateveritis would sample chicken pellets, go “ew” and leave them alone, but the bastard has developed a taste for them. Three days ago, it tore the lid off and left the bin open to the rain all night. I woke up to a brand new 20 kilo bag of layer’s pellets soaked into a foot-thick layer of disgusting slush.

So yesterday I hauled my old CCTV cameras and set them up. That sounds simple, doesn’t it? Let’s leave it at that.

Now we wait.

In Britain, it can really only be a fox or a badger. There just aren’t that many large mammals left here. It seems too strong for a fox, but not destructive enough for a badger. Suspense.

I remember now why I stopped using the CCTV: I feel compelled to stare at it all the time.

June 22, 2021 — 6:56 pm
Comments: 17

Chicken talk

That’s my best boy Mo, doing the doodle-doo.

In the thread below, tomfrompv linked to this interesting article about chicken language. Any holdouts who think the noises chickens make aren’t intelligible speech…well, they don’t keep chickens. That’s all I can say.

The article says there are 25 recognisable ‘words’ in the chicken language, but the chickenology course I took made it 50. It’s a lot, anyway.

The “look, especially delicious food!” sound they describe as tuk-tuk I would say is more like chort! A good rooster makes that sound to call the hens over when he finds a rotten log covered in ants, f’rexample. My two pekin boys do it regularly, but the poland boys never. Sam has been known to make the sound when there’s no interesting food there at all, which I guess is some kind of performance anxiety. The hens come running, anyhow.

Sometimes a hen will accidentally chort! over a treat, and then look around furtively hoping nobody noticed. Hens are greedy.

I heard on Radio 4 once (and you know it’s true because Radio 4) that chickens are the only animal we know of that has a word for you, their owner, which they teach to any new chickens coming in. The word for me is buh-BAH-buhbuhbuh. They do it when they catch sight of me. I was annoyed to find they do it for Uncle B, too, so it’s just their generic word for ‘person’. Boo. Don’t they know I am their deity?

The egg song is famous, though my poland girls don’t sing it. Or make that contented meeping sound through their noses while they peck around in the garden. Always sounded like monkey noises to me. The polands aren’t nearly as vocal.

Except for Po the poland cockerel, who makes the most extraordinary trills and squeaks and whistles for no apparent reason. Sam the pekin makes a sort of purring noise when he’s frustrated. It’s actually the chicken version of vocal fry. Sam also whimpers when I put him away, which makes me feel awful.

As for the cock-a-doodle-doo, let’s not go there. I have four of the buggers at it right this minute. I’m the most popular girl in all the land.

May 4, 2021 — 8:36 pm
Comments: 5

Poland Express ready for takeoff

My boy Po flapping his flappers.

It was nice out today. Warm in the sun, still cold in the shade.

I tried chasing the chickens around the garden with the lawnmower, but my mower is unwell. It’s the first mow of the year and motor catches but peters out immediately.

I know not to put old gas in it (it goes off), though there was a little bit left from last year. I’m now working on the theory the air filter is clogged. I have washed it and am waiting for it to dry. That gives me at least one more day of not mowing the stupid lawn.

HELLO WORLD. LISTEN TO ME BITCH ABOUT MY LAWNMOWER.

April 27, 2021 — 8:14 pm
Comments: 11

Nice old bird

Meet my friend’s new pet turkey. I won’t tell you her name, because they have as a family, like, six or eight different names they call her.

She turned up at a nearby biker cafe. She was very friendly and the bikers fed her french fries all day. She’s had a wing clipped, so she was definitely domestic and probably a pet.

How she came to my friend, I didn’t catch, but she really was a sweetie. Best friends with the remaining chicken (they have a fox problem). Definitely not destined for the pot.

She made funny keening noises, not at all like gobbles. And graciously accepted hugs (not from me. I can’t imagine hugging a turkey).

I didn’t tell them what we’re having for Easter supper.

April 1, 2021 — 7:51 pm
Comments: 7

Bantam, my ass

My littlest chicken next to my biggest. Don’t worry about her, she’s quick and agile and more than capable of avoiding surprise chicken sex from that hulking lummox.

It was a GLORIOUS day here today. Sunny, not a cloud, getting near 70F. I sat in the garden most of the day, soaking it up.

I discovered an Ipheion uniflorum growing wild. No, no…don’t worry. I’m still allergic to horticulture. I looked it up with Google Lens.

Maybe everybody knew this, but I’ve just discovered that Lens – an app most known for reading QR codes – will identify plants for you. Take a snapshot, tap the Lens button, and it makes its best guess. I used it to figure out who the survivors are in the herb garden.

Here’s the thing about our little flower friend, though. How the hell did it get there? It’s growing out of a crack in the sidewalk. Wikipedia tells me the variety was brought to the UK in 1820 from somewhere near Buenos Aires and it’s grown from a bulb. We’ve been here 14 years and we didn’t plant it.

How in the Sam Hill did this bulb get under our pavement?

March 30, 2021 — 7:55 pm
Comments: 7

She did it again

Only this time, she was so high in the tree I couldn’t get her down. I had to leave her up there. It was the coldest night of the Winter so far, so I kept tiptoeing out to check on her. Then I got up at first light to check on her again.

When I got home from work in the afternoon, she was STILL up there. So I got on a ladder, used the extended loppers to clear a path, poked her in the chest with a garden hoe until she climbed aboard, and gave her a gentle elevator ride to the ground.

I feel like I’ve been beaten up. All that exertion with my arms over my head, you see.

Well, she’ll get her comeuppance. We’re entering a complete poultry lockdown in a week. Bird flu. Yes, it includes tiny backyard flocks.

It’s to minimize contact between livestock and wild birds, who spread it across nations. We’ve done a full lockdown once before while I’ve kept chickens.

It was miserable. They bitched all day long.

December 7, 2020 — 6:31 pm
Comments: 12

Who is the most difficult chicken in the land?

Spoon.

It’s always Spoon.

She’s been on the roof of the garage and the roof of the house. She got so far up a climbing rose, I had to trim it to a stump to get to her. She spent the night in a hedge once. When she vanished this afternoon, I thought there was a good chance she was up a tree somewhere.

And so she was. On the other side of the hedge, in the field next door, jussssst high enough I couldn’t cut her down with the loppers. In the end, at the absolute upper end of my reach, I managed to coax her onto the blade of a hoe and lower her gently to the ground. I think I stressed my sternum.

She would have been safe enough in the tree overnight, if a bit chilly. It’s when she came down at the crack of dawn that’s the problem. Chickens who go into that field often don’t come back.

Have a good weekend and look out for Spoon!

December 4, 2020 — 4:34 pm
Comments: 11