Posts Tagged ‘edith’

Small flock chick­ens are never bor­ing.  If you’ve never kept them, then you prob­a­bly haven’t spent evenings like I have, sip­ping wine and watch­ing Chicken TV, as well call it—the antics of the chick­ens as they hunt for bugs, flap their wings and take dirt baths behind the lilac bush. Recently, the chicken drama here has ranged from slap­stick to tragedy, with a good deal of mys­tery in-between.

The ker­nels of dis­con­tent and upset in the coop began way back this past sum­mer when Edith went broody and hatched a lit­tle grey chick we called “Baby,” since we have zero chicken sex­ing skills. After Edith and Baby’s mater­nity leave in a sep­a­rate coop and rein­te­gra­tion into the flock, chick­ens did what chick­ens will do and tried to peck at Baby to ensure she/he knew she/he was at the bot­tom of the peck­ing order.

Baby and Edith were inseparable–and of great inter­est to the other hens.

Despite her diminu­tive size, Edith was Baby’s fierce pro­tec­tress. She and Baby cruised around the run as if teth­ered side-by-side. When any of the other chick­ens approached the pair, Edith would puff out her chest and chal­lenge the offender. Not even the enor­mous rooster T. Boone Chick­ens would cross Edith in her height­ened state of mater­nal fierce­ness. At night, Edith would tuck Ricky under her to keep him warm. When he grew too large to sit on com­fort­ably, they sat side-by-side with Edith’s wing cov­er­ing him.

All of this we/them drama did not make for a quiet and happy coop. The chick­ens seemed out of sorts. They had dif­fi­culty set­tling down at night. In the morn­ings I would find them churn­ing around in a state of agi­ta­tion. Egg pro­duc­tion dropped to near zero.

Baby grew at an amaz­ing rate. His/her fuzz was replaced by feath­ers and brown mark­ings. He/she grew speck­led feath­ers along the head and shoul­ders. Baby looked like a chicken assem­bled from spare parts.

Baby grew at an amazing rate.

Edith and Baby grad­u­ally started expand­ing the dis­tance between them as they mean­dered among the rest of the flock and Baby began the process of nego­ti­at­ing his/her place amongst the chickens.

It was dur­ing this ado­les­cent phrase that I started hav­ing grow­ing sus­pi­cions that Baby was a rooster. There would be no eggs from this chicken.

Unlike other chick­ens I had inte­grated into the flock, Baby would aggres­sively chal­lenge hens twice his size. Even though he would get a good solid warn­ing peck and would retreat, Baby would advance again. And again.

Things were heat­ing up. There was def­i­nite dis­cord in the coop. There were no eggs for days and days.

We re-named Baby Ricky Ricardo. Then Ricky fig­ured out he was a rooster and had an idea about what roost­ers are sup­posed to do. This is where it gets bad.

In the coop he would try to mount the hens and there would be peck­ing and noise. When the chick­ens were on walk­a­bout and he tried to mount a hen they would run away. Ricky would give chase. There was a lot of run­ning around because Ricky didn’t give up. He just kept chasing.

Ricky Ricardo looked as if he were assem­bled from spare parts.

The yard was lit­tered with feath­ers. The hens were exhausted. Ricky was frus­trated. My dozy lit­tle flock had turned into a churn­ing mass is discord.

Frankly, I was sur­prised that T. Boone Chick­ens, the only other rooster, didn’t put a stop to all of Ricky’s shenani­gans.  He would just watch curi­ously when a hen ran by with Ricky in pur­suit. His lais­sez faire atti­tude may be due to the fact that T. Boone can­not run and can only walk with a limp due to an eagle attack a cou­ple of years ago that nearly killed him.

Then one Sun­day the chick­ens were on their after­noon walk­a­bout while my hus­band and I raked leaves and worked on tidy­ing the winter-ravaged gar­den. Sud­denly, Tina Turner ran by squawk­ing, with Ricky Ricardo in hot pur­suit. She ran this way. She ran that way. Ricky was like a marathon sprinter. He wasn’t giv­ing up.

Exhausted, Tina finally wedged her­self between the house and a trel­lis. The posi­tion was awk­ward and Ricky wasn’t able to mount her, so he began peck­ing at her and pulling out her feath­ers. Tina was mak­ing fran­tic, dis­traught sounds.

Harry held Ricky off with the han­dle of the broom while I extracted Tina from behind the trel­lis. I was mov­ing to put her into the coop out of harm’s way when she sud­denly pan­icked and broke free, run­ning to the woods. Ricky darted past my hus­band with the rake and took off in hot pursuit.

Tina again sought refuge, this time under a shrub in the woods. Ricky com­menced peck­ing at her and pulling out her feath­ers. I think he intended to kill her.

I pick up Tina to put her into the coop. She was so pan­icked that she started squawk­ing. Ricky then came after me with Tina in my arms.

Of course, I did what any­one would do, I screamed like a lit­tle girl. “EEEEEEEEEE!”

Harry, fig­ur­ing what the prob­lem was, started yelling from across the lawn some­thing like, “No, stop! STOPSTOP!”

I ran. Tina got loose. Ricky fol­lowed her again. This time though Tina headed deep into the woods and eluded me, Ricky and Harry with the rake.

At the end of the day Ricky non­cha­lantly wan­dered back into the chicken coop with the other chick­ens while Tina Turner was still hid­ing in fear. She spent the night out­side. Thank­fully, she was well-hidden and sur­vived until morning.

The next day dur­ing walk­a­bout, Tina retreated deep into the woods to avoid Ricky’s atten­tions. When it was time to go home to roost at sun­set she started timidly approach­ing the coop, only to have Ricky chase her away.

Here is where I faced a dif­fi­cult and per­haps life and death deci­sion. This was not the first instance of overly-aggressive behav­ior on Ricky’s part. Do I let the chick­ens work it out, risk­ing Tina Turner to injury or per­haps death? Do I allow Ricky Ricardo to ter­ror­ize a docile hen because he is just fol­low­ing his roost­erly instincts? If I inter­vene, what do I do about Ricky? Would any­one want a mean rooster?

There is more to this story…to come.

Robin

I love my life. But there does seem to be quite a lot of it.

Between my job (not inher­ited that cas­tle in Spain yet), keep­ing us well fed, tend­ing the gar­den, the ani­mals and ensur­ing the house doesn’t fill with dog hair like an enor­mous house-shaped pillow…well, the days are full. But I know you’re yearn­ing for news about all the beast­ies here, so I present to you the Chicken Chron­i­cles: The Reader’s Digest Version.

By the way, before I get too far along, this post is ded­i­cated to my friend Gail, at Clay and Lime­stone. Not only did she offer the phrase Chicken Chron­i­cles in com­ments about how she enjoys my chick­ens’ antics, she also man­ages to do all that life, gar­den, job stuff and blog too. My hat’s off to you, Gail!

First, Pol­ish hen Edith went broody this sum­mer. For those of you who are not chicken mam­mas and pap­pas, that means she decided moth­er­hood was all she needed to ful­fill her des­tiny in life. She took to her nest box and refused to budge. Well, I have a fairly laissez-faire pol­icy when it comes to nature, so I fig­ured, let’s see where this takes us.

Frankly, as laissez-faire can be, the whole thing was messy. Long story short, all the other hens added to Edith’s clutch so that she ended up try­ing to sit on about 15 eggs—an impos­si­ble task for a lit­tle Pol­ish hen. To com­pli­cate mat­ters, Tina Turner, a beau­ti­ful buff Pol­ish hen, was swayed by Edith’s efforts and decided to hatch a batch of her own. She was eas­ily dis­suaded for a more care­free life among the moth­er­less hens.

Back to Edith…After about three weeks it was clear that noth­ing was going to hap­pen on the baby mak­ing front, so I took mat­ters into my own hands. Actu­ally, I took Edith into my own hands and took her off the eggs to get rid of them.

Voila! There was a chick under her!

Now, I will dip into the details just a bit here, even though this is the Reader’s Digest ver­sion. Edith is not the birth mother. T. Boone Chick­ens, our enor­mous rooster, does not do the wild thing with the Pol­ish hens. I don’t know if it’s because he prefers the more full-figured hens or if the Pol­ish girls are just too fast for him, but I’ve never seen him do the deed with one of the mop-headed girls. I sus­pect that the new chicken is from Dor­thy or Mered­ith, our Easter egg chickens.

So…to get back to the story. Edith and her baby were sep­a­rated so that the other chick­ens didn’t com­mit infan­ti­cide, as chick­ens will do. After a suit­able and appro­pri­ate mater­nity leave Edith and her young were re-integrated back into the flock. It was an endear­ing sight to see her alert­ing the baby to bugs, tomato morsels and blue­berry treats. At night she would sit with the baby under her. After the baby grew too large to sit on, she would put her wing pro­tec­tively over the baby as they sat side-by-side.

Baby and Edith, his adop­tive mum

The baby is now about 13 weeks old.

So far we’re call­ing the baby “Baby.” Clever, no?

The rea­son is that the baby will even­tu­ally be named Ricky or Lucy, names picked out by Carol at May Dreams Gar­dens. But one of the names has not yet stuck because I still don’t know if Baby is a Lucy or a Ricky. We should know in another month or so. But I will tell you this. Baby has really, really big feet like T. Boone Chick­ens. And Baby looks like a cross between Dorothy and Mered­ith, the Easter egg chick­ens. We will never know who the birth mother is with­out DNA testing.

Oh, and Baby loves Edith, his adopted and devoted mum. She is his true mum.

Robin
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