Posts Tagged ‘Wildlife’

That’s right. Bring it on, baby.

snow in front

I have a month’s worth of gro­ceries, a snow shovel and plenty of work and projects to keep me busy.  It’s a good thing too because we’re not going any­where any­time soon.  Do you see our dri­ve­way? No, I don’t either.

What I thought was eight inches of snow is prob­a­bly more like 12 or 14. And it’s still com­ing down. I just returned from a lit­tle mercy mis­sion to clear the bird feed­ers and sprin­kle around some whole peanuts and black oil sun­flower seed. The birds prac­ti­cally landed on my shoul­ders they were so happy to see me.

snow in back 12.19

The chick­ens are just fine in their insu­lated and heated coop. But they were con­fused when I opened their win­dow to the world and there were no col­ors out there—just white. I fig­ure they’ll get tired of look­ing out in a while and I’ll go back and close the window.

For lit­tle dogs, Sarah and Sophie adore the snow. They hop around like bunnies—well, at least until they get bogged down.  So this morning’s exer­cise was some aer­o­bic snow shov­el­ing for a small potty path.

The East Coast is get­ting pounded. If you’re in our part of the world I hope you’re safe, warm and have plenty of inter­est­ing things to keep you busy today.

Robin

This is a sad blog post to write, because once again tragedy has struck here at Bumblebee.

Almost since our chick­ens arrived, we have been in the habit of let­ting them out of their Palazzo and fenced out­door run to have a walk­a­bout in the after­noons for a cou­ple of hours.

T. Boone prior to the attack

Their habits are fairly pre­dictable. Once the gate is opened allow­ing them the free­dom of the yard, the hens imme­di­ately charge toward the com­post bin clos­est to their Palazzo to see what good­ies I have thought­lessly thrown in there rather than giv­ing to them. The two roost­ers fol­low. But hav­ing lit­tle patience for salad treats, the roost­ers soon grow tired of wait­ing for the hens to fin­ish their first course and leave them to go to the bird feed­ers, where they hunt and peck at the seeds the birds drop.

Come rain, come shine, since last Sep­tem­ber that has been the rou­tine. Only twice did we have alarms from preda­tors. Once, I hap­pened to see a fox in the Back Forty while the chick­ens were on their walk­a­bout. Another time a large stray dog wan­dered down the dri­ve­way just after I had let them free.

Thank­fully, the chick­ens are well-trained to come when I call and will fol­low me like I’m the Pied Piper. This visitor-pleasing trick was eas­ily taught after I real­ized that my chick­ens are corn addicts. They will do any­thing or fol­low any­one they think has a can of corn. Appar­ently, when they see me, their first thought is “CORN!”

Last week while I was in Annapo­lis on errands, Ben freed the chick­ens as part of our reg­u­lar rou­tine. When I returned at sun­set, though, it was clear that some­thing very irreg­u­lar had happened.

There was a large col­lec­tion of white feath­ers in the mid­dle of the front lawn—the kind of feather that could only belong to T. Boone Chickens.

T. Boone was always the odd chicken out in the peck­ing order.

Know­ing some­thing was wrong, I parked the car and yelled inside for Ben to come out. The chick­ens were not in the coop. The chick­ens didn’t come when I called.

We began cir­cling the house and call­ing “Chick­ens! Chickens!”

In the back yard, there was another enor­mous col­lec­tion of feathers—these blue-black, clearly belong­ing to Johnny Cash.

Soon after that, Maude, one of our lit­tle egg pro­duc­ers, came out of the woods look­ing fright­ened but oth­er­wise unharmed. We guided her into the Palazzo and went off in search of the other chickens.

Ben found Myr­tle in a state of panic. She had taken refuge high in a tulip tree at the edge of the Back Forty. Although she is a corn addict, she wouldn’t budge from her perch for even that tasty treat. We ended up gen­tly nudg­ing her down with a long stick, but then she couldn’t be enticed to leave the edge of the woods, which were on the oppo­site side of the house from the Palazzo. After sev­eral unsuc­cess­ful attempts at lur­ing her and then try­ing to cap­ture her, I ended up get­ting Maude, Myrtle’s best friend. I cra­dled Maude in my arms while she clucked and cooed. Myr­tle fol­lowed us right to the Palazzo.

About that time Ben dis­cov­ered a whole new area of white feath­ers at the end of the Back Forty. After some more call­ing, T. Boone came limp­ing out of the woods. Clearly, he was injured. We guided him into the Palazzo where I found he had deep, bloody punc­ture wounds on both sides of his body, sug­gest­ing the cul­prit was either a hawk or an eagle—both of which rou­tinely fly over the hay field in front of our house.

Judg­ing from the mas­sive feather pat­terns, I think that the preda­tor started by attack­ing T. Boone in the front yard, pick­ing him up and head­ing south toward the Back Forty. T. Boone is a huge rooster and, I expect, put up quite a fight. The preda­tor prob­a­bly dropped him, cre­at­ing the sec­ond mas­sive patch of feath­ers and allow­ing him to escape into the woods.

We never did find Johnny Cash. Since all the other chick­ens had scat­tered in dif­fer­ent direc­tions to find refuge in the woods, I kept hop­ing that JC would come storm­ing out of the trees like one of those movie heroes, a lit­tle bat­tered but defiant.

Sadly, that wasn’t to be. Although we called and searched for a cou­ple of days, there was noth­ing left of Johnny Cash, the chicken in black, but a col­lec­tion of black feathers.

Iron­i­cally, Johnny was car­ried away and on to chicken heaven on the singer’s birthday.

T. Boone Chick­ens was so crit­i­cally wounded that I didn’t think he would make it through the night. He set­tled into the Palazzo and hun­kered down, keep­ing his head low and refus­ing to walk, eat or drink. He, in fact, did make it through the night although the next day he was still immo­bile and seemed dazed.

Ben dug a hole for his grave and I dis­cussed the pos­si­bil­ity of putting T. Boone out of his mis­ery with my hus­band. But since none of us have the stom­ach for per­form­ing the act, even in mercy, we set­tled for mak­ing T. Boone as com­fort­able as pos­si­ble, watch­ing and waiting.

T. Boone fol­low­ing the attack. He is still recovering.

Never under­es­ti­mate the regen­er­a­tive pow­ers of a rooster. Although we had given up T. Boone for dead, he con­tin­ues to rally and improve daily. He is still slumped and is limp­ing badly. But he is eat­ing and drink­ing. As per­haps an even more encour­ag­ing sign that he is on the mend, he has taken over the roost­erly duties with the hens pre­vi­ously per­formed by Johnny Cash (if you get my drift). Per­haps in this new peck­ing order, T. Boone will not be the odd chicken out that he has always been.

T. Boone Chick­ens may never regain his full strength and, in fact, may become our res­i­dent hand­i­capped, or differently-abled, chicken.

I haven’t yet allowed the chick­ens out for a walk­a­bout. It will take some time and chicken sit­ting before I think I’ll ever be com­fort­able with that habit again. And though I had pre­vi­ously enjoyed the sight of the hawks cir­cling above, their pres­ence now takes on a whole new mean­ing for me. I believe the whole Cir­cle of Life thing is vastly overrated.

Robin

Garden and food writer Robin Ripley is co-author of Grocery Gardening. Her new book, Wisdom for Home Preservers, is now available from Taunton Press. Bumblebee is about her life in rural Maryland, her garden, cooking, dogs and pet chickens. She also blogs about food and chickens at Eggs & Chickens. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Thank you for visiting.

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