Sunday, October 21, 2012

Chicken Drama

Some people's homes are like sitcoms ( well, mine is kinda like that too ) but raising and keeping chickens has been somewhat of a Shakespearian play at our house. 
Part tragedy. Part comedy.  Part romance.  
We got our first chickens a year and a half ago. Little peeps, and we raised them up nicely. We had just moved them out of the garage and into the coop when I had to go on a business trip. I was gone two nights. When I returned I was anxious to see my girls, Minnie, Martha, McAdoo, and Rose.
Where I had expected to see 3 plymouth rocks and one rhode island red there was a mismatched menagerie including 3 brown leg horns and 4 buff rocks. 
What the dickens! Where are my chickens? 
To Mike's horror, ( " how am I going to tell Karen?! " ) when he went out to check on them the very first morning without me he discovered that some critter had actually gotten in somehow and absconded with three of our four chickens.  He was panicked. He scrambled to find a few replacements ( as if! but thanks for trying ).  
His go-to person didn't have any to spare, but just so happened there was a chicken auction in town that same night.  Who even new this happens!  
So... I tell myself  "this happens when you live on a farm." I remembered the saying " Where there's livestock, there's deadstock".  I pull up my bootstraps and set to getting to know the new girls. I give them names. One of the buff rocks was quite malnourished and had only a few feathers. We name her Plucky and we change the name of the only survivor of what we now refer to as the massacre, to Lucky Martha.
  We focus on getting them healthy and happy. We do a great job . Our friend in chickens drops off a little black hen and we name her Butterfly. 
Our chickens start clucking like crazy, feathers start getting a little fancy, and combs are getting a little on the showy side.
2 of the leghorns and 1 of the buff rocks are definitely not hens.  We can't have roosters in a backyard coop. They make too much noise.  We decide that they must go in the freezer.  I encourage Mike: "'You can clean a fish - you can clean a chicken." 
He googles it.
We do it. 
And then we try not to think about it. 
We get back to waiting for eggs. Lucky Martha starts laying. We are chicken farmers! 
2 more buff rocks reveal themselves to be roosters. More tragedy. 
We can't  muster the conviction to do our on dirty work again and so they go to auction. 
While we are there I spy 2 beautiful aracanas. I was not successful n the bidding but I made a connection with the chicken farmer Mr Drury. Yay - next month when he comes I won't have to bid - we've agreed on a price for 2 auracnas and 2 blue laced red wyandottes.  We come home  that night with an old lady and we name her Gladys. She's a good buy at $5 and lays a beautiful large brown egg every single day! 

Lucky Martha, Gidget,  and Butterfly are introduced to four new coop mates the following month. 
It doesn't go well. The wyandottes are pecked to death the next day while we are at work.  It's my fault; I should have prepared even though Gladys's introduction went so well. 
I'm an accomplice to murder.
 Mike and I have a new understanding of the phrase "pecking order". We set to work and build a temporary shelter for the aracaunas to separate them and we enlist the help of Mr Vintage to help out with something more permanent.  
We set to getting to know Goldie and Esther and helping them all make friends. 
It's going great. They are all laying eggs.  We get through the winter virtually drama free.
We learn what it means to be egg-bound ( you can read about that here ) but there are no deaths. 
We buy the Potlake farm and are excited to let our chickens range the yard freely. The chickens are happy.  We are spending every minute that we can at the farm although we aren't living there yet .
One sunny afternoon, we take a walk to the back which really isn't our property but there's a lovely pond with ducks and willows blowing. On our return some 20 minutes later, we approach the owner farmer on his tractor. He has stopped and gotten off and is walking toward us. I suspect that he is coming over to ask us not to walk his farm so I head toward the house and Mike heads over to have the conversation.  As I approach our own backyard, I see a poof of black and white feathers on the ground so I rush to find my girls! Oh no! I can find everyone but Lucky Martha! 
Mike returns to tell me that our farmer neighbour stalked over to Mike through the field red-faced and angry. Mike expects to apologize but our neighbour tells the story of seeing another neighbours dog running across the field with our chicken in his mouth! 
Just then the dog owner arrives with our inured chicken.   Martha isn't so lucky after all. She died of her injuries 2 days later.
All of the original peeps are gone. We are sad and angry and agree that the girls cannot be left in the yard when we are not present even though the dog owner has agreed that he will be tied or fenced.
Summer continues on and we don't lose any more birds. The girls are doing what girls do.  They scratch around the yard looking for good bugs and munching grass.  They use their feminine wiles to persuade family and friends to feed them tortilla chips and strawberries by hand.  

They discover the benefits of  a good dirt bath.

One day late this summer we are overly confident, have become lacidasical, and we leave the chickens roaming around and run into town. We return to  tuck them in for the night but discover the mysterious disappearance of Gidget.  Poof - gone. Naturally, we suspect the neighbour dog but I am ultimately responsible again!  
We now have a new coop ( thanks to one handy guy named Dale and his tractor ) and a nice sized fenced yard.  

We are on a hiatus from tragedy. 
We bring home 2 Blue Wyandottes. 
Meet Annie... 

...and Dottie.

They are a bit bossy so have only been in the yard with the old girls for a few hours during the day an sleeping in their own coop, but they will soon be living all together in one coop.

Now for getting us into our new house!

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