Thursday, September 8, 2011

Crazy Freakin' Chickens

I'm finally back after a bout with strep throat. I'm glad  to be back. Today was the first day I've spent any quality time with the chicks since I got sick over a week ago. I sat with them while they free ranged in the yard and fed them treats. They were jumping around and off the ground to get the treats as I was handing them out. I even got one of the bantams, a little roo, to take food out of my hand! That's a first. The bantams are such spazs that they've not been easy to domesticate.

In terms of the spaz mob, we've had a major change since August. There are two less bantam Japanese-Old English Game roosters in our coop. They now reside in the countryside where I went to high school in Oxford, North Carolina. Their new dad, someone with whom I went to high school, is a big time chicken lover and so are his two little girls. I know those little roo's - Luke and Han - went to a good home. They were in their little temporary pen preening and checking things out when we left them. Back at home, the others don't seem to notice that they're gone. Their absence has to be good for the remainder of the flock because space was getting a little cramped with five bantams growing like weeds out there. Nighttime roosting was getting tight and treats don't go as far with five extra mouths to feed. Next month the final bantam rooster will be moving out to live with The Chicken Man. And then there will be two bantams and our four original big mamas. Here's to hoping the absence of so many tiny roadrunners will allow my girls to calm down again. They've gotten awfully pushy lately.

For some reason the chickens have become especially crazy in recent weeks. When we go out to feed them, they are all over the coop and jumping and trying to get out the door when you open it. I literally have to put my foot on Erickson's chest when I open the door to bring them their morning treats. For one thing, the dogs go out in the yard with me in the morning and we would probably have one less chicken if they got out when the dogs are out. And two, I don't have thirty minutes of leisure time in the morning to let them out to forage in the yard. They do not look kindly upon short stints of freedom. They revolt actually. They've always been fond of their treats, as I wrote about last time, but lately they've become little savages. They now try to tear your hand off when you're dolling out the treats while pounding the hell out of each other to steal each others finds. It's insanity. I'm not sure what has started the crazy savagery except what I mentioned above: treats are thin with five more mouths to feed. Yes, we generally bring out more scraps than we did when there were only four girls, but I'm sure the ratio of treats to chickens has shrunk. I only have so many scraps from a family of three people!

Besides the food savagery, the tiny bantams are balls of nerves that have to be making the big girls anxious. The littles are like roadrunners and doves all rolled into one. They fly around in the coop when they get scared or nervous and if you saw them from afar you'd think we were keeping doves or pigeons out there. Except that they are the fastest little chickens I've ever seen. Image me and my husband wrangling them up and trying to put them in a pet carrier for transport last week. It was crazy. It didn't take very long; I'm pretty good in my chicken catching skills. Our only major problem was that one escaped after he was captured and put in the carrier, so we had to start over and catch another one. I'm sure our neighbors, who happened to be in their backyard while all of this drama was transpiring, got a nice show. We must have looked like lunatics out there. Let's not talk about how my four-year-old son thought one of the roosters was dead because of the way he was hanging (seemingly limply) from my hand when I was holding him upside down by his legs until I could get him in the carrier.  It may be standard chicken handling to most chicken-savvy adults, but not to a four-year-old, albeit it a chicken-savvy one.

So I have a crazed mob for a flock of chickens and we're headed into fall and winter. Bossy, the Barred Rock and once head of the pecking order (I'm trying to figure out if she's still in charge. Erickson has become pretty witchy and is throwing her weight around a lot lately), started molting a bit. She looks a little ragged right now with her head and bum feathers a little sparse. I'm waiting for the rest of her to molt all at once so she looks like she has the mange. That would be just like her to do. Then the eggs will begin to taper off. I'm most sad about that part of the coming months. I love our delicious eggs. That's okay. I'm trying to convince my husband to add a Silkie to our flock, so seven chickens would certainly give us enough eggs to make it through the winter, don't you think?

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