Thursday, May 29, 2008

vote for chickens

Stacey, a fellow chickeneer, writes that her daughter is competing in a national video book review contest for kids. Finalists were chosen by libraries but winners are being chosen by popular vote, so Stacey is asking all chicken fans to vote daily (one vote per person per day) between May 29 and June 4. Winner gets $1,000 worth of books for her library and $500 worth of books herself.

Here's the link:
Storytubes voting

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Evening meal

The chickens were very impatient by the time I let them out in the early evening. They charged from the pen and across the wood-chipped area to the lawn. The two little ones had no trouble flying. We know from experience that Edna can fly 40 ft up into a tree. Even Muffin, the zaftig variety of chicken, got a foot or two of lift-off, flapping madly and letting out squawks of excitement. They reached the lawn and their dirt-bath and immediately got to work, scratching, eyeing the ground, pecking, as if they hadn’t eaten all day.

If they are planning a food strike against chicken pellets while dreaming of meal worms and melon, they will be disappointed.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Chicken stereo

This morning I was awakened by the sound of a young rooster practicing his crowing, half a crow sounding like er-AH-erga, strangled at the end. I wondered if a half-grown member of the flock down the street had escaped. They had hens and a rooster; therefore they could make more roosters. The sound seemed to come from their direction but closer, maybe my front yard. I looked out the window by my bed but didn’t see anyone.

The hens down the street started calling buck-buck-BUCK-BUCK. They start that noise when excited about something and, like dogs barking, keep going even when they have forgotten what they’re excited about. I listened carefully—noise from chickens down the street coming in the bedside window; noise from my chickens coming in the window across the room. Where, then, was the young rooster?

Later in the day I heard the noise in my back yard. As hens are apt to do when there is no rooster, one is attempting to crow. But which? I suspect one of the Polish chickens is asserting her right to be Head Hen. I hope lucky accident shows me which one is crowing because I’m not going to spend the day watching them to find out.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Matilda's dinner

I went to the pet store today to get a couple of mice for Matilda the corn snake and meal worms for Chilibelina the leopard gecko, who is here for the summer. As before, the meal worms came in a plastic tub with a lid and the mice came in a box with pictures of mice, budgies and hamsters on the sides. I got home and opened the mouse box to find four teeny red eyes looking at me and two quivering pink noses and white whiskers being raised inquiringly. One of the mice wore a little brown mouse poop on his head—you would be amazed at how much poop two mice produce in twenty minutes.

Instead of saying “frozen adult mice,” I must have said, “adult mice” at the store. Frozen is generally the default state for feeder mice, so I didn’t even consider that I’d find live mice in the box. Matilda has never encountered a live adult mouse. Most likely, the several generations of captive-bred corn snakes from which she’s descended haven’t, either.

Reflecting that the cost of gas was making these very expensive mice, I drove back to the store to exchange Chuck and Lola for two frozen mice. Frozen mice don’t have names and can’t bite back.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The hens are landscaping

Sitting in my second floor study, I can see the back yard where the former owners’ play area carpeted deep in wood chips meets the lawn. There is no barrier. The chips stayed on their side, the lawn on its, until I started letting the chickens out. Now the chips are creeping across the lawn, thrown to scatter like confetti behind the chickens when they dig. Too late, I realized I can’t mow the area of mixed chips and grass, now several feet across, unless I want to wipe out the mower blade. Oops.

The outside always looks darker from inside than it actually is. At 8:10 I thought the chickens might be settled for the night and went out for the ritual of lifting protesting but relaxed bantams from the nest boxes and putting bantams inside the hen house before shutting the door. Getting them at dusk instead of full dark is preferable because I don’t have to bring a flashlight and there’s enough light outside for them to find a perch on their own.

When I got there, three of the four hens came out of the house, a little sleepy, like children in their pajamas wandering down to the living room for one last attempt at staying up late. DartMouth was the only one to stay on her perch. We hung around a bit together until they decided there was nothing exciting happening (no food) and they might as well go back to bed. Then I put the banties inside. Edna seems a little better with this than Zora. Zora is a fully committed sitter and grumbled mightily. She was still grumbling when I shut the door, leaving her to find her way to a perch.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Hen in lockdown

Zora and Edna still huddle together in a nest at night, so I have to pull each one out, kicking and grumbling, and place her on a perch in the coop. During the afternoon when I open the door for them to run to the dust spa, they all charge through the doorway together, except for one day when Zora ran here...

..and couldn't figure out that she should have gone in the opposite direction here:

where she paced back and forth, apparently expecting a door to magically appear. Being broody does not sharpen the brain.