Last Thursday in the middle of the day I made a grisly discovery—a half-eaten chicken in the chicken yard.
I quickly scanned the flock to see who was missing. All the named chickens were accounted for so I breathed a sigh of relief. It was sad nonetheless and a mystery.
What was bold enough to attack in broad day light? And would it return?????
I left town Friday morning for a weekend retreat and Rachel came home Friday afternoon for Spring Break. I talked to her Saturday and she told me that Crooked Neck had died. This was sad news indeed.
Crooked Neck was from one of the first set of eggs we hatched. We didn’t expect her to live very long since her neck was so misshapen but she survived several years.
Monday morning when I went to let the chickens out, I discovered that Elliot had died during the night. There was no evidence of foul play so I’m not sure what happened. It was almost more than I could bear.
Beekeeper Brian and Matt are in Colorado and when I told Brian about Elliot, he said “Well don’t throw him away. I want to use his feathers for tying flies.”
I must admit, Elliot did have wonderful feathers.
I took Catherine (our eldest) shopping while she was home to get a dress for her Junior Recital. She is an oboe performance major at Hardin Simmons University. At one store, they frequently feature books and accompanying stuffed animals. The proceeds from their sale go to support kids’ health and education initiatives.
This time the books were Dr. Seuss books including one of my favorites Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb — a very repetitive, rhythmic book that I use in my music class. It came with a stuffed monkey so, of course, I had to buy both.
I read the book to Catherine which she found extremely silly. Then I decided to name the monkey Elliot – in memory of our dear departed rooster. It has made our loss much more bearable.
This morning, all the chickens were alive and pecking. Maybe the roughness has ended.
Okay, I know today is Saturday, but I didn’t remember yesterday was Friday! I know CW Sara has loyal Miller Farm Friday readers and that’s why I’m posting her email blog. I do apologize and promise to pay more attention to the calendar and not just the clock in the future.
Back in the Blog
The chickens must have heard the rumors that they were being replaced in the blog by clothing/craft stories so they provided the following material this morning:
I noticed while observing our young roosters that male and female of every species share characteristics.
Our roosters have reached what I guess is the equivalent of adolescence and have started fighting. I used to believe that people trained roosters for cockfights, but I promise ours fight on their own. YesterdayI was convinced that two were fighting to the death.
Even Whitey – one of the hens – tried to break it up (just like a momma).
Finally, Samson, the chief rooster, based on seniority not on size as he is a bantam, “explained” to them how things were going to be. They stopped fighting.
Well this morning, I let the chickens out and, as usual, the roosters started their morning boxing bouts. They puff their chests out and bump up against each other kind of like men do at sporting events. Other times they fly towards each other and bump chests as well.
Photo Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
As I was feeding and watering the birds, I discovered one young rooster was on the wrong side of the fence. I guess he had been “bumped” over.
Fortunately, the only dog outside at the time was Marv, our old mixed breed, and he was more interested in the stale hamburger buns in the shed than in the rooster in the yard.
Poor rooster was very confused so I was able to grab him easily.
He did protest as I tossed him back into the chicken yard. I have the scratch on my arm and the mud on my shirt to show for it.
I asked my son Matthew if I needed to change shirts before I took him to school. (Remember he warned me to stay in the car when I was wearing my special sweatshirt.) He decided that rooster footprints were not as tacky as a sweatshirt with handprints.
However, since I was taking breakfast to Beekeeper Brian at his school, I decided to put on a clean shirt. Embarrassing kids is one thing but husbands are off limits.
YOUR TURN: What do you think are sports bumps and cockfights alike?
I looked out the kitchen window last evening and saw a rooster about 5 feet off the ground on top of the quail cage in the middle of the chicken yard.
This would not be a problem if he could get back down to the ground on the right side of the fence (the one with the chickens, not the dogs). However, we have learned that chickens (and roosters) are not particularly coordinated.
I headed out to the chicken yard to make sure he was safe.
Later, we decided if the rooster could make it to the top of the quail cage must be time to clip wings. While this sounds horribly painful for the birds, it is actually more like clipping fingernails.
The hardest part is catching the birds.
Since the sun was setting, the chickens headed for the coop. They are creatures of habit and every evening they go to bed in the coop, and every night I shut the door to keep non-chickens out.
Since the birds were contained, Beekeeper Brian decided to go into the coop and clip wings. He started with the smaller game birds which made the most racket I ever heard.
I was afraid the neighbors would think we were killing them. Eventually all the wings were clipped and no chicken died, though from all the noise I’m sure the neighbors did wonder.
Wing clipping prevents the birds from flying over the fence where Bella (the dachshund) could “play” with them. At the same time, wing clipping also makes it very difficult for them to fly up to their roosts in the coop.
I believe at least one of the birds held a grudge against us.
When I went to collect eggs the next morning, she pecked at my hand. I’ve gotten used to that and it doesn’t really hurt – especially when compared with bee stings.
So I got the eggs and the chicken immediately went to the roost in front of the nest box and started squawking very loudly. I swear she was saying “Thief, Thief!!!!.”
If you spend enough time around chickens, you learn to speak their language.
That evening when I went to close up the coop, one of the birds sounded very raspy. I told Beekeeper Brian it was probably the one who had fussed at me. She’d squawked so loud she made herself hoarse.
Without missing a beat, Brian replied, “Well how is she supposed to lay eggs if she is a horse?”
Monday’s Labor Day holiday signaled the end of summer. For a large percentage of the population this week also signaled the start of school which in turn meant moving kids out of the house and back to classrooms.
With all that moving and changing and settling into routines going on, I thought Sara’s email about moving chickens was a perfect fit today. See if you don’t agree…
Fowl Moving Day
There comes a day in the life of every child where they get too big for wherever they are and they have to move. It starts with the move from bassinet to crib, then crib to “big bed” and eventually they leave the house altogether.
The same type of process happens with chickens.
They start in an incubator (which is currently in our living room),
then move to a brooder (in our garage).
From there, they move into a small chicken yard in our back yard where the Bantams (a smaller breed of chickens) live all the time. As they get bigger than the Bantams, they move into the big chicken yard.
A similar, but simpler, process happens with the quail. They simply go from incubator to brooder to one of the quail cages in the back yard. On this particular Saturday, we had both quail and chickens to move.
A multi-step process involving cinder blocks, extra cages and much squawking.
We started by consolidating our three quail cages into one. The cage in the chicken coop only had one quail in it. I believe this quail was somewhat lonely as he spent his days walking in circles in the cage. (Of course, this could also be a result of the bird brain mentality.)
His cage is up high in the chicken coop where neither my daughter nor I can comfortably reach. Hence, the cinder block.
There are two openings in this cage and the quail would run back and forth requiring two people to be ready to catch him. That would be me and my daughter.
So we put the cinder block in the middle and each of us put one foot on it and the other on the side of the coop. Before long, we had trapped the quail and moved him in with his new cage mates.
This left his cage empty for the new quail that were outgrowing the brooder. At first, the move stressed the transferred quail. After all, they’d only seen the inside of our garage, but they have adjusted quite nicely.
Step two of moving day involved putting the young roosters into a separate cage to be fattened up before going to freezer camp and eaten later. Before you cry “animal cruelty,” I can assure you, their life has been much better than that of the chickens you buy at the grocery store.
I must confess, though, I did think of Hansel and Gretel as we were putting food into the cage.
In case you don’t remember, the witch locked up Hansel and had him stick out his finger occasionally to see if he was fat enough to eat.
Anyway, the roosters had no idea what was happening though I was a little concerned about their transition. But since none of them were named, I wasn’t that attached and stopped worrying.
Sadly enough, when we returned from church Sunday morning, my daughter discovered all but one of the roosters had died. Apparently, they don’t like change (or they got wind of their fate and decided to commit mass suicide).
There was one lone survivor and my daughter, having learned well from her mom’s previous rooster rescue of Einstein, brought him inside.
Mr. Rooster spent the night in our living room and seemed to be better the next day. I named him Einstein II and now he’s living out his natural life with the chickens.
Our final step on this moving day was the easiest – moving chicks out to the small chicken yard.
Teaching them to go into the coop at night is not so easy. For now, I reach under the coop each night to get them and tuck them in with the Bantams. Hopefully they will get the idea soon.
P.S. Besides this being the week I start my piano students, this week happens to be the week that the eggs in the incubator are going to hatch. The cycle is continuous.
I started three new piano students to the sounds of a lone chick calling for the others to come out and play 🙂 No one seemed to mind. You never know what you will learn at the Millers.
Yesterday one of my piano students danced around the living room during her brother’s lessons. She said, “You know how they do a rain dance to make it rain. Well I am doing the chicken dance to make the chicks hatch.”
Unfortunately it didn’t work until after she left. 🙂
I love my job.
My favorite part of this email was Sara’s opening paragraph:
There comes a day in the life of every child where they get too big for where ever they are and they have to move. It starts with the move from bassinet to crib, then crib to “big bed” and eventually they leave the house altogether.
I remember those stages with my three children. I really looked forward to the progress each stage represented and now looking back, I wish they hadn’t come so fast.
YOUR TURN: So how’d your week go? Any chicken dancing going on? Kids moving out or in? Kiddos climbing those giant steps onto the yellow school bus?