Archive | July, 2010

Chicken Gifts

24 Jul

This week we received two lovely gifts from neighbors who know we are poultry fanciers. Don gave us his grandmother’s egg basket, which has to be 100 years old. I told Eddie that, judging by the size of this bucket, Grandma Claussen must have had a whole passel of hens! Then neighbor Buffie brought me a charming and very practical apron, decorated with colorful chickens.

But the best gift of all this week was the opportunity to see Rambo doing his job…protecting the flock. He’s only been with us for a week, but he is already watching out for his girls. He keeps his head up most of the time, watching and listening for anything unusual. A few days ago I was in the hen yard when I heard him make a loud, strange call and suddenly I saw all the hens running for the coop. At the same time he was striding toward the creek. Just then, a Great Blue Heron landed next to the water.

This heron comes to the creek quite often and is looking for fish, not hens, but Rambo obviously heard a large bird overhead and sounded the alert. He stood watching the heron for awhile and when it flew off he called the girls out again.

One peculiarity of poultry is that they have organs for perceiving vibrations. These are located predominantly on the legs, but also on the skin. They feel vibrations off the ground and in the atmosphere, which helps them to recognize enemies very quickly. Besides crowing, roosters have a lot of other sounds, including different warning sounds for an enemy from the air like a big bird, and from the ground like a dog.

Strange as it may seem, observing the unique personalities of each of our chickens and watching them interact is a fascinating and relaxing activity. I have my coffee with them every morning and visit them again at the end of the day… and that’s a gift that keeps on giving!

Welcome to Rambo

17 Jul

Rambo, Protector of the Flock, is the latest addition to 3 Dog Farm.

In the early 1970s I managed an Arabian horse ranch in Southern California, where I had a series of run-ins with a big ole Leghorn rooster who lived on the property. When his hen had chicks he became very aggressive so I put her and her little peepers into a stall for safekeeping. That really ticked him off and he vented his rage on me…flying at me with spurs up, wings beating and beak ready. He got me a few times, so I took to carrying a riding crop whenever I worked in the barn.

One morning as I faced my trip to the barn with a certain amount of anxiety I decided this was all so ridiculous. So I put on a jacket, gloves, boots, etc. and faced him down. I won, of course, and the next day I enjoyed him in a nice chicken salad. Revenge is a meat best eaten cold, they say.

Although I admire the plumage and strut of a good-looking rooster, I know how aggressive and noisy they can be, and when we started assembling our flock I didn’t want one. Eddie agreed until yesterday … when he found our beloved Itty Biddy’s remains near the creek, the obvious victim of a hawk attack.

Itty Biddy, our lap chicken, lived on the enclosed patio afternoons and nights. In the morning Eddie would put her in the golf cart with him and take her down to the hen yard, where she happily hung out with the big hens. Her best friend, Collette, is the biggest of them all and they were inseparable. I guess we thought Collette would help protect her, too.

Itty Biddy loved riding in the golf cart with Eddie.

Every afternoon my routine was to scatter chicken scratch and greens, check for eggs, and finally call Itty Biddy to come up to the house with me. She was right next to me every day as we did the chores, and she was always excited when I picked her up and carried her home. On Thursday afternoon she wasn’t there. I called for her, searched for her and felt my heart sink as she didn’t appear. I knew she was gone.

On Friday afternoon, Eddie made an extensive search of the area and found what was left of her beneath the sycamore tree that holds a hawks’ nest at the top. We’ve seen the hawks all spring and summer, raising their babies above the hen yard; but we saw no evidence that they were after our birds. Perhaps because Itty Biddy was so small and so tame she was completely defenseless. So, we had a cry and a cocktail and then called our feed store to find out if they had a big ole rooster.

Our hope is that Rambo will roam the range and help protect our hens from hawks and owls.

Eddie named him Rambo, Protector of the Flock, sight unseen. I picked him up this morning and he is happily ensconced with the hens, calling them, dancing for them, and having his way with a few of them already. He is hyper-vigilant around them and should help shepherd and protect them. He is a very large Ameraucana, gorgeous, not aggressive toward humans, and so far, not too vocal. We’ll see how things go in the morning when he announces the sunrise.

We are still mourning and missing our little bundle of feathers, but I am really glad I made this video of good times with her…she will live on in our memories. RIP, Itty Biddy.