Thursday, March 20, 2008

Difficulties of micro-managing poultry.

Here is a common sight around the yard: my Java rooster, whom I named "Valentino" in an ironic moment of inspiration this past Valentine's Day (which was no more or less awful than all other Valentine's Days), displaying his resplendent feathers and guarding one hen.

Why ONE hen? After all, I have three! Well, I'll tell you why. Hen #2 is very, very busy sitting on an empty nest box inside the coop. Will she hatch a chick if her nesting box is empty? No. Does she care? No.

And no, this is not the one that was sitting on an empty nesting box for 23 days a while back. (She, recovered from her hormonal haze, cavorts here in the background.) This is a second one doing the same pointless thing.

And where is hen #3?

I only found out yesterday when I went looking for a rake...

Hen #3, the most reliable egg-layer and also the best bug-finder, had one nesting box (of three) which was her favorite. But that's the one Hen #1 decided to brood on, rendering it unavailable.

So Hen #3 has instead been, on the sly, secretly accumulating her own personal stash of eggs - far from the henhouse, outdoors, in a secret niche of the retaining wall under the carport. She's trying to hatch a pile of eggs much larger than her butt can cover.

Some of them are rolling out of the nest.

She sat there all last night, in high winds and rain. However, because her brooding is sporadic, I doubt these eggs will ever hatch.

These hens seem to have only bits and pieces of the instincts that would allow them to perpetuate their species. "What do chickens do in the wild, then?" asks Zed. I don't believe there is any such thing as a wild chicken.

But to get back to Valentino: I bought the chickens to be entertainment for Jethro the donkey, and anticipated that he, Jethro, would imagine himself protector of the little flock.

But it turned out quite the other way around: Valentino considers Jethro to be a MEMBER of the flock, which means the donkey is in need of Valentino's protection. When people come to feed or play with Jethro, Valentino rushes up and attacks them, all his neck feathers up in an Elizabethan ruffle. It's very inconvenient.

He isn't so bad with me, maybe because I, too, am a member of his flock, or maybe because every time he tries to play Big Man on Campus with me I scoop him up and take him indoors and rock him in my rocking chair, reminding him that I knew him when he was an egg.

If nobody is watching, he will coo and make contemplative murmuring sounds as I stroke his head. But if a person (or, worse, one of his hens) is watching, he will squawk indignantly.

Before and after: Valentino on Yom Kippur in September 2007, and yesterday.



At 1:41 PM, Anonymous novelera said...

What a wonderful post! I am an infrequent commenter on this blog and on Caray Caray. Still working full time in a company doing less and less well, with lots of worrying involved since I'm the one who has to scrounge up payroll for the other employees with smaller and smaller revenues. Entering your world is a total respite. LOVE the donkey and chicken posts, and admire you for your lifestyle and musical talent.

At 5:03 PM, Anonymous stephe said...

Valentino was a little darling when he was hatched! Soooo cute.

And NOW... what a stud. With that plumage and the tilt of his head just so, if roosters could be pirates, well... I'm just saying.

I totally agree with novelera. Pratie's Place is a nice, peaceful niche to visit during a busy week. Thanks for continuing to share your life with us. :)

At 5:59 PM, Anonymous Lin in Danville said...

Valentino is gorgeous.

Your posts about adventures with your donkey and chickens are great - I'm always hoping for one when I check your blog. Not that your writing on other subjects isn't interesting, too, but you've got a real genius for the ridiculous: your animals and the scrapes they get you into.

I started to close with a "Happy Easter," but I guess that's not the thing... Oh well, happy spring then.

At 11:39 AM, Anonymous mad bess/susanlynn said...

Love the photo of the eggs in the nest. Are you eating a lot of omelets now that you have all those fresh eggs ? Valentino reminds me a little of Mario. He's got the same dangerous, swaggering look about him.

At 1:17 PM, Blogger Farmgirl_dk: said...

Just "happened" upon your blog...I think I queried on something like "chicken grit" and somehow wound up here.
I giggled through this entire post. You write so well! My first-ever chicks (12 of them) are in a big brooder box in my downstairs bedroom and are about to turn 3-weeks-old tomorrow...I believe I have one or two roos mixed into my girls. I hope they turn out as wonderfully funny (if a bit dangerous) as Valentino!
Take care,

At 7:02 AM, Blogger melinama said...

Thanks everybody! At this very moment Valentino is yelling desperately on the back porch. I'm learning to understand the chicken language so I can interpret this call: "Where the #%$@ is the chicken feed???!!!"


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