Saturday, April 05, 2014

chickens, redux

If you've grown weary with chicken posts, move on! Today's Ocean post will have far too many chicken notes for those who think this topic is, well, for the birds.

But I'll keep the text short. You can fly through the photos and then go roost on someone else's blog -- someone who hasn't fouled up her writing with all things chicken.

Though you can't really blame me. We are in the midst of one of those gorgeous April days -- a day so brilliant, so utterly clear that even the high of 50F feels warm. So beautiful that you don't care, or even notice that the landscape is still rather brown.

Or is it? Today, April 5, marks a first for the farmette:


I get up just ahead of the sun (right now, our sunrise is at around 6:30), feed Isis (who basically licks his way through about 14 mini meals a day -- each begged for with those sad droopy eyes, none consumed with great enthusiasm) and go out to release the hens.



And you can tell right away that their demeanor changes with the weather. No restlessness today. Just curiosity. Plenty of it.


During the night, Oreo had made his way up to the roost box in the coop -- a first for him! -- and I don't know whether to be glad or not glad at his accomplishment. On the one hand, he now has the warmth and company of the hens, on the other hand, I get the feeling that they like their quiet time, especially the two hens who have not been around a rooster in their previous life. [As a reminder -- Butter and Whitney had lived with the Chicken Girl and her other four hens, while Oreo and Lexie -- "oops" babies, both of them -- stayed in a coop at Chicken Grandma's and from what I gather, Grandma would have been very happy with a different arrangement from day one.]

The few minutes that I have with the brood this morning are lovely. Lexie flies onto the roof of the coop to watch me more closely...


...and I'm amused at that because, of course, they all could fly right out of the pen if they wanted to. It's just that they've never been inclined to do that. Getting in and out of enclosures is still a bit of a puzzler to these guys. Thank goodness. If they ever understand that flying is an option, we'll have to put a net over the top of the pen, but for now, they're fine, living low to the ground in contented ignorance.

After breakfast (and today you get only the side table, celebrating the colors of the season)...


...Ed and I do some clean up work behind the great barn. Twigs and bramble branches have been piling up at the side as I've pruned and trimmed various sections of the farmette. They can't decompose. There's too much there. And so he takes the lawn mower and shreds it all down to piles of fine mulch. A tedious project. My role is to shovel it all back against the barn.


Of course, the chickens eventually find us. This is new territory for them! Oreo is curious about the barn.


Lexie takes a look around but she does not linger. And Butter and Whitney? Oh, they have discovered the piles of mulch!


A warm, wonderful dirt bath!

And how can you not love their delight? We stopped working just to watch. And smile. And wonder what it would be like to roll around in dirt in that way.

In the afternoon, Ed takes out our 96 tomato seedlings. It's their first taste of spring sunshine.


To the east, the truck farmers are clearing some of the land and of course that gets the chickens' attention.
Don't go there! -- I tell them. That's one sharp looking knife they have! I remember the rooster that the farmers kept in a truck on the land there. He would crow and then wander over occasionally and then he stopped crowing and stopped coming and I knew that some family was enjoying a fine Sunday chicken dinner.


In the meantime, Ed gets busy working on a new fencing project. Lexie is all over him, wanting so much to be ahead of the line in case there is some new offering or idea or gift to be had.


I ask him -- did she peck you?
Of course.
Did you put a stop to it?
I shake my head at him. What kind of a foster parent are you anyway?

In the evening (but oh! it's still so light outside!) my daughter and her husband come over for a Sunday dinner (this month is full of irregular weekends).


As I put away dishes afterwards, I keep an eye out  (through the kitchen window) on the coop. She's out -- I say to Ed. Back in. Oh, out again. This goes on for a while. Lexie, it appears, likes to forage by herself, by the light of the emerging moon. She's like me, I'm thinking. She likes the night breeze, the quiet around her... But I haven't predators to worry about. Lexie does.

Just minutes before my newly set alarm clock goes off (time to close the coop! time to close the coop!) Lexie goes inside. I lock the coop door and return to the farmhouse, thinking how grand it was to have had this day in April when the skies were the color of a deep blue iris.  The chickens could not get enough of that sunshine and dirt.


Nor could I.