Monday, February 29, 2016

leap day

I have a squabble with whoever thought to tag on an extra day to February. Who wants any more of February? Why not do it to May? You can't get enough of May! That's one beautiful month! I think even people in Australia are okay with May because it's not quite winter yet. But February? When it could have been March today?

I'm up early. Last night was horrible for the new hens. Henny in particular was mercilessly pecked at anytime she tried to go up to the preferred upstairs portion of the coop (less exposed, comfy wood shavings). Butter would not let her do it. Finally a miserable Henny huddled in the bottom corner of the coop, giving up the comfort for the sake of peace.

As I walk toward the cheepers now at sunrise, I gaze at the sky for a clue as to how the day will proceed. We have a couple of tricky days ahead: some say tomorrow will bring merely a temporary dip into the temperatures, others predict a half a foot of snow. And today -- well, it's transitional. Yes, the sky looks undecided as well.

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I open the coop, the older girls fly out. Java is upstairs. Henny is a ball of feathers in the downstairs corner.

Is she dead?

I reach in and gently touch her back.


I give another light pet.


Okay, I guess the girl's in shock. I reach for her, but this noise and movement takes her right out of whatever stupor had taken over and she thrashes and runs (insofar as you can run in a small space) and I know that, whatever her psychological state, at least she is not physically hurt.

All hens are out of the coop now and I notice that Butter's foot is quite fine again. So why the curled toes, the limp, the inability to use the foot yesterday?

There is much that I do not understand about chickens.

As I stand there throwing corn and seed on the ground, both Scotch and Butter made sure that neither of the two newbies would come near the treat.

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(the new girls, eyeing seeds they cannot eat)

Still, I have to smile. I remember when Scotch was added to the flock and the white hens attacked her. She seemed so sweet and vulnerable then. Now she's part of the ruling elite. How quickly fates and fortunes shift in life!

It's sunny enough for us to eat breakfast in the sun room.

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(Ed eats an egg we found hidden in the barn: Butter's protest yesterday at the coop invasion)

And then I shift gears again, putting the matter of chickens aside, as this is the day Snowdrop comes to the farmhouse.

Hey little one, your new shoes arrived today! Let's see if they put you in a better mood when we go outside.

A trial run indoor first...

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Good, good. Now let's go meet the new cheepers.

Ed joins us and he sits her down on the fence to watch. She clutches the bread, thinking perhaps that big Java doesn't look especially food deprived.

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On the ground now, liking the feeling of being in control -- it's Snowdrop, the fearless flyer!

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I remind her she still has some bread for the older girls. Oh, those two come running! They know what comes from that little hand.

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Snowdrop knows Scotch and Butter and she likes them just fine (I haven't told her about the chicken brutality that took place in the coop last night).

But there's something equally interesting out here that she hasn't yet had a chance to play with:

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The pinwheels survived the winter just fine (which I think is telling: a heavy snow would have crushed them). And she is delighted that they are at her level. Scotch, you're just going to have to wait.

The new girls? Well, they spent most of the day inside.

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(java closeup)

But that's okay. We did as well.

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  1. Great a member of the ruling elite

  2. Do they ever have coops with two upstairs portions at opposite ends? Then you could have 2 hens to a loft andless fighting. Sounds like Henny was catatonic after the bullying. Also, if the new hens weren't taught how to forage and the older hens aren't allowing them to eat what you throw down for them, what are the new hens eating?

    San (obviously not a farm person :) )

    1. nubchai -- the fighting slows down within a few days and then ends with only occasional reminders as to who's who (who eats first, who gets to pick out the biggest worm, etc.). I thought Henny went pretty quickly from huddling to being spry. In the end, she is programmed to continue and so she does. Most of them do. And here's the amazing thing -- the next day, she was trotting up the ramp when Butter was away. And she stayed upstairs, despite the squawks that followed once the big girls returned.
      As to food -- there is always chicken feed in the coop. The new girls are eating mainly that, with occasional treats of seed, corn and bread from me. Too, I've seen them go out for a minute and pick one thing or another from the ground. But I've not seem them scratch the earth yet. This is what makes me think that they've never been free ranged. I assume following the big girls around come summertime, will get them moving those claws. We'll see.

    2. Hi Nina. That's so reassuring. Thanks! It's great that Henny stayed upstairs even after Butter returned. They're establishing the pecking order, I guess. I hope they pick up on the scratching for food quickly. They're both beautiful birds.



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