Friday, April 18, 2014

stuff of dreams

And now we are on such a roll of golden days that I think our winter thoughts are out for good. See you next November, oh worries of dark days and dull landscapes!

But here's the thing -- this waking with the dawn to open and clean the coop? That worked well in March when dawn came around at 6:30. Today, at that hour, the sun is up and running! 


And the chickens are anxious to get going. I'll try harder tomorrow to get to them at the crack of dawn. In the meantime, Ed joins me outdoors. He spreads some chips as I attend to the chicks.


I watch them as they begin their morning routines. Some scratching for worms, yes that, but for the most part, they are light breakfast girls. They care more about their beauty routines now. And, too, they're a little taken aback by the cool air. I leave them to the puffing and preening and try to get a few more minutes of sleep.


Later in the morning: a hurried breakfast...


...and now Ed is off for his Friday design meetings and I break with routine and give the farmhouse one enormous scrub down. Because my little girl and her fiancee are coming down for the weekend!
Three reasons for the trip -- she tells me. Your birthday, then, too, Easter and wedding preparations.

Good enough! Though my birthday is on Monday, we'll celebrate it tomorrow. Under the golden April skies!

A few hours later, the farmhouse is spotless.
What next? I decide to put in a call to the chicken girl's mom. To talk about Lexie.
Everything alright? -- she asks.
Yes, mostly yes. Except there's this issue with the mean girl herself...

She gets it right away. She knows Lexie. She tells me: Let me take charge of that girl. Can I interest you in a different hen? A brown one this time.

These people love their chickens. She truly believes she can teach the hyper pecking brat how to take on a more angelic  disposition. She tells me she''ll coach her through these rough times. In exchange, I'll be fostering gentle, docile Butterscotch.
Wait a minute! I have "Butterscotch!"
Oh. Well, I thought our brown hen was named Butterscotch. That of course makes sense. Why the white hen (whom I call Butter) would be dubbed Butterscotch was a bit of a puzzler, but with foster chicks, you take 'em as they come.

And indeed, the chicken girl's mama comes this very afternoon with the sweetest, loveliest hen ever and for a minute I feel guilty foisting feisty Lexie back on her. But the fact is, you cannot get anything done with that foul-beaked crazy girl. When I worked the raspberry patch early in the afternoon, Lexie demonstrated that she is both inept at catching her own worm and determined to push her way to the front for a handout. If there is no handout, she gets upset. When she is upset, she pecks. Ouch! Lexie! To which she'll gabble good and long and then come around again to see if you have that worm on a platter for her.

And so quite suddenly, Lexie is out of our care.

As for the new girl? Well, given that her real family is a bit confused as to the names of their chicks, let me call her Scotch, to distinguish her from Butter. (Just for now. Scotch isn't an easy calling name!) And she is a dream child. When I hold her, she closes her eyes in that sleepy way, as if nothing could be better than that long cuddle in a stranger's arms. Suddenly, life with chickens is very very easy. [I am so naive. Stay tuned.]


Ed comes home, I show him how adorable Scotch is. Things seems so ...uncomplicated.


Until all hell breaks loose.

Have you ever introduced a new chicken into an existing flock? My advice: don't do it. Or go ahead and do it, but be prepared to suffer the war that will ensue.

And so, after my loving session with Scotch, I familiarize her with the coop and then the chicks roam free. Ed is home, I run errands, and now it's evening and we pause to survey our brood.

What's this? Scotch is under attack. The rooster nabs her. The hens, my docile girls, go after her as well. She retreats and forages by herself. Anytime she comes closer to the pack, the dynamics repeat themselves, only with greater ferocity.

Only then do we read about the perils of throwing in a new chicken into an established order. Apparently, everything is in chaos for them. A new pecking hierarchy must emerge. Before it does, there is war and the sweetest, most docile chicken will be the one to suffer at the hands and beaks of her "superiors."


And so this is where we are: we handed over Lexie the meanie, took in Scotch the sweetie and as a result, we have full scale war. At last viewing, poor Scotch is huddling outside the pen while the established girls stand possessively at the entrance of the coop. How this could possibly end well is beyond me.


It's dark. The two girls and Oreo are in the coop, settled for the night. Poor Scotch is just outside the pen, terrified about going in. Ed and I approach her, sweet talk her. After a few minutes, she allows  me to pick her up. I hold her tight, this sweet, sweet girl that's about to be thrown to the wolves. I tell her it's the way nature intended. That in the end, order will be established and everyone will again be at peace. (Or dead. I don't tell her that.) She relaxes. I feel her warmth, her gentleness.

Ed opens the coop and I slip her in where the girls are. We latch the door for the night. We listen. Quiet. Nothing amiss yet. We walk away hoping that tomorrow morning, we will find four undamaged chickens, alive and well and ready to forage in the bright April sunshine.