Friday, January 20, 2012

chicken soap opera, part 3

One Chicken Life to Live...

When we last left them, Bünter was caged in the garage and Ginger was recovering in the hen house with her friends, Mac and Babs...
Sunday morning, we left for Barnhenge Mama's, equipped with earplugs should Bünter decide to start crowing in the car.
(As a side note, at this point I was still high on the delicious brownies I had the night before. Can you say 'caffeine sensitive'? When the alarm went off at 7:30, giving us two hours to gradually get out of bed, shower, and prepare to leave, I immediately popped out of bed, said a very loud "Good Morning!" to Able-Bodied Boy and proceeded to be very industrious. The first caffeine crash gave me 3.5 hours of sleep, and the second round of energy was running at full steam...)
So, off we bounced into the countryside of Pennsylvania. When we arrived, Barnhenge Papa greeted us and encouraged us to bring Bünter out to the yard. He repeated their offer to swap out for another hen, so I followed him to one of their coops, where Bünter's cousins were safely locked in. Able-Bodied Boy went back to the car to get Bünter.

Now, if you've ever tried to catch a chicken, well, you probably know that it's hard. If you have never tried, it's hard. I mean, the Barnhenge's can probably do it no problem, but I'm an amateur compared to them, and not exactly the most agile person in the world. Chickens are skittish, not as big as their feathers make them seem to be, and can fly enough to make for a 3-dimensional battleground.

So, into the coop I went. Barnhenge Papa stood at the full-sized door and watched (laughing to himself, I'm sure, with my totally bogus technique). I decided to go in slow, let them get used to me just enough that I could gain a little ground, then try to corner at least one. Keeping in mind, of course, that of the 20-ish birds in there, only 4-5 were actually of the breed we were going for. So I crept. And crept. And they scattered back and forth. Finally, one of the Auracana's was directly in the corner I was approaching, so I moved in, hoping to keep her cornered and catch her.

It didn't quite go as planned.

From the yard, Able-Bodied Boy had arrived with Bünter and stood at a distance watching the door of the coop where Barnhenge Papa was watching me. The air in the doorway suddenly filled with squawking, panicked chickens flying out of the coop and into Barnhenge Papa's face. I spun around, realizing that all the chickens had fled and they were going to be much harder to catch out in the yard. Only to find that Barnhenge Papa had caught one, an Auracana.

Thus we had gained a Bunty2.

We chatted in the 20 degree morning chill while I held Bunty and we pondered the joys of chicken ownership. Eventually, we decided it was time to let Bünter out and fend for himself among the rooster and large flock - and the Major had already noticed his competition.

Bünter's first act of business upon leaving the cage was to find the nearest hen and try to mount her. Unlike Ginger, who must have been caught off-guard during her de-flowering, this hen fought back. The two circled and leapt in the air at each other for a few moments until Bünter gave up on her. He eyeballed another hen, tried again, and got the same response.

Barnhenge Papa chased him out of the chicken run and into the yard, where the Major and more hens mingled. And time and time again, Bünter tousled with hens and lost. The Major was so unimpressed, he virtually left Bünter to fend for himself. Last we saw him, Bünter wandered the yard alone...

I think he'll learn his lessons in ladies and manners.

After a lovely visit and a wonderful lunch, we headed home with Bunty2.
(Between the calming camomile tea and the carb load at lunch, I was now a hollowed zombie of my former caffeinated self. But the brownies were really sooooo good :)  

Monday morning, I planned to leave all the hens in our run to allow them time to sort out their pecking order, let Bunty get adjusted to the coop, and keep them safe while I left the house for a few hours (no rooster means that hawk attacks are more concerning).

I went out to give their frozen water a thaw and found Bunty sitting on the inner roof. No big deal, they get up there on occassion. But between the pecking from the other hens and my frightful presence, Bunty decided that there must be a way out of the situation. She lept up to the edge of the roofline, squeezed out through the web of string, and flew deep into the young woods behind the coop. You know, the web of string meant to keep hens in and hawks out? Yeah, that.

I happened to get a photo of the excitement:

Soooooooo, lest she not be able to get back into the coop later, I opened up and let the hens roam for the day. And I checked in on them frequently to see that Bunty was back with the others and integrating. Which she was, thank goodness. So now our only concern is her ability to escape and be flock-less and water-less all day, so we've been risking leaving them out while we're away from the house. But a little chicken wire should fix that sometime soon. And the flock will be complete and happy, once again.

Even after all the drama this past week, I have to say I LOVE having chickens hens. The entertainment value is immeasurable, as I spent hours happily watching their reactions to all of the weekend events. And I learned more about them, like the cock-eyed looks Mac gives when she hears another bird's call ("Is that a hawk??"). And how Babs, who used to be the lowest on the pecking order, now eyeballs and half-stalks Bella to determine if she could take her (my bets are on Bella, just sayin').

This photo doesn't do justice to the little dance that Babs did around Bella on Monday when they were out in the yard together. Babs would take a few steps closer to Bella, lean in to gauge a reaction, then get closer and closer. As Bella moved on, not paying attention, Babs moved behind her and then to the other side of her, still leaning in and gauging Bella's reaction. She got close enough at one point that I thought she was going to peck at Bella (I think that would have been a really really bad idea!), but Bella kept focused on pursuit of her favorite treat: chicken poop.

And the fresh eggs. I could go on and on about how much healthier they are. And bigger. And how much fun it is to make your own food spring from nature.

And the entertainment value. Oh, those funny chickens...
Are you tired of chicken stories yet? Cuz I'm not :)

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl


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