Death

Our Silver-Laced Wyandotte hen died yesterday.  She had been in the nesting box when I went out to get eggs the evening before, which was odd.  I told her at the time that I was taking the eggs because I did not want her to get broody.  They will do that if we leave eggs in there for a few days; instinctively they want to hatch the eggs that are there.  At the time, she was warm and calm.  They are always calm at night time.

The next morning when I went to open the coop, she was in the nest box still, but her head drooped over the edge – eyes closed, unresponsive, cold

I double-bagged the body and disposed of it (her), with little ceremony but with respect.  The other three hens seem healthy and do not show signs of missing her.

I’m sorry, little chicken, I hope your life with us was ok.  I hope you are in a happy place.

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Clipping their Wings

We love that our hens get to run around the yard, even though we only let them into about 1/3 of it – with the new garden fencing.  Well, it’s not new; we did it last spring.  I may have mentioned it before.

I finally found incontrovertible proof that they were escaping the limitations that I’d decided were healthy for them.  They don’t know what’s good for them.  They don’t know what dangers are out there. They don’t see the big picture.  I don’t want them getting into things that could hurt them, or confuse them, or cause bother to me.

One of them had gotten into the habit of flying on top of the coop, then flying down off the roof into the yard outside the chicken yard.  After roaming the backyard for awhile, she would then fly back on to the roof and back into the fenced yard.  I only noticed her doing this after it was, clearly, a habit.  She didn’t know any better; no one had told her that it was verboten.  I then mentioned it – but again, clearly, she was in no mood to follow my rules.

It wasn’t a problem until the OTHER 3 hens started to follow her.  It was a veritable posse of unruly lawlessness.  Anarchy.

I had to take drastic measures that I’d only previously read about in the chicken book.  I had to clip all of their ‘flight feathers’ so they couldn’t fly.  Never seen it done, nor had I had to do it to our first batch of layers.

Although it was for the best, faint tendrils of loss still lurk in the corners of my mind, if not also theirs, because I have taken from them the heady liberty that taunts them through the fence.  “Banis Waia”, or “banish wire”, is what we called it over in the jungle, in pidgin.  It was used to banish animals to one side or another.  Liberty through banishment – is there such a thing?

Paul Dunbar writes of it ( Maya Angelou uses the first line as the basis for the beginning of her autobiography) in his poem, “Sympathy”:

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,
When he beats his bars and would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings –
I know why the caged bird sings.

Our hens know about this, and that’s why we love them so much.

Uprising!

Not as bad as the famous rebellions of history, today in the chicken coop was still notable because we may have to consider disciplining one of our little chicks.

Steve, perhaps in a fit of identity confusion, tore his hanklet off of his ankle and brazenly left it hanging on the roost made from a branch of the crabapple tree.  We thought we were clear with the girls when we told them it was for their own good – this identification scheme.  We asked them if they understood what we were saying.  Not if they agreed, not if they had a problem.  If they understood.

All five of them, Steve (the first to have been awarded the coveted hanklet, you may remember), Albus, Chollo, Barcelona, Juevo, ASSURED us they understood.  That there would be no problems.  That they would comply – complacently.

Hmmm.  We will let you know how the talk goes tomorrow morning.  We’ll get some things straight out there.  Tough love.

Attica!

Day Four Prison Break

Day Four Feathers Sprout

This just in: Breaking News! Prison break at the washtub! Film at 11!

Ang heard a commotion this afternoon from Chicken Washtub Central and went to investigate.  She had moved the washtub on top of the toilet in the laundry room so she could have better access to the dryer, and so the chicks wouldn’t have to keep track of whites and colors.  They just don’t have the brain power to sort clothing accurately yet.  It isn’t fair to ask it of them.

As she opened the door, she saw one of the Rhode Island Reds FREE ON THE FLOOR!  It was a two – foot fall from the lip of the tub to the floor of the room, but she (exact identity has not been confirmed; the other inmates are still being questioned) apparently did not suffer any injury.  A blessing in itself.

As a consequence, Ang rigged up a woven mat as an additional deterrent to any further escape attempts.  This added about 6 inches to the height of the washtub, and sucked any hopes of freedom from the little chick-brains imprisoned inside.  See photos above.

The temperature topped 80 degrees (in American) here today, thus rendering the heat lamp not only superfluous but too much for our girls.  My project list this weekend just changed.  I moved “build a cool looking chicken house and coop” to the top of the list, right after coffee, a 10K Easter run, and coffee on Saturday morning.  They won’t last more than another week or two in Washtub City.  Plan A is to put them out in the cool looking coop during the day, and move them back in to warmth for the evenings until either they are fully feathered or it stays warm.

We are so excited to see actual feathers continuing to ‘sprout’ (probably called something else, but they look like they are sprouting) on all of their wings, and one of the Barred Rocks actually has TAIL feathers starting to sprout.  Again, we aren’t sure if it is Juevo (Cassidy corrected this spelling for me this morning) or the other as-yet-unnamed Barred Rock.  Go ahead, study the pictures and see if you can tell a difference between two days ago and today.  Startling – no two ways about it.

PLEASE – if you have great coop/pen ideas, attach them for me in a comment or find me on Facebook and hook me up.  I am amazing at building slightly wrong-looking stuff; I’ll take any help I can get.  Measure once, cut twice is my motto.

Have a great day!