Saturday, July 16, 2016

Please Be Hens

Just one hen left with her brood. They are a gangly looking lot as they gain their feathers. This hen is a good momma. She is the one who took Up Tight Momma's two chicks to raise as her own.
Cross your fingers that there are lots of hens in this batch.  
Can't tell for sure on four of them just who are their mother's. Are they Australorps, Rhode Island Reds, or Easter Eggers? The dad of course is Sir Gallop. I don't suppose it rightly matters as the Easter Egger breed is a motely crew anyway but man are Easter Eggers heavy birds and I love their relaxed mannerisms, fast maturing, and egg laying ability. Relaxed chickens is a must around here like last night once again Honey Butter after dark was out sitting amongst the calves instead of tucked safely in the coop against night predators. I scooped her up and put her next to the coop door and firmly told her to go in so I could close the door up for the night. 
As for these chicks who are beyond needing a mom but not quite large enough to let loose amongst the flock lest they get picked on or worse eaten by our young cat Duke  -- I hope they are hens too.
Especially the white one at the very least. The kids have named it O like the character in the movie, Home and have their hearts set on keeping this one.
The self-sufficiency plan is for nearly half the flock to be replacements each year. We had a bad start. The first batch raised by a hen this year had three roosters and one hen. The roosters are in the pot and the hen was eaten by a fox. She was wild and I could not catch her to put her in the coop at night. No replacements there. These last batches hopefully we will do better with.
Our 7 year old was anxious for me to butcher the three young roosters until it happened. She learned that when you have a relation with the animal it is much harder to put them into the stew pot. Tears erupted and knowing this little girl dear to my heart has a mind that works much like mine I approached her logically. I simply pointed out things she had observed. The roosters were harassing the hens so they were not laying as many eggs. She had observed that one young rooster was challenging Sir Gallop and he was backing off. I explained that Sir Gallop needs to feel tough so he will continue to rush to the aid of the hens when they let out a squawk. He rounds up the bulk of the hens and puts them in the coop at night. We love Sir Gallop because he is so good. And of course the roosters had to be caught each night, which was not easy, to be put them into the coop. If they went into the coop on their own then the hens did not want to be in there. That was even worse. There was no balance with them in the flock.
Life on the farm, as the kids call it around here, is all about making hard choices and learning common sense. No Common Sense is not something natural but a accumulation of experiences that teach lessons. Common Sense is often learned by experiencing hard lessons. This summer I learned chicken wire is not small enough to keep in baby chicks. Chicks lost their lives over that mistake.
You can't fall apart over loss of life because it is a part of the balance of life. My part is to keep it to a minimum. I reason that if I do not interfere then even more lives would be lost. In this months case it would have been all the chicks as the cats would have eaten well. Without the cats we would be over run with mice and disease. A balance is what nature is all about and since we are surrounded by wildlife we have observed the balance hunting plays. If not enough animals are harvested then there is not enough feed so the animals become weak and susceptible to disease. Disease is cruel and wipes out far more than hunting. It is indiscriminate who it takes.
As for the two dens of fox we discovered, most are still out there causing havoc on our bird population. I'm not talking about chickens though the neighbors has observed fox wandering through our yard early in the morning. The neighbors and us have thinned a few out but the pheasant who wandered our yard is gone and the flock that hung around the neighbors is gone. Most of the Hungarian Partridge that came into the driveway for gravel for their craws are gone and I have not seen a Sharp tail Grouse in quite sometimes.  Too many fox wipe out the wild bird population. We need to eliminate some more fox. Not all, just enough to find the balance once more.
Meanwhile as I find those balances, I learn from my errors and though I seldom make the same mistakes, I do go on to make others. Next year I have high hopes that things will smooth out a bit in the chicken department. Rearing chicks with their mothers has definitely been a whole new experience.

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