Friday, May 28, 2010

Chicken Chaos

I still have the 12 new refugees living in a pen on the west side of the house with my rooster, Pasha. Six other hens live on the east side underneath the porch with the newest rooster, Bart. During the day, the porch chickens have free range of the yard. Anywhere between 4 and 5 am, the two roosters start crowing on either side of me while I'm still trying to sleep. Earplugs have made it possible to sleep as late as 6am.

Bart is showing signs of becoming hostile to me. He hasn't fully attacked me yet but has taken a few swipes at me when he thinks I'm not looking. If he keeps this up, he and Pasha will have to trade places again. Too bad because they are otherwise content with the current living arrangements.

But these living arrangements are only temporary anyway because I plan on moving the newest refugees down to Frankencoop soon. Just waiting for the three baby chicks to get a little bit bigger. Plus, I have clean-up work to do at Frankencoop before I move more birds in. Lots of chicken shit to shovel out and spread on the gardens.

I also have to rearrange some stuff in a corner that made it all too easy for this freeloading visitor to hide. I suspect it's the reason why so many eggs were disappearing for almost a week.

Not poisonous but six feet of any kind of snake is the exact opposite of what you want to find in a nest when collecting eggs.

No one is more amazed than I am that I managed to get a head shot. But don't be too impressed. I put a lot more holes in the wall than in the snake.

At least the cats ate good. I chopped the snake up into six-inch sections which, to my surprise, looked very much like unsliced sushi rolls.

So, while all this craziness is going on, the last thing I need is injured chickens. But, sure enough, the universe can always be counted on to send me the last thing I need.

First, one of the older refugee chickens at Frankencoop lost use of her right leg. Have no idea what's wrong. Found her outside the coop, scooting around on the ground with her one good leg. For the last week she's been living on the porch while I wait and see if she gets better or I'm getting chicken curry. She seems to be able to put a little weight on it now so I'm still hopeful she'll pull through.

Then, this afternoon while bringing fresh water to Frankencoop, I found Mirabel hiding in the tall grass. Mirabel is one of the few big white refugee hens that has a name. I have trouble telling most of the white hens apart. Mirabel has a crooked toe (and a tendency to peck at my legs when she wants attention) that makes her easy to identify.

I initially thought she was laying an egg but closer inspection showed she had a little blood on her face. Even closer inspection showed she had a small puncture wound above her left eye. Really close inspection revealed her left eye is completely destroyed. The lid is intact but the eye is deflated. I don't know what happened. Maybe a run-in with one of the cats. So now she is on the porch too. Mixed a little crushed aspirin in with her water. Now I just wait and see.

But how long to wait? That's the murky question. When is it time to throw in the towel and take the hatchet down off the wall? I'd prefer the chickens to be alive and producing eggs - I'm sure they'd prefer it too - so if there's a chance they'll get better, I'll give them that chance. But I certainly don't want to unnecessarily prolong their pain. There comes a time when not only is the chicken unhappy but I'm spending too much effort on the care of a single chicken that would be better spent on other projects.

I'm far too soft to ever be a successful chicken farmer.

But lest you think it's all been bad news, I did make a new friend. A real live normal person who has recently moved to this neck of the backwoods. His name is Tom and he's a retired political science professor fresh off a two-year stint in Iraq with the State Department.

He grew up around here but moved away a long time ago. He's come back to an old piece of family property where he's living in an Airstream trailer until he builds his cabin. You can read all about his new rural Alabama life at his blog: Welch Super Service.

You have no idea how nice it was to hear someone start a sentence with "I was reading this article in The New Yorker..." Hell, it's just nice to know someone who reads.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Five more refugees

The owner of the nearby factory farm dropped off five more hens today. One had eluded capture and fled the warehouse, spending the last couple nights outside where it managed to not get eaten by predators.

The other four had been living beneath the floor slats in the warehouse where they long ago tried to escape their doomed existence as sex slaves - breeders for The Man. This allowed them to keep all their feathers but left them in a position to get shit on alot. To them, I guess it was the lesser of two evils.

Welcome home, sisters.

There are now seven chickens under the front porch and thirteen in the triage coop behind the house. That's twenty total living up at the house - more than are living in Frankencoop right now, which is currently housing fourteen adults and three baby chicks. Thirty seven chickens in all.

I now have a rooster on each side of the house - both under open windows. This is the most effective alarm clock I have ever owned. Sadly, you can't choose the time it goes off nor does it have a snooze button. There is no oversleeping when you sleep with the chickens.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Cue the tiny violins

A whole month without a post. Frankly, I just haven't felt like writing - or doing much of anything beyond life's necessities. Been in a deep funk. No one specific reason. Guess it's just a whole lotta shit that's built up. It seems as though it's all I can do just to keep my head above water these days and I have trouble convincing myself that writing about it is going to make me feel any better. And when I'm not writing - whether it's blog entries or anything else - that's just one more thing to feel bad about.

Broken tools and equipment. Manage to fix something and something else breaks. And the shit that does work is inadequate for the task. Car hasn't run in months and there's no money to fix it. Without a car, I have to turn down work that could help pay for the repair. It's probably something so damned minor but I know as much about fixing cars as I know about fixing space shuttles. For every step forward, I get pushed back two.

Some nagging health issues that I'd love to get taken care of but there's no money to fix me either. The closest thing I have to health care is the care package my friend Colleen sent that included a big bottle of OTC pain killers and antibiotic ointment (along with many tasty treats - like a whole quart of capers! - so life ain't all bad. Now if I could get my hands on some gin...).

The job I spend the most time at - taking care of Grandma Guthrie - is so incredibly depressing. Over the last couple weeks I've had to take her to visit her husband in the hospital, visit her dying brother in his final hours and spend a day with her in the emergency room when she was experiencing chest pains. The other day she wanted to go to the cemetery where much of her family is buried - where she too will be buried. There is little comic relief in this job.

Okay, enough pissing and moaning. One of these days I'll do a more in-depth rant about what a day with Grandma Guthrie is like. But for now, let's meet the new chickens:

This is Bart. Check out those fancy feathered feet! Me and a neighbor did a little trading - they got my little rooster, Sophistry, and I got this big black cock. While roosters are still the last thing I need, I just couldn't turn down this stylish dude.

Pasha, the rooster that lives under my front porch, is pissed as hell that I brought Bart up to the house. All he wants to do is kick Bart's ass. Bart is a lover, not a fighter.

Living arrangements for the house chickens are in flux. Currently, Bart is now living under the front porch with six hens and has free range of the yard. Pasha has been confined to a roomy new pen behind the house that he shares with seven new factory farm refugees. Just got them yesterday from a nearby concentration coop. Here are three of them:

I plan to move the new chickens down to Frankencoop in a few weeks. I think it'll be easier on them if they have a bit of an adjustment period before I throw them in the mix. Besides, I'd like the new baby chicks to get a little bigger before I make their environment even more chaotic than it already is.

They're two weeks old now. Mama Graybie took them for their first trip outside today. The next couple weeks will be a dangerous time for the little ones as they explore the grounds. So many things that want to make a snack out of them.

And now for something completely different:

It is spring and love is in the air. Recently caught these two jumping spiders getting it on in the kitchen. Behold! The mating dance of the jumping spiders: