Friday, October 30, 2009

The prodigal chicken returns

Without fanfare, Blanche returns. I find her walking back and forth along the run. I herd her back in, this time without Doodles. She immediately runs into the coop. I decide I will give her her own little pile of scratch grains and when I open the coop door to put the grains in, she actually tries to escape. I do not understand this chicken! She must have mad cow.

Still AWOL

We still can't find Blanche.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lost chicken

I can't find Blanche anywhere. We've been driving the neighborhood. We went across the field to what we thought had to for sure be Blanche, but it was just a seagull. I keep looking out the window to see if she's walking back and forth along the run, which is what they usually do. But no Blanche. She's trouble, but I don't want anything bad to happen to her.

There are a lot of terms we use everyday that originate with chickens.

Pecking order.

Cooped up.

Flew the coop.

I think Blanche flew the coop.

Can she use the door bell?

There is a knock on the door, and I wonder if it will be a kindly neighbor with Blanche tucked under his arm. But it's just UPS.

She did it again!

I go out to check for eggs, and Blanche slips out again. Then Doodles slips out and I hear lots of frantic clucking. Doodles is trying to chase Blanche back in, and even though I open the coop door for her, Blanche won't go in. She'd rather face the dog, I guess, than the flock.

It reminds me of an article I saw in The Onion. The accompanying photo looked just like Blanche, and the headline said Free Range Chicken Makes It To Bolivia. Maybe that's where she's heading, because I can't find her anywhere.

Blanche gets weirder

Every time I open any sort of door or gate, Blanche flies up into my face and escapes. She has made many enemies in this flock, and I think she needs a respite. It's really hard to get one chicken back into the run, though, because all the others try to sneak out, too.

We figured out that the our mixed-breed, 10-month-old puppy named Doodles is probably a Border Collie. So we have been letting her round up Blanche. We figured we would let Doodles test out her Boarder Collie-ness on a few chickens that aren't our favorites. Unfortunately, Blanche qualifies. But fortunately, it works.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Blanche completely weirds out

Blanche has always been a loner - one of those that, if human, would be on the news for committing some strange crime. Sure, she's the cute, fuzzy yellow chick that insists on being in all photos. But you can just see the neighbors being interviewed: Well, she kept to herself, pretty much.

She is now all grown up and doesn't lay eggs very often. We tried calling her Peaches or Peachy, but Blanche is the name that stuck. She has taken up permanent residence in one of the nesting boxes and hisses at me when I open the door. She puffs up and is ready to strike if I put my hand anywhere near her.

For a long time, she just sits, but after a while, discovers that she could be sitting on eggs. It must give her a sense of purpose. I fool her by giving her a plastic Easter egg, or a golf ball. She then stands up and rolls it under with her beak, settling it in with the rest of the brood. I can then see how many eggs she's sitting on. Then she catches on.

So now, I come at her from behind. Since my husband designed the coop with a jutted-out area for the nesting boxes, it has its own flip-up door. (It's really heavy and we have a low-tech way to keep it open: a stick.) I pick Blanche up by the butt, and grab the eggs with the other hand. She can't beak me from that distance.

OK, so Blanche goes broody, you say. But the thing that's so weird is that she also recruits Legs to be part of it. She sits on Legs like she's still an egg. And Legs puts up with it! Why? Warmth? Two outcasts bonding together? Nothin' else to do?

On the occasion where Blanche does leave the nesting box, she heads out into the run for some scratch grains. But she stays puffed up, walking around like a pumped-up body builder on Venice Beach.

I begin to really dislike Blanche. But when she does go into the run, the other chickens pick on her and I feel bad. So for now, I am putting up with her weirdness and hostility. And Legs does, too.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Big Mama

My husband misses General Mills so much that my daughter and I put a picture of him in a frame and sign it: Dear Jim, I really miss you, too. Love, General Mills.

Big Mama is a black Cochin with feathers on her legs. She is large and in charge and has no problem stepping up to the plate to lead this flock.

And now, blending past and future tenses, I will tell you the full story of Big Mama.

The flock was doing fine. Big Mama made sure each chicken knew where they stood - usually with just the stamp of a foot. It is around this time I noticed that she has an eye that is looking infected. I put neosporin on it every day, but it isn't enough. Soon, her eye is completely closed and she is shaking her head frequently.

One Saturday, I grab Big Mama and am walking around the neighborhood with her tucked under my arm. I ask Joan, who says she looks fine. I ask Mike, who grew up on a farm with chickens, if she looks ill. No - her feathers are fine. She's big and fat and just has an eye infection. Jim agrees.

So, I put Big Mama back with her flock. But two days later, Big Mama completely tanks. She is really, really ill. After frantically trying to figure out how to ring a chicken's neck, then realizing that I just can't bring myself to do it, I find a vet who will help put her down. It's the only humane thing I can do for her. I am crying all the way to the vet, and I can hear Big Mama in the box, shaking her head and trying to make sense of what's going on.

This is my first emergency with the chickens. I am so upset that I let it get to this for Big Mama. It's not till two weeks later that I finally put two and two together: I see a small gang of squirrels enter the run, and I see all the chickens run inside the coop. I am sure that Big Mama would not have stood for having squirrels in her run, and tried to scare them out.

I think Big Mama took one for the team.

I miss that mean old bird.