Sunday, February 17, 2008

chickens


It's that time of year, to get the rake out, the seeds ordered, the gardens planned...and, yes, the chickens ordered. It's been a couple of years since I've had chickens, and I must confess, I miss them. So when the opportunity came up to order Light Brahams with a couple we're good friends with, I jumped at the offer. After you've had fresh eggs its hard to go back to store bought.

We order from Mcmurray hatcheries. One of the "perks" they give (besides having awesome customer service) is and "exotic chick" with every order. Usually its whatever they have left over from the hatches that week, they just plop one in the box and ship it away to you overnight. No muss, no fuss. I've received several "exotics" from them over the years, most of them have been nice birds even the little bantams we received. So when my husband suggested ordering Silver Duckwing Old English Game bantams, I didn't really think twice. Admittedly, the roosters are beautiful to look at, but this is a good example of why you should read ads carefully...and see things for what they really mean. The ad for the Old English Games reads as follows: "Old English Games are very popular because of their alertness, upright appearance, and confident personality. The males in all of these varieties are very striking with bright colored plumage and a certain "cockiness" to their identity". Knowing what I know now, had I read this, I would have told my husband in no uncertian terms would we be ordering the docile light brahams, but getting the Old English Games was out of the question. Period.

My adveture with OEG's started out innocently enough, we ordered 6 bantams along with 20 of the light brahamas. They came in the mail the next day, peeping loudly. Once out of the box and in the brooder finding the OEG's was easy. Being bantams they were smaller than their Brahama counterparts, and their coloring was different; they had a black "cap" on their heads and stripes coming out of the corner of their eyes. And they were fast. After a week I figured out a regular brooder box wasn't going to contain them for nearly as long as the heavier brahamas.

I was in the kitchen when i heard the loud "peeping" from the garage. Its the sound they make when they've been sepreated from the rest of the brood, once you have chicks you begin to be able to decipher their peeps like you would a baby, and this is one I had learned well during our previous chick rearings. Upon entering the garage I saw one of the banty's running around and around the brooder box trying to get back in, one roosting on the wire the heat lamp was hanging from, another on top of the waterer and, sadly, a dead chick next to the brooder. He must have jumped out during the night and died of exposure (that was my initial thought...but it could very well have been much more sinisiter than that since it was the "other" rooster that was loose as well). At this point all I was concerned about was getting the runaway back where he belonged and then banty-proofing the brooder to keep them in. Did I mention they were fast? I swear these chickens were cross bred with tiny road runners. It took me 20 minutes to catch one, tiny chick. My children (who were in the house) must have thought I had gone off the deep end, the string of words coming out of my mouth weren't those that a sane person would use I can assure you. Finally caught, I placed the little rooster back in his box with the rest of the chicks, his banty hens all jumped down and joined him and I went to work hanging sheets and wire to try and stop the little jumping beans from getting out again. I decided to name that rooster, Ricardo...Ricky for short, because of his strut. Little did I know a name like Lucifer, Beeazlebub, or, hell..just plain Satan, would have been more appropriate.

The chickens grew, I lost some of the brahamas to predators, even a couple of the banty hens. But Ricky always survived. One day I even scared a fox away that was chasing him across the lawn. Again, hindsight is 20/20. The older he got, the cockier he got. yes...look back to the ad, "cockiness"..let me explain "cockiness" to you. Cockiness is waiting for the human to turn its back so you can run up behind it and jump, digging your sharp roostery claws into the back of their legs *evil laugh*. Cockiness is crowing outside an open bedroom window at 4 in the morning. Cockiness is chasing children across the yard screaming. I punted his feathery ass across the yard more times than I can count, and he just kept coming back. one time he hit me so hard in the back of the leg, i had a puncture wound, it looked like I had been shot. I had a lunitic rooster living in my yard. And he was sneaky. He would wait in the shadows..quietly...and then BAM! as soon as you turned your back to get in the car, or come in the house...weeding the garden was a nightmare.

After a year, I'd finally had enough. Ricky had reproduced, we had chicks running around and I think even the hens were getting sick of his bravado. I asked Mike to send Satan back to the depths of Hell where he belonged. But Satan was crafty. He knew...somehow...and disappeared. When he finally did show himself again, all mike had handy was an old broom handle. We should have realized Satan needed more to be vanquished, but we were naive. He clipped Ricky aka. Satan, right in the head and sent him flying. These are not big chickens, a broom handle upside the head would have killed a normal bantam rooster..but not this one. No...a day later, when he finally showed up (and Mike was gone) he was walking with a list to the right..and running into things. He fell down at my feet, and looked at me, breathing hard, his beak opening and closing with every breath. He looked like a chicken on death's door. And what did I feel? Guilt. *sigh* I put him in a warm place, fed him, and watered him, thinking he would die before morning. I should have known better. He lived for another year and a half. I have the scars to prove it. He finally met his end with a metal pipe after getting a little too cocky with Mike. And I didn't shed a tear. In fact I think i smiled and opened a bottle of wine.

The order to Mcmurray hatcheries this time will go with a note that says something like this: "Yes, we'd love an exotic chick, UNLESS its and old english game. It took us way too long to exorcise the last one you sent us...we'd prefer a nice, calm cochin or a mille fleur that wont tear our legs to shreds". Hopefully the person who gets it doesn't have a cruel sense of humor and send us one (or two) just because they think its amusing, after all..how could a little 2 lb rooster be the epitome of evil? pfft....

2 comments:

Holly said...

You sure know a lot about chickens!

Katrick said...

this is great. I've experienced the same thing with a black osterlorp. Dave tore my pants and left bruises on me constanly I even kicked him so hard he weezed but I never felt guilty since his assaults never stopped. This was a great blog by the way what a great writer