Sunday, August 30, 2009

That`s Fowl!!

Life with farm animals can be humiliating.

It seems there`s always an unpretentious critter lurking behind every corner just waiting for a short yodeling goatherder to come blissfully along and be made a fool of. This is one of those stories.

It began a few weeks ago when my hubby, Mr. Yodeling Goatherder, and I were over in the cow/goat barn or as we call it’ The Bachelor Pad’ cleaning the barn.

Now I think I mentioned in my introduction that we have a lot of chickens here. So many in fact that when one comes up missing unless it`s my favorite rooster Weasel I just don`t tend to notice. They all look amazingly similar I must say in my defense. (Aside from Weasel of course.) Scores of blue, black, splash and white Silky chickens mixed in with lots of red, black and gold bantam cochins….well they tend to resemble each other after a spell. Add in the fact that my memory is like a sieve and well, there you go.

So there we were forking and sweating while attempting to not get knocked over by Patty who gets very excited to see momma and sets into rubbing his head all over momma (momma being yours truly.) Being head rubbed by a four hundred plus beef steer is an experience that can quite literally knock you off your feet!

During a break from the bovine love fest we heard a chicken clucking. Very softly mind but we still caught her voicing her displeasure. I looked at my husband and he looked at me, I think we both may have sighed and rolled our eyes for we knew we had a hider.

Lo and behold after a very short search which needed a flashlight to complete we found our hider. `Lil Red Hen had set herself up a fine nest behind a full sheet of plywood screwed to the barn wall. There in the dark and safety she was, becoming very disgruntled when my husband illuminated her hiding spot with the flashlight.

“Well?” he began as I stood on tiptoe`s to peek down at the tiny hen,” Do we move her or let her be?”

“How many eggs does she have under her?” I asked and got a shrug of shoulders.

Being a clever man my husband went and found a long length of plastic pipe and slid it back behind the plywood. Let me tell you mama hen was VERY put out when he rolled her forward gently using the pipe under her ruffled butt! We counted ten eggs roughly before she gave us a glare and settled back down over her clutch muttering in chickenese all the while.

“So?” he inquired.”It`s a safe spot to set but when those peeps hatch out….”

I knew what he was getting at. While she had indeed picked a wonderfully safe place to set on her eggs once those little fluff balls were mobile they would be running around the very solid hooves of a four hundred plus beef steer! That ghastly thought led us to our decision.

We would allow her to finish incubating her eggs then when they were hatched we would take the peeps and `Lil Red Hen back to the chicken coop. Most generally if you move a chicken at night and tuck her babies under her she`ll wake up in that coop and stay there with her peeps forevermore. Once we had our M.O. figured out all we could do was wait and finish cleaning the barn, and try to stay on our feet.

Not two days later on a Saturday morning Mr. Yodeling Goatherder came back to the house after graining the goat boys and Patty.

“I heard peeping behind the plywood,” he informed me as he kicked off his chore boots.

“We`ll give her a day or two to complete the hatch, then we`ll move her,” I answered and so we both went about the work that accompanies having a farm, large or small, and a household to run. Sunday evening at dusk we went over to the cow/goat barn, had a brief session of bovine love and affection and then set about trying to get `Lil Red Hen and her babies moved.

After much colorful language and a few very hard pecks to our hands we managed to nudge her and the nine fluffy babes to the edge of the plywood so that we could gather the chicks and place them in a large orange bucket for transportation up the hill. Mother chicken was tucked under my arm and I had the plastic ‘Poultry U-Haul’ draped over my other forearm. She would cluck to her young ones as they peeped loudly in the bucket then continue to peck my hand as hard as she could.

“Ouch!” I spit as we trudged up the hill in the near black of night.”You can peck all you want but you`re not getting down until you`re in the coop!” Guess I told her! It was another few minutes getting her all arranged and tucked in nicely under the six-holed nest box the ladies use but with a sigh of relief I was closing the chicken coop door on the newest family.

“There!” I said dusting off my hands,” Now who thinks they`re clever?” I asked her rather proud of my above chicken intelligence and fine poultry handling skills.

“Get her settled?” my husband asked as I met him coming up the hill to assist if needed.
“Yup!” I replied as we walked back to the house, “There’s not a chicken alive that can out fox me!” I boasted, wishing I had suspenders so I could tug them out for emphasis.

The following morning was a Monday and my groom leaves for work very early, so the chores fall to me and my daughter in the A.M., that day being no exception. I had my coffee to get my brain in gear and set off to do the birds. Doing the birds entails feeding and watering Wade the duck, the six geese, the five turkeys and then the chickens. All the poultry have breakfast then have the run of our property until dark when they have to go in for the night.

The turkeys are the lone exception to the ‘freedom of the farm’ rule since they got into trouble a few months ago when they showed up in our neighbors driveway to pick grit and eye their flower beds with beady lusty turkey eyes. Since then they`ve been in lock down. Felonious feathered friends you might say.

The chickens were let out and I gathered my watering can, handed it to Trinity the black lab who insists on carrying everything that will fit in her mouth, then came back home to do housework. Okay, I more than likely was writing a story but housework sounds more industrious. That afternoon we had completed our milking chores down at the goat barn and had gone over to give the boys some fresh hay and water. Patty was being his usual cow self and the goat bucks Anakin and Auron were also getting some hugs and pats when I heard a chicken and peeps!

I shoved, or more accurately TRIED to shove Patty aside so I could peek out of the barn into the pasture. Lo and behold once I managed to re-locate the Hereford momma`s boy there sat `Lil Red Hen and all those peeps! I gaped at her openly while she merely turned her head as her babies gathered under her and gave me a look as if to say ‘Now who thinks they`re clever?’

That was two weeks ago and `Lil Red Hen and her brood are still making a fine, and safe, living residing in the bachelor pad.

It truly is humbling to be outfoxed by a chicken.

1 comment:

houndstooth said...

Awwww! Too bad she outsmarted you, but those chicks are awfully cute!