Bzzzz January 12th, 2015

The story I’m about to tell may make you think dif­fer­ently about me. I feel dif­fer­ently about myself.

It started this past spring. To fill out my coop I ordered six female chicks from My Pet Chicken—two Appen­zeller Spitzhaubens and four Pol­ish chicks.

If you’ve never ordered chicks before, you may be sur­prised to learn that you can order a wide vari­ety of chick breeds online and have them deliv­ered right to your local post office for pickup. Aside from breed and quan­tity, you have two options in order­ing. You can order straight run chicks, which means you take your chances with sex and will prob­a­bly get a mix of male and female chicks. You can also pay a lit­tle bit extra and order sexed chicks, so that you get females.

Any­way, I digress, but this is impor­tant back­ground, as you’ll see.

The chicks arrived and thrived. It wasn’t long, how­ever, before I began to sus­pect that one of the chicks was never going to grow up to be an egg-laying hen. That was an unplanned rooster.

littleman3 sm

Lit­tle Man

Roost­erly behav­ior begins quite early. Male chicks no big­ger than a grape­fruit will begin chal­leng­ing other chicks with shoves and chest thumps. By the time they reach the size of a small cab­bage, they are trum­pet­ing their mag­nif­i­cence to the world, begin­ning with hoarse, stran­gled sound­ing vocal­iza­tions. Their gen­eral atti­tude of arro­gance and enti­tle­ment grows until they begin try­ing to fig­ure out the whole barn­yard sex thing.

I gen­er­ally wait to see how chick­ens look and act before nam­ing them because I think the name should describe the chicken. So, for exam­ple, my pretty, round white Wyan­dotte is named Pearl. The creamy, caramel and choco­late Pol­ish hen is named Twix. (You know, the candy bar?) The two Appen­zeller Spitzhaubens seem to be teth­ered together as they cruise around the yard. They are Thelma and Louise.

And the rooster? Well, I named him Lit­tle Man because he reminds me of some diminu­tive men I have known who over-compensate for what they lack in stature with out­sized attitudes.

When it comes to roost­ers, I like to think I have an open mind. I’ll give a rooster a chance to prove him­self and pull his weight around the coop. My hus­band, on the other hand, has decided that all roost­ers are lit­tle sadists just wait­ing to rape, pil­lage and even­tu­ally come after me with their spurs when I am not look­ing. He began talk­ing about the final solution.

Give it some time,” I told him. T. Boone Chick­ens and Johnny Cash were were roost­ers and two of the finest chick­ens I have ever met—not overly rough with the hens and stand­ing tall and alert to the sky while the hens were head-down peck­ing and scratch­ing on walkabout.

On the other hand, Ricky Ricardo was a par­tic­u­larly wicked rooster. Good rid­dance to that bad boy.

What is it about nasty roost­ers that they tend to pick on one hen, in par­tic­u­lar? Ricky Ricardo had it out for Tina Turner and Lit­tle Man hated Dorothy with a passion.

Poor Dorothy could never rest and could hardly eat. Lit­tle Man was always chas­ing her, mount­ing her, peck­ing at her and gen­er­ally mak­ing her life mis­er­able. She had lost a con­sid­er­able num­ber of feath­ers from his attacks. She had become ner­vous and twitchy.

Dorothy 3sm

Dorothy

I felt so sad for Dorothy. She is not a par­tic­u­larly pretty hen. She has a kind of undis­tin­guished brown and white coat and the kind of facial feath­ers that resem­ble a fake Hal­loween beard. But Dorothy has spunk, I tell you. She is always the first hen to see when I am walk­ing toward the coop with left­over pizza in my hands. Dorothy lives for pizza. She is also the hen who would most like to see the world. Chick­ens never stray far from their coop when on walk­a­bout, but Dorothy always walks up the hilly dri­ve­way as far as she dares to go. I often imag­ine she is think­ing, “I won­der what’s over that moun­tain. I will go there some­day and see for myself!”

Sadly, I even­tu­ally came around to Harry’s way of think­ing. Lit­tle Man had no place in our coop.

Now, get­ting rid of a rooster is a prob­lem. You can’t hope they’ll run away from home because they never leave the yard. And you can’t give away a rooster. I have seen many ads on Craig’s List for free roost­ers and no one seems to be tak­ing those ads down. Peo­ple will go to some lengths to re-home a rooster. I once saw a huge road­side sign that said “FREE ROOSTER!” (Aside: I shared the photo on Twit­ter and one quick-witted fol­lower fired back, “Who is Rooster and why is he incarcerated?”)

I decided to con­sult with my very expe­ri­enced and skilled chicken-keeping neigh­bor V. V is a no non­sense per­son. She is not overly sen­ti­men­tal about what needs to be done with bad roost­ers and has become skilled at the task. If I needed to get rid of Lit­tle Man, I could do it myself or she would help. She described to me the method she researched and found most effective—a broom han­dle over the back of the neck and a quick snatch of the head backward.

I did what I nor­mally do in these types of uncom­fort­able sit­u­a­tions. I pro­cras­ti­nated. I kept think­ing that the sit­u­a­tion would resolve itself. Maybe one of the peo­ple I had asked would mirac­u­lously decide to take Lit­tle Man into their coop. Maybe Lit­tle Man would get reli­gion and become a kinder, gen­tler Lit­tle Man. Maybe the Cir­cle of Life would claim him early through dis­ease, injury or stalk­ing predator.

This did not prove to be an effec­tive strat­egy. Day after day Lit­tle Man con­tin­ued to tor­ment Dorothy.

Finally, one after­noon Lit­tle Man pushed Dorothy—and me—just a lit­tle too far. I decided that was his final day.

I took the first step. I went into the house and had a glass of wine. Liq­uid courage.

I took some deep breaths. I put on my Lit­tle Man killing gloves and marched out into the yard with my broom. I could almost hear dooms­day music play­ing in my head. I cor­nered that lit­tle tyrant in the coop. He was vocal­iz­ing and fight­ing like, well, I was try­ing to kill him.

I wasted no time. I took mean Lit­tle Man out­side. “Okay, you. I’ve had enough of you!” I flat­tened nasty Lit­tle Man on the ground. “You do NOT, repeat do NOT mess with my hens.” (I was really work­ing up a head of steam now.) I put the broom han­dle over hor­rid Lit­tle Man’s head. “This will teach you a les­son!” I yanked his despi­ca­ble Lit­tle Man head back with a force­ful jerk. He went com­pletely limp.

That’s it,” I thought look­ing down at my gloved hands. “I have killed with my own hands. Premeditated.”

I put down the broom, with Lit­tle Man at my feet. I stood up to med­i­tate on what my fury had wrought…and Lit­tle Man jumped up and raced into the woods! He wasn’t dead!

Now I not only had a mean rooster, I had a mad mean rooster.

Time to call in the Spe­cial Forces. I called my neigh­bor V. Very calmly she offered to help.

But I don’t believe in wast­ing per­fectly good chick­ens. I can bring him home for dinner.”

She didn’t mean as a guest.

She was here within five min­utes. I explained the ridicu­lous results of how I had tried to do the deed.

That sounds like the first time I butchered a turkey in my basement.”

(Note to self: Do not mess with V.)

By this time Lit­tle Man had made it back to his tor­ture Dorothy location.

V headed toward the coop. I noticed she wasn’t wear­ing gloves, so I offered mine. She took them, but I got the feel­ing that she was humor­ing me.

In no time flat V had snatched up that rooster, held him by his feet, slapped him on the ground, put the broom over his neck and sent him to rooster heaven (or hell). The end.

To rein­force her point about waste, I noticed that V had brought her own garbage bag to put Lit­tle Man in. Really, she could have just car­ried him home by his feet. But I sup­pose the spec­ta­cle of her walk­ing down the road swing­ing a dead rooster by the feet was too much even for V.

So there it is. The story of how I tried to kill Lit­tle Man and failed—and then called in a trained pro­fes­sional for the job.

It’s not how I saw myself behav­ing when I began keep­ing pet chick­ens sev­eral years ago. I am still sen­ti­men­tal about them. I give them spe­cial treats to keep them happy and extra spe­cial treats on hol­i­days. I give them names and mourn when a good hen passes. We bury hens that get sick and die.  I have been known to cry over a chicken.

But now I know when to say “enough is enough.” I know when to pro­tect the good chick­ens from a bad chicken. And now I know how to do it.

You can fol­low Bum­ble­bee and get updates, includ­ing new posts, on Face­book: https://www.facebook.com/BumblebeeLife

 

 

Posted In: Chickens, Nature and Wildlife

Tags: , , , , ,

8 Comments

Bzzzz August 8th, 2013

One of the many joys of gar­den­ing is that you get to exper­i­ment, explore and take risks. Often the cost is no more than a cou­ple of dollars—the price of a pack­age of seeds. This is the fru­gal side of gar­den­ing. (I can also show you the excep­tion­ally non-frugal side of gar­den­ing, but that, my friends, is a story for another blog post.) One of this year’s exper­i­ments in my gar­den was the cup and saucer vine (Cobea scan­dens).

cup and saucer vine Cobea scandens 2

The flow­ers on the cup and saucer vine begin as pale green lanterns and open to ivory or deep pur­ple flowers.

I don’t recall if this is one of the seed pack­ages I pur­chased or if it was included in a free­bie pack­age from Botan­i­cal Inter­ests, one of my favorite seed com­pa­nies. It seems like some­thing I would order because the descrip­tion promised this vine would 1) be a quick grow­ing, 2) grow up to 25 feet in a sin­gle sea­son 3) have flow­ers that open pale green and mature to ivory or deep pur­ple and 4) have a sweet scent.

Appar­ently the only thing this vine doesn’t do is grow hun­dred dol­lar bills on every other vine.

cup and saucer vine Cobea scandens

Before the flow­ers open they resem­ble small, green lanterns.

I like the idea of a quick-growing, dec­o­ra­tive vine as part of cre­at­ing sum­mer shade over the chicken run. The chick­ens have a cov­ered porch that allows them to get out of the rain or to shel­ter from the blaz­ing sun. But in the sum­mer some dap­pled shade over the rest of the run would improve the com­fort fac­tor in the rest of the run as well as shade their water cooler.

So how did the cup and saucer vine perform?

I’m think­ing of start­ing my own rat­ing sys­tem. For now, let’s base the rat­ing sys­tem on stars. I’ll fancy up the idea later.

What should my per­sonal rat­ing sys­tem include? An over­all rat­ing, cer­tainly. Beauty? Yes, I do think beauty is impor­tant. Pest/disease resis­tance in my gar­den? Yes indeed, that seems like a good idea too. I am over hav­ing pow­dery mildew on lilacs and Japan­ese bee­tles on pole beans. Toxicity/safety? This might not be impor­tant to some gar­den­ers, but it is impor­tant to me if I’m going to grow it over the chicken coop. I found a handy list of toxic/non-toxic plants assem­bled by the Cal­i­for­nia Poi­son Con­trol Sys­tem. The cup and saucer vine is, appar­ently, non-toxic—at least to humans. I didn’t find it listed as toxic to chick­ens any­where else on the Inter­net. And in my bold exper­i­ment here it is, appar­ently, non-toxic since the chick­ens have kept the lower parts of the vines pecked clean of leaves and flowers.

What else? Scent? Use­ful­ness? Edi­bil­ity? Okay, we’ll go with that for now.

Chicken coop with cup and saucer vine

The cup and saucer vine cov­ers the left side of the out­door run. The vine on the right climb­ing over the coop roof is a sweet autumn clema­tis, which will be cov­ered in tiny white flow­ers in the fall.

So, here is my rat­ing for the cup and saucer plant on a four-star (for now) rat­ing system.

***    Beauty — The flow­ers cer­tainly are beau­ti­ful, although they are some­what sub­tle. This is not a vine that will draw your eye from a dis­tance as some clema­tis do, for exam­ple. **** Pest/disease resis­tance — No com­plaints here. The Japan­ese bee­tles are com­pletely unin­ter­ested. The vine doesn’t show any signs of dis­ease or other prob­lems this year. **** Safety/non-toxicity — Cour­tesy of the Cal­i­for­nia Poi­son Con­trol Sys­tem and my own bold exper­i­ment. **      Scent — The flow­ers do have a mildly sweet scent, but you need to stick your nose right into it to smell it. **** Use­ful­ness — This is a work horse-type vine because it grows so quickly, pro­vid­ing a nice screen where needed in the sum­mer heat. *        Edi­bil­ity — You can’t eat it (I don’t think). Well, you can’t have every­thing. **** Over­all — A grand four-star rating.

The big­ger ques­tion might be, would I grow the cup and saucer vine again? Yes! And I would also rec­om­mend it to other gar­den­ers. It’s an easy, robust and pleas­ing vine. All for the cost of a pack­age of seeds.

 

Posted In: Chickens, Flowers, Gardening

Tags: , ,

6 Comments

Next Page »
error: Content is protected !!