Bzzzz March 16th, 2011

I’m sorry to leave you hang­ing like that. It wasn’t inten­tional. Thank you for the cards and let­ters of concern.

Pre­vi­ously in my life I was bat­tling the wicked rooster, Ricky Ricardo, who had it in his tiny lit­tle chicken brain that he needed to mur­der Tina Turner for spurn­ing his amorous advances. He had pur­sued her into the woods in the attempt, threat­ened me with bod­ily harm for try­ing to inter­vene and basi­cally fright­ened the rest of the chick­ens into a state of dither I had only seen when a fox or hawk was after them. Things were bad. I faced a tough decision.

Ricky Ricardo looked as if he were assem­bled from spare parts.

To tell you the truth, the end of the story was already writ­ten when I posted the first part of this two-part saga. My pro­cras­ti­na­tion in telling Part Deux was part “life” and part “I hate to tell them what really happened.”

So, here’s the story.

I knew that I had to inter­vene. I could either let Ricky Ricardo con­tinue to ter­ror­ize the chick­ens and per­haps risk los­ing Tina Turner who couldn’t get back into the coop or I could intervene.

Tina Turner turns heads. No won­der Ricky Ricardo was obsessed with her.

I tried to find that myth­i­cal coun­try home for bad roost­ers but, alas, they don’t exist. No one wants a mean rooster for their flock—and cer­tainly not as a pet.

As a backup, I tried to find some­one to “take him away” (euphemism for “Just don’t tell me what you did with him”). Alas, even the hearty coun­try folk here in Calvert County can’t be both­ered with butcher­ing and pluck­ing a mean rooster just to end up with a stringy bird stew.

Short of a solu­tion, I decided I at least needed to get Tina Turner to safety (lit­er­ally out of the woods) and sep­a­rate the bad boy Ricky Ricardo from the good chick­ens. I decided to use my mag­i­cal powers—a can opener and a can of corn. Did you know chick­ens react to corn the way an addict reacts to the crash of a meth truck?

I man­aged to lure most of the good chick­ens into the coop. But every time Tina Turner tried to slip inside Ricky Ricardo would lunge after her, send­ing her skit­ter­ing back into the woods in fright. It took all my wiles and cun­ning, but I finally man­aged to out­wit a stoopid rooster. I dis­tracted him toward the oppo­site side of the coop while simul­ta­ne­ously giv­ing Tina Turner the high sign that it was safe to make a dash for the door. I swear, I think she knew what I was doing. She finally reached safe haven.

That left me with the bad boy Ricky.

I tried to entice him into the small Eglu—the portable coop I use for sick or injured birds or as quar­an­tine for new­com­ers. He was being either espe­cially smart or espe­cially stu­pid, but either way, I wasn’t able to get him into the Eglu.

By this time I had been out­side in the dark and the cold with my hands in a wet can of corn for about 45 min­utes. Par­don me for my cal­lous­ness at this point, but I had given it every­thing I had.

Ricky Ricardo, you’re on your own for the night. Tina Turner did it. Now it’s your turn.”

Yes, I tucked in the chick­ens and left Ricky out in the cold.

The next morn­ing Ricky was rag­ing around the yard, act­ing like King of the Hill. Most chick­ens peck here, wan­der a bit and peck there. Not Ricky. He just ran around. And ran around. He kept cir­cling the chicken coop try­ing to fig­ure out why the other chick­ens were in and he was out. I noticed that Tina Turner refused to leave the inside of the coop that day.

Ricky ran around all day. I tried again to herd him into the Eglu, but he was hav­ing none of that foolishness.

I’m free!”

The next morn­ing Ricky Ricardo was gone.

I called him. I looked for him. I kept think­ing he would wan­der back into the yard with sto­ries to tell about his walk in the woods. It didn’t hap­pen. After some more look­ing I even­tu­ally found a few feath­ers that looked sus­pi­ciously like some­one had left them in haste.

I think The Cir­cle of Life solved the Ricky Ricardo problem.

It’s a sad thing to lose a chicken, although per­haps less sad when it’s a mean chicken. Still, Ricky Ricardo was con­ceived, hatched and raised here Chez Bum­ble­bee, so it was a sad day.

I don’t believe I was the only one who felt that way. Remem­ber Edith, Ricky’s sur­ro­gate mother? She began to search for him. For the next cou­ple of days while the other chick­ens would for­age for bugs, Edith was wan­der­ing around look­ing into the trees. She flew to the top of the coop for a bet­ter view. She was look­ing for something—or someone.

I try not to anthro­po­mor­phize my chick­ens (too much), but I believe that Edith was search­ing for Ricky Ricardo. Moth­erly feel­ings are pri­mal, after all.

So there you have it. The Bal­lad of Ricky Ricardo. Bye, Ricky.

Posted In: Chickens, Gardening

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Bzzzz February 5th, 2011

Small flock chick­ens are never bor­ing.  If you’ve never kept them, then you prob­a­bly haven’t spent evenings like I have, sip­ping wine and watch­ing Chicken TV, as well call it—the antics of the chick­ens as they hunt for bugs, flap their wings and take dirt baths behind the lilac bush. Recently, the chicken drama here has ranged from slap­stick to tragedy, with a good deal of mys­tery in-between.

The ker­nels of dis­con­tent and upset in the coop began way back this past sum­mer when Edith went broody and hatched a lit­tle grey chick we called “Baby,” since we have zero chicken sex­ing skills. After Edith and Baby’s mater­nity leave in a sep­a­rate coop and rein­te­gra­tion into the flock, chick­ens did what chick­ens will do and tried to peck at Baby to ensure she/he knew she/he was at the bot­tom of the peck­ing order.

Baby and Edith were inseparable–and of great inter­est to the other hens.

Despite her diminu­tive size, Edith was Baby’s fierce pro­tec­tress. She and Baby cruised around the run as if teth­ered side-by-side. When any of the other chick­ens approached the pair, Edith would puff out her chest and chal­lenge the offender. Not even the enor­mous rooster T. Boone Chick­ens would cross Edith in her height­ened state of mater­nal fierce­ness. At night, Edith would tuck Ricky under her to keep him warm. When he grew too large to sit on com­fort­ably, they sat side-by-side with Edith’s wing cov­er­ing him.

All of this we/them drama did not make for a quiet and happy coop. The chick­ens seemed out of sorts. They had dif­fi­culty set­tling down at night. In the morn­ings I would find them churn­ing around in a state of agi­ta­tion. Egg pro­duc­tion dropped to near zero.

Baby grew at an amaz­ing rate. His/her fuzz was replaced by feath­ers and brown mark­ings. He/she grew speck­led feath­ers along the head and shoul­ders. Baby looked like a chicken assem­bled from spare parts.

Baby grew at an amazing rate.

Edith and Baby grad­u­ally started expand­ing the dis­tance between them as they mean­dered among the rest of the flock and Baby began the process of nego­ti­at­ing his/her place amongst the chickens.

It was dur­ing this ado­les­cent phrase that I started hav­ing grow­ing sus­pi­cions that Baby was a rooster. There would be no eggs from this chicken.

Unlike other chick­ens I had inte­grated into the flock, Baby would aggres­sively chal­lenge hens twice his size. Even though he would get a good solid warn­ing peck and would retreat, Baby would advance again. And again.

Things were heat­ing up. There was def­i­nite dis­cord in the coop. There were no eggs for days and days.

We re-named Baby Ricky Ricardo. Then Ricky fig­ured out he was a rooster and had an idea about what roost­ers are sup­posed to do. This is where it gets bad.

In the coop he would try to mount the hens and there would be peck­ing and noise. When the chick­ens were on walk­a­bout and he tried to mount a hen they would run away. Ricky would give chase. There was a lot of run­ning around because Ricky didn’t give up. He just kept chasing.

Ricky Ricardo looked as if he were assem­bled from spare parts.

The yard was lit­tered with feath­ers. The hens were exhausted. Ricky was frus­trated. My dozy lit­tle flock had turned into a churn­ing mass is discord.

Frankly, I was sur­prised that T. Boone Chick­ens, the only other rooster, didn’t put a stop to all of Ricky’s shenani­gans.  He would just watch curi­ously when a hen ran by with Ricky in pur­suit. His lais­sez faire atti­tude may be due to the fact that T. Boone can­not run and can only walk with a limp due to an eagle attack a cou­ple of years ago that nearly killed him.

Then one Sun­day the chick­ens were on their after­noon walk­a­bout while my hus­band and I raked leaves and worked on tidy­ing the winter-ravaged gar­den. Sud­denly, Tina Turner ran by squawk­ing, with Ricky Ricardo in hot pur­suit. She ran this way. She ran that way. Ricky was like a marathon sprinter. He wasn’t giv­ing up.

Exhausted, Tina finally wedged her­self between the house and a trel­lis. The posi­tion was awk­ward and Ricky wasn’t able to mount her, so he began peck­ing at her and pulling out her feath­ers. Tina was mak­ing fran­tic, dis­traught sounds.

Harry held Ricky off with the han­dle of the broom while I extracted Tina from behind the trel­lis. I was mov­ing to put her into the coop out of harm’s way when she sud­denly pan­icked and broke free, run­ning to the woods. Ricky darted past my hus­band with the rake and took off in hot pursuit.

Tina again sought refuge, this time under a shrub in the woods. Ricky com­menced peck­ing at her and pulling out her feath­ers. I think he intended to kill her.

I pick up Tina to put her into the coop. She was so pan­icked that she started squawk­ing. Ricky then came after me with Tina in my arms.

Of course, I did what any­one would do, I screamed like a lit­tle girl. “EEEEEEEEEE!”

Harry, fig­ur­ing what the prob­lem was, started yelling from across the lawn some­thing like, “No, stop! STOPSTOP!”

I ran. Tina got loose. Ricky fol­lowed her again. This time though Tina headed deep into the woods and eluded me, Ricky and Harry with the rake.

At the end of the day Ricky non­cha­lantly wan­dered back into the chicken coop with the other chick­ens while Tina Turner was still hid­ing in fear. She spent the night out­side. Thank­fully, she was well-hidden and sur­vived until morning.

The next day dur­ing walk­a­bout, Tina retreated deep into the woods to avoid Ricky’s atten­tions. When it was time to go home to roost at sun­set she started timidly approach­ing the coop, only to have Ricky chase her away.

Here is where I faced a dif­fi­cult and per­haps life and death deci­sion. This was not the first instance of overly-aggressive behav­ior on Ricky’s part. Do I let the chick­ens work it out, risk­ing Tina Turner to injury or per­haps death? Do I allow Ricky Ricardo to ter­ror­ize a docile hen because he is just fol­low­ing his roost­erly instincts? If I inter­vene, what do I do about Ricky? Would any­one want a mean rooster?

There is more to this story…to come.

Posted In: Chickens, Gardening

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