We now have only four chooks. The fifth one died a few months ago, from a suspected snake bite. We went to visit friends in the afternoon, leaving the chooks to forage and peck and strut their stuff. As per normal. When we got home and rounded the girls up to put them in their chook house, the roll call came up short. No. 5 was soon found, lying listless in amongst the agaves. She was alive but very floppy, unable to hold her head up. We brought her inside, lay her gently on a soft towel in a box with tall sides. We checked on her during the night but the news in the morning was not good. The Kid went into the laundry to see how she was going and reported back that she was dead. Very matter-of-factly.
I felt sad I have to admit. Not as sad as when Scout died, but sad nonetheless. Tougher people would have rung her neck the evening before and not let her suffer through the night. But ringing a chook’s neck, I am afraid, is not something I’m up for..yet.
Otherwise, I’m loving having chooks. I had no idea they were going to be so friendly, and so full of character. And the joy they bring is just a bonus on top of the daily bounty of eggs they provide.
There are so many things about them that make me laugh.
Like the fact that if you are wearing open-toed shoes with painted nails, they will peck your toe nails. I presume they think it is food. I find this entertaining. Especially when they do it to Mum who has a bird phobia (OK, I don’t laugh out loud. I pretend to admonish the chooks and then I move them on).
I find it amusing that they love getting in cars. If you leave a car parked with a door open for more than a minute, they’re in, poohing and pecking all through your car. This causes some level of hysteria when it happens to verging on bird-phobic guests who have not yet managed to get out of their car. Lots of flapping and squealing in that case.
Recently I’d been away for work for a few days, and upon returning I was quite excited to see the chooks. They ran up to me (with their top heavy running style that makes you think they really need arms to provide balance), with glee. I crouched down, smiling, to say hello to each of them. I was obviously revealing way too much of my gums. One of them, mistaking my gums for food, jumped up and pecked my mouth causing my gum to split and bleed. I had a flap of gum hanging over a tooth (looking like blueberry skin) for a day or so.
They make us laugh, and they make me cross too. A couple of them are so determined to get into the house garden. They fly up on top of the garden fence, down the other side and start dismantling the garden. They love it. Before we had the fence, when they had total free range of the place, they’d be in the kitchen too.
The fence is rabbit-proof (sort of), definitely wallaby-proof and kind-of bandicoot-proof, but it turns out it’s not chicken-proof, at all. Each of these creatures are determined to get in and destroy the garden, dig up roots of plants, eat the foliage and generally make a mess. Yes, the chooks’ poohing and scratching and pecking is good for the soil, but not for the plants who are left languishing, roots exposed, in their wake.
Recently I’d had enough of it, and realised I had to take action. I hadn’t wanted to clip the chickens’ wings, but after some research I decided it was the best option. We didn’t want them cooped up all day, I love that they roam, hang out with the goats, check out the orchard. I just don’t want them in the house garden.
So, today I did it. I clipped their wings. With Dad’s help. He held them, I clipped. One wing on each bird. It did feel somewhat like a form of bodily mutilation. But I’m happy to report that there was no blood (apparently you can clip the wings too short and draw blood) and not one of them uttered a word. No pain. And hopefully, there will be significant gain.
Jones quite fancied eating the clipped-off feathers. Mildly disturbing. I hope that doesn’t mean he now has a taste for them. He plays with the chooks and rumbles them occasionally (a firm growl sends him scurrying), but so far he hasn’t caused any damage. I’d like to keep it that way.
Postscript: I’ve already had to clip one chook’s wing a little more as she, clearly defiant, flew up onto the fence immediately post our clipping session. I sit here typing, keeping a beady eye out the window on the fence line. Do they dare?