Sunday, July 1, 2012

# 295 - My Favorite Chicken is Raw and Feathered!

Raising chickens has been a wonderful experience. Well, there have been a few scary and sad moments that brought about great hands-on learning with the chickens, but most moments have been such fun.

For those of you who are new readers and to recap for seasoned Farm Life Lessons readers, I began my chicken adventures over one year ago with seven chickens purchased from the local Tractor Supply Company.

The teenager in charge of the section with the chirping chicks was trying his darndest to show us his expert method for determining whether or not the chick was a pullet or a roo. He'd delicately balance the chick between two of his outstretched fingers, the "jawbone" of the chick held in place and he said the activity of the chick's legs would determine whether it would be a Jack or a Jill.

If the legs came up fighting, it must be rooster. If the legs laid down in submission, it must be a soon-to-be hen. Hmmmm. I'm not sure this was the most scientific method of determining a chick's potential at cock-a-doodle-dooing.

Turns out, that of the seven chicks brought home, two were indeed roosters. Also, mixed in the bunch of "pullets" were two Bantams. If we'd been able to keep the roosters, we'd have had perfect matches for raising home-grown chicks because we had a male and a female Bantam and we ended up with four Buff Orpington hens and a mancho rooster counterpart.

Alas, we do not live in the country, so the two increasingly loud roosters had to go on their merry way to a new home, which was an ordeal within itself. In other words, it took two attempts to finally leave the roosters at their new home because they were chasing us back to the truck to go home with us. It was pitiful and traumatic.

Yes, we love the chickens. Needless to say, our backyard chickens are not the dinner-bell variety.

Of my five remaining chickens from that first batch, there was that little Bantam, a white chicken with speckles. Hence, I dubbed her "Miss Speckles." She was chatty and friendly, always flapping gently around my feet when I was in the backyard with her. The Buffs are friendly, but not as sweet and approachable as Miss Speckles had been.

I went through several ordeals with Miss Speckles. She survived several attacks. I guess her bright white feathering caught the attention of various neighborhood beasts. However, I did manage to save her from a visiting Australian Shepherd, our sweet "Dunk" who decided to chow down upon Miss Speckles.

If it weren't for my opportunistic positioning at the window as Dunk dashed across the yard with the bright white object in his jaws, I'd not been able to run outside in a fury to rescue her from disaster. Poor Dunk, he caught my wrath that day, but his munching on Miss Speckles amazingly did not end in her death. The attack terrified her, she lost many feathers and remained crouched in the corner garden beneath the elephant leaves for hours, but she soon recovered and went about her merry way.

If you didn't know that chickens are resilient, then get a few. They will surprise you.

Poor Dunk lost his credibility to be around chickens, but he still has my love and adoration.

Then, one day, Miss Speckles, my beloved chatty chicken simply disappeared. Not a stray feather in sight to indicate a struggle...she simply was gone from the yard. I searched high and low for her. I sat outside with the feed, shaking the container and she never came running. For days after her disappearance, I'd glance out the window and almost could swear that I saw her out of the corner of my eye, but it never turned out to be anything other than hopeful imaginations. She was truly gone.

Never did I think in my life that I'd mourn the loss of a chicken, but I did. That little chicken with her little eggs had captured my heart.

Of the seven original chicks, we had relinquished two roosters and lost the only Bantam left in the group, so we had four chickens left. Hardy chickens that amaze me every day.

Last summer, we nearly lost one of the remaining four after she developed heat stroke. If you ever thought a non-responsive chicken splayed out on the ground was dead, so did we. But, after a few days of tender loving care, the chicken survived. I could hardly believe it.

As of this past Easter, we rescued two new chicks from a friend of our youngest daughter who found them in her garage. I could not say no to taking these chicks because no one else could be found in these parts to take in two stray chickens.

Then, a mini-nightmare happened as our rescued Yorkie, sweet little six pound Belle decided to attack a chick and bit off the top beak of one of the chicks. Now, I don't trust Belle on a penny bet to be around a young chicken because she is a hunter by nature. A Yorkie is a hunter, so the chickens need to be a little larger to hold their ground and to earn her respect. The extent of this chick's injury left it floundering and unable to eat or drink on its own, surely it was destined to die. To be honest, I considered disposing of the chick in the most humane way possible so it would not have to suffer. Then, I decided to see if the initial trauma could wear off and with major hands-on intervention...maybe this chick would be able to survive.

Since our chickens are the backyard kind, we already have a close relationship to them...we're not raising our chicks to be wild-kingdom independent, so I tended to the wound of the beak every few hours and began to hand feed the chick mash and water by dropper. The chick's little tongue would flick out rapidly to get some water and some food I had ground up fine with a mortle and pestle; I could not believe it, the chick did not die. She grew more slowly than the other after this attack, but she did grow and become strong.

And so now I have another chicken close to my heart, such as Miss Speckles had been. Only difference, this chick, which is named "Beaker" due to the missing top beak, has seemed to become imprinted upon me. I can hardly walk anywhere in the yard without her standing on my feet. She comes to me and nearly urges me to pick her up and she does not show any nervousness whatsoever, but remains calm and sweet in my hands. As I go back inside the house, she follows me close on my heels and tries to come in the house with me. Every weekday morning, she's the first to greet me at the backdoor. This chicken is ADORABLE I'm telling you!

My niece Phoebe is holding
Beaker. If you look closely, you
can see the underbite of Beaker
due to top portion of beak missing.

I don't expect non-loving chicken people to understand this sweet little bird owning a piece of my heart, but she does. I guess I see that she's also fought to do her part to survive. The night of the attack, she couldn't even stand on her own two feet, but would flop over as if death were upon her. But, she made it.

I guess a part of me feels connected to her. I've had a few flop-over-nearly-in-death moments myself, but my dropper was an IV stuck in my veins, sometimes up to three IV's at one time. It's a weird way of looking at it, but I can't help it. She's got a terrible scar, especially for a bird...her beak is badly damaged and won't ever be normal, yet she's a happy little thing.

She makes me smile. Yes, I have a favorite chicken.


LindaG said...

Great post, Lana.
Hope you're all having a wonderful evening.
Have a blessed week, too! :o) said...

Linda - Thanks and I hope you've been having a better time of it with the transition. Looking forward to reading more of your posts.