Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Looking forward

Chick-Chuck is growing up.

Now three months old, she is undergoing an amazing transformation. When I called to her last month "little peep peep, are you there?" I would hear her high-pitched whistle come back at me. The other day I called out and was distressed not to hear a reply. I stepped into her side of the coop and she was talking away -- about an octave deeper! She's getting her grown-up voice. It's clear now that she's a she, not a rooster. Still no sign of a comb. You can see in the photo that she's approaching the size of an adult Marans.

Here you see her in the middle, with papa Egglebert on the left and possibly her bio-mom on the right. Or another possibility on the ground below her! Chick-Chuck does not yet have the roundness of a healthy hen, but her structure is expanding on a daily basis, inching her towards egg laying.

Still, however, she is not a part of the flock. She stays in her separate area, on the outskirts rather than joining in when the other hens scratch for corn or rooster under the heat lamp. A few of the Araucanas seem to be comfortable around her now, not fussing at her. And at times she'll perch near, but never clearly with, other hens.

I realize that they have to work these things out in their own chicken way. Some days it makes me sad that she's so alone. But I am inspired by her spirit -- something seems to tell her that she has an important future, and so she keeps on looking forward.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Cold World

It's the cold, hard truth about life on a farm. Things die.

Plants die before you can harvest their fruit. Trees die before they grow tall enough to cast shade on a hot day. Ponds dry up and fields flood and the animals that depended on them die.

Last weekend I accidentally locked a hen out of the barn for a few hours. Since I didn't know she was out there, I didn't restrict Ulani's access to the yard. Next thing I knew I had to bury that hen. Ulani's prey drive overwhelms her -- she simply cannot resist an animal that runs or flies.

Then last night the beautiful black hen that had become eggbound died. She was sick for a few weeks. I did not know that limping could be a sign of egg-binding. I figured she'd twisted her leg jumping down, so I isolated her. Nothing was wrong with her appetite. With the exception of limping, she seemed fine. Then about a week ago, as she began to go downhill, I picked her up and realized my mistake. By that point not much could be done other than to keep her comfortable. If I were a real farmer I probably would have snapped her neck. I am not. I suffered with her, and this morning I felt relief that she was out of her misery.

On a snowy, gray December morning I carried her lifeless body far out into a field and layed her down for the last time, offering her back to nature. It's a cold world.