Backyard Chickens, a Story

This is a continuation of Backyard Chickens, a Story from the Perspective of Animals.

~

It was 5:30 (17:30) in the evening and the sky was remarkably dark.
“It looks like it’s 8:30,” commented the grandmother, referencing the time that the sun set.
“It does!” exclaimed Farmer Alixandra and she stopped counting her husband’s custom ordered pens.  C.F. Alixandra had a tendency to run away without stating her intentions, and she fled outside, but thankfully the grandmother was astute enough to follow.

A quick assessment to deem where all of the chickens were, then the storm broke before the farmer could start her gathering. Immediately drenched in rain, she grabbed two or three chicks as the grandmother grabbed one at a time.

The two red silkies, Homme and Homey, with their young friend, Munchkin, tried to stay covered within the gardens, they tried not to get blown away, but the wind was so strong that it was picking up the smaller chickens.  They cried: “Help us! Help us!” They didn’t mind getting wet, but they did mind fearing for their lives, which is what was happening.

More and more chickies were put back into the garage brooder, with a nice, warm heat lamp available for them, but the storm was getting ridiculous. Water was flooding into the garage, the farmer had to change her clothes midway through the rescue; they were absolutely soaked through. The bigger backyard chickens found a hiding spot fast enough. The three new silkies were rescued.

The storm calmed down and it rained with traces of sunlight. The chickens were settled, but one bird was not: there was a young sparrow caught in the bird-feeder by the chicken coop. This was the first time a bird had been caught in the feeder and it was quite tangled with missing feathers.  Humans gathered, and the farmer gently removed the sparrow, dried him or her off, and put it in a container with food and water.

It took two days for the sparrow to be released.  Its attempt to fly was pitiful and instead it motored around like a wind-up toy across the yard. It was very quick, but it would not be able to fight off cats or even angry chickens. The sparrow was put back in the container.

The following night the sparrow was given a test run in the garage. It still could not fly, although it fluttered its wings all around the garage floor and tried to evade recapture.

It was given two days to recover again. There was a special event, the Pet Poultry Happy Farm Mini Tour Weekend Adventure, and the farmer released the sparrow again there. With enough people around, the farmer hoped that the sparrow would be safe until it could gather its bearings.

It sat on a bottom branch of a tree for a little while, eventually the comrades came over to investigate, and the farmer lost track of the sparrow and hoped for the best.

The following day, despite the lovely weather and complete absence of a storm, the sparrow returned. He had gotten himself stuck in the bird-feeder again.  It was undoubtedly the same sparrow, and the little bird-brained cutie was put back into a recovery (heat-less) brooder.

~

Chicken dynamics are a big deal. There is a literal pecking order, a top cock, a boss hen, and a suggested ratio of cocks to ladies to avoid the boys cock-fighting to the death. The hens get jealous and will peck little chicks or anyone vulnerable who walks in their way. There are techniques to introducing new chickens, something that happens frequently on this happy farm, and it often ends in bloodshed.

Lately, thankfully, it’s been ending more in pouting. Oreo, Elvis, Bruce, and Austin Frex had no intentions of returning to the coop now that younger chicks, and then the bloody goats, had taken it over. They became fence-sitters, a controversial idea both in the chicken farming and skinhead scenes.

The backyard chickens seemed to take change in stride, with the occasional pecks to any little chicks who are playing around, and the occasional threat to move to the neighbour’s property, but otherwise they were relatively reasonable.

The barn animals, however, were much less sophisticated and weren’t exposed to the same social events that helped the backyard animals develop manners. There had also been a tragedy at the barn that was looming over the goats and sheep: the baby Boer goat had passed away.

Extra measures were put into place for the safety of the goats, but as goats are impulsive, unpredictable creatures, they ended up doing stupid shit instead. Medicine was given, a better feed stand was put up, and the goats were again attempted to be contained in one pen.

Big Daddy managed to get himself stuck behind the feeder while Sheepie and Goat Mama ran away, eventually they went all the way around the barn and back into the chicken nesting area on their own.

(It was fortunate that Chicken Farmer Alixandra had a tendency to indefinitely borrow the black goats from the barn and keep them as backyard pets as they were not exposed to illness. They also didn’t have the freedom to escape and eat anything their little goat hooves could get, poisonous or not. However, within a week, the two black goats got themselves dangerously tangled in the backyard barbecue gas line and were stubborn little whats-its when it came to removal, prompting the husband of Chicken Farmer Alixandra to ask that the house not get blown up, please, even if that means moving the goats.)

Some of the pet poultry in the barn also had issues it seemed. Una Jacobine was broody and wanting a baby but just doing an awful job of it. First she tried to hatch about 36 eggs, which were then taken away from her spot, but she didn’t want to move her nest so she just brooded on the ground instead. She laid a few eggs on the ground. They cracked.

Her problem was made worse than Freckles, the pouty boss hen who was known to disappear for periods of time, ended up hatching a mystery nest inbetween barn floors and support beams and all kind of awkward obstacles. Three chicks fell through the ceiling and were taken to the garage brooder, two chicks managed to the ground floor with Freckles. With some fancy handiwork, one of Freckles’s babies, Shadowclaw, was kept in the garage while two white ones were put in with her other four. Freckles moved her nest to the corner across from Una.

Una continued to sit miserably in the corner, growling at anyone who came too close, and would occasionally take breaks to eat, drink, and have a dirt bath, but she was clearly depressed. One day, when she was taking the rare break, a milk crate (her favourite!) was put back there, with the one filthy egg she had been attempting to sit on, and two slightly bigger eggs. Una didn’t know where the other two eggs came from, but she sat on them anyways.

One night when the farmer was closing up the barn with her husband, there was a mysterious chirping. In the feed aisle there was a poor baby yellow newly hatched duckling, crying for someone to be her mummy. She was placed with the nesting duck, Helga, who promptly bit the chicken farmer then the duckling. The duckling was moved back to Una, and Una hesitantly stared at her surrogate baby while the farmer crossed her fingers.

The next day the duckling was again out of the milk crate, but there was a new darker duckling who was under Una, so the farmer again put the yellow duckling (named Sidney) beside her sibling, darker duckling Oliver, and hoped Una would chill a little.

That night the farmer couldn’t find the ducklings under Una. It was difficult to tell because a broody hen isn’t very cooperative with moving. But the ducklings were making noise and clearly near Una…
It turned out they were under a cochin/silkie mix, a chick himself, and someone who could not substitute as a mummy. The ducks were moved to the garage, where they lived in the brooder with Lenny, Jasmine, Orchid, Shadowclaw, and the other chickies.

The following night Una was not in the milk crate, but back roosting with the other Columbian Rocks up top. Her little duckling fiasco seemed to cure her of wanting to be a mother.

 

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