Monday, 19 September 2011

Hen love-ins, potty bedrooms.

She's at it again. The little brown hen, the one who took a passionate inclination towards another little hen, mounting her frequently and going through the mating activity. Not sure if there was a conclusion. Probably not. She is a hen after all even if she thinks she isn't. 

However......she has now turned her affections towards our best egg laying big brown hen. Upon her back she gets. But she is too small, so just bounces about. To get the grip necessary for that backwards under flip of the rear end so that seed can be transferred one to the other, the one on top has to hold, with the beak, the feathers on the head of the one being sat upon. This action is do-able if one is of the necessary size. The cockerel can manage quite successfully, but not with the smaller hens though, because his weight squashes them so flat that their rear end orifices are most times pushed into the soil. Not to worry, though, at least he tries. 

But then it is his job to try and this he has done successfully as can be seen by the nine chicks that have been hatched since his arrival. And a quick word about those chicks. One was hatched under a hen-mum. Five, and then three, were hatched in the incubator. I was worried about them not having a mum to look after them, to snuggle up to when cold, to show them how to feed, how to behave. I shouldn't have worried. 

In comparison to the chick and mum family, those eight are far happier, better socialized, roam wider and therefore have many more adventures than the single chick whose mum kept him glued to her side for several weeks and then shooed him away once she decided that she had done her job. He now remains a solitary chicken, and does not seem to fit in with the rest of the flock. Not to worry, he is booked to go to another flock of hens when is old enough. 

As for the eight. They should have been kept in the outside run for several weeks but they didn't want to be cooped up even though the space was suitably large enough for them. In their heads was the requirement to be out amongst the rest of the flock and would kick up one hell of a hullabaloo about being kept caged up such that Hubs relented and let them out. Didn't think any would survive, but they all have so far, possibly because it is the end of season for any of the birds or animals who would need to hunt them, the hunger to feed their own young not being upon them like it is in the Spring. 

And five run together, and the three make their only little group. They are so happy together in their little bands. Racing around the place. Getting into mischief. Enjoying life. Snuggling together in corners when they need to rest. A lot of the time being one of the flock. Life is good for them. This I shall remember should the time come to cull them, in particular the cockerels of which there are several. 

But...back to that romping little brown hen. So she tries to keep a hold on the feathers at the back of the head of the big brown hen, which would then give her the momentum to do the backward rear flip over the rear end of the big brown hen. Except that to do that backward flip necessitates her leaving go of the head of the big brown hen, which then unbalances her such that the backward flip can't happen. 

And oh what a carry on  she makes. She squawks. She jumps. She carries on like a demented being. Meanwhile the big brown hen seems to be in a faze as to what is happening. Meanwhile, the cockerel seems just as fazed by the sight of two of his hens apparently having it away with each other. 

He is losing his feathers. Has been doing so for a while. Might be as a result of the hot weather. Might be because he is in a natural time of moult. Might be because of stress. Might be having his head scrambled by the sight of one of his hens mounting the other. Can't fight the little brown hen. Could fight a cockerel. But little brown hen is not a cockerel. So he dithers about in front of the hens. Unsure. Not knowing what to do. 

So what he does do, after a while, is peck at the head......but not of the little brown hen, but the big brown hen. So she now has two beaks having a go at her head. And it looks like he is telling her off,  his attitude being, 'Oh you naughty, naughty girl....what do you think you are doing. Stop it. Stop it this minute!' 

Which I think is terribly unfair. That big brown hen is one of our best egg layers. To have her upset is not good. To have the big cockerel having a go at her, and the little brown hen trying to mate with her....well, if I were her I would go on strike. 

And the other little brown hen is just as troublesome. She is the one who sat for weeks incubating the onions being dried in the Tall Barn until the onions became all used up such that there was nothing left to sit on. She then changed her sit-in area to the Wood Shed / Used to be the Office. This was not do-able because I have managed to keep the hens sitting in that particular spot for some weeks, mostly due to the large plastic egg which is always in situ. Therefore, frequently, I hauled her off that spot and put in the 'naughty box'  which is an empty rabbit cage. Seems to have worked. She has finally gone off the boil in regards to sit-ins, a mode she must have sustained for at least two months.

Meanwhile, one of the big brown hens has gone half-broody in one of the three flower pots housing the young olive trees. I say 'half-broody' because unlike the little brown hen, she is half hearted with her sit-in activities. 

I put a couple of eggs underneath her in an endeavour to make her sit-it worth while for both of us, only to find that she sometimes sat on the eggs sometimes didn't which enabled Gussy doggy to steal one of the eggs himself being sat in the opposite flower pot.

And here he is doing cute-dog pose. Only he is not a cute dog. Like a sudden summer storm he can blow up into a fiend when he likes. He also has a coat which is a nightmare to look after. He should be long coated, being a cocker spaniel, but his body hairs seem to have the capacity to stick together with much ease into horrid clumps of smelliness so he has to be kept clipped which has made him look far less pretty. Not sure how we are going to manage the winter with him. Might knit him a woolly coat. He does feel the cold and shivers frequently even if allowed to grow a full, tangled coat. 

So, pots one and two have now trampled down flowers which were at the end of their growing season anyway. Pot number three is still free!

To the pot, I think, the little brown hens will have to go. Not the flower pots, but the pot on the stove via a short rest in the freezer. I am still dithering about this decision, but the little brown hen is putting herself in the freezer because of the upset she is causing and every time I hear the ruckus she is making she is reinforcing my thoughts about despatching her. 

These decisions about life and death are very relevant when running a small farm. Who to save. Who to let go. It is not done lightly, these decisions about who to cull. But when I start stepping back from this task of choosing I only have to walk past the meat counter of the local supermarket. At least we know the history of our meat. 

I think that the majority of the chicks are cockerels. Two are booked to go to new homes when they are big enough, but the rest will go into the freezer. Meanwhile they are rollicking around, having adventures, exploring life. This I shall remember when they are due to be recycled. 

As for incubators: As I have said, despite my previous misgivings about using them because of the lack of parenting the chicks would have, it would seem that the chicks have a better time without a hen-mum around, and enjoy far more freedom which seems to generally make them more socialized and happy all round. 

And although the chicks are devastatingly cute when hatched, and one wants to keep picking them up and cuddling them, this stage does evaporate once they get their proper feathers. 

So off to feed everyone now..... first of the wet, colder mornings today, a portent of the winter to come. Not to worry, soon be Spring again! Will keep saying that to myself as clump about in my welly boots during the coming weeks! 


Horst in Edmonton said...

Who knows, maybe that little brown hen is Gay, and the other hens and rooster don't know how to handle that crazy chicken. Therefore causing a lot of problems. Maybe it is best for that little brown bothersome hen, to become a Sunday meal. Life on the farm is always interesting.

John Gray said...

I have a brown hen then mounts others... a local farmer told me it was more an agression behaviour rather than a sexual one....
oh and gussy IS cute x

Vera said...

Horst, you are so right about life on a farm being interesting. Gone, I think, are the days when there are no dramas! Funny thing is, though, that since I wrote this blog those little brown hens are behaving themselves!

John, Gussy is cute and well knows how to 'milk' his cuteness! Lester said it was aggression as well. Still fazes the cockerel though, who unfortunately is not as aggressive as that little brown hen. Perhaps that is the problem. Perhaps he needs to do a big rant with everyone so that everyone knows who is boss!

Duta said...

It seems your hens and cockerels provide you with the right material for a soap opera. I can assure you this 'telenuvela' is as interesting as one with humans as protagonists.