Friday 2 September 2016

Chickens: O Geese: O

And so it came to be the day when we no longer could cope with living so close to the geese and the chickens. For eight years we have shared our immediate outside space with first the chickens, and then the geese, but that was alright because the courtyard space was also full of builders stuff, of piles of bricks, wood, and general buildery messiness so the chickens and geese sort of fitted in with the general chaos. This was also reflected in the house, which at first was just roof, windows, or floors.... and then this work was done and we moved in but still the house was as chaotic as the courtyard space.

And it was an enjoyable experience learning the ways of chickens. Living so close to them gave us an opportunity to learn that every living being has their own characteristics, and therefore must be respected and not thought as less than us because they are 'just animals'. The chickens taught us about the cycle of life, that it takes but just a minute for life to end....memories of accidentally dropping the food bowl on a little chick which moved underneath it just as I was putting it on the ground comes to mind. Life to death in just a instant. And the delight of putting eggs in the incubator and watching them hatch, which forever changed my way of thinking about what is inside an egg, and also gave me a healthy dislike for commercially produced eggs. And the even better delight of watching hens with their young chicks, fussing and cooing round them, teaching them about what to eat, and how to get up into the fig tree to roost for the night. There was a temporary chicken hut but most of the chickens preferred to roost up the fig tree, which they would do even in the harshest of winter weather. I remember giving them some porridge one morning so they could warm up, their backs being covered over with a light frosting of snow.

And the 'honour guard' of hens which stayed close to a well loved cockerel as he died. And the endless habits and attitudes which cockerels had towards each other and the hens, and the way in which hens can be vicious towards each other, but can also be kind. All of this we learnt in the time of having chickens in the courtyard.

As for the geese, these were different because it was Lester who bonded to them rather than myself. In the beginning they were supposed to be for eggs and meat, but he could never bring himself to slaughter them so none went into the freezer and we never had many eggs from them either because they have short laying seasons, and they also tended to lay out on the smallholding and  we kept forgetting to get the eggs in, so overnight the local predators would take them. But they were great characters as well, and it was a grand sight to see Lester calling in the geese and chickens for their evening meal, when they all came charging towards him in a fluff of flapping wings and feathers. They gave life to the courtyard, despite the mess they made, but that was alright because the builders were also making a mess, so the courtyard generally looked a busily chaotic space of things happening, and everyone was happy, the chickens and geese because they were out foraging on the smallholding all day, us because the house was getting renovated and we were finally getting settled into the homesteader's way of life which does take a while to get used to after years having lived

2016, .... the major building to the downstairs of the house was now done, the courtyard was now empty of builders stuff although still looked untidy, and the chickens and geese were still in situ overnight but still out on the smallholding during the day. But as the months rolled by the chickens started refusing to go outside the gates, preferring instead to stay in the courtyard all day. The geese were still were out all day, but were spending more and more time hovering outside the back and front gates of the courtyard as well as the double doors of the middle barn during the day, leaving lots of poo to as evidence of their new habit, which we had to walk through before we could leave the house and courtyard.  
We have had a successful year with chicks this year. We didn't want to, we wanted the eggs for use in the kitchen, but the hens eventually found so many secret dens to lay their eggs in that we couldn't find, that most of them went broody. I am not saying that it is not a charming sight to see a hen suddenly appear with a clutch of chicks, it is just that we wanted to keep the hen numbers down while we sorted out the Chicken Project, which was going to give the chickens and geese new living quarters away from the courtyard so that we could then concentrate on getting the courtyard tidy, and eventually planted out with shrubs and flowers.

When the builders were here the hens used to take their chicks out of the courtyard during the day, so the chicks learnt that this was the thing to keep on doing when they were no longer dependent on their mum, but with the building work done everything quietened down in the courtyard, and the hens started preferring to stay close to the house instead of going out and about, so that as the hens raised their chicks they stayed inside the courtyard all the day long. This taught the chicks that this was their world and that there was no other beyond it.

Meanwhile, try as we might, we could not get ahead with building the new chicken run. Other things kept interfering which kept pushing the Chicken Project down the To Do list. Meanwhile the young chicks were growing up, other hens were suddenly appearing with more youngsters who then started growing up. Every time we went out into the courtyard we were besieged by chickens. We started feeling overwhelmed by them, and the chickens started to get stressed because their numbers were starting to get too many for the courtyard to comfortably handle. The young cockerels started fighting with each other and gang raping the hens, who would scream their way round the courtyard to try and get away from them. Chickens are vocal creatures, and it is a pleasure to hear them talking to each other and chuckling away to themselves. It is not nice to hear constant arguments and battles. And then the hot weather hit us, robbing us of the energy to get the Chicken Project done as the need to get the wood sorted out for the coming winter took top priority. Meanwhile, the courtyard was starting to feel stressed....... the atmosphere was often loaded with tension as the chickens battled with each other.

And yet we still coped with living with the chickens, until we found the ground of the courtyard being littered with chicken poo, which was increasing daily. This meant that whenever we walked across the courtyard we would inevitably pick up bits of poo on our shoes. We were already used to the huge squirts of goose poo, but they were big enough to avoid unless one was lazy about looking where the feet were going to go, but the chicken poo is smaller, and anyway there was too much of it to easily avoid.
It took a while to realise why the courtyard was suddenly getting so messy underfoot. Boolie was no longer with us, and it was he who used to hoover up all the chicken poo. I used to try and stop him, but it was no good, he would sneak out into the courtyard when I wasn't looking and have a quick hoover up of any recent droppings. The goose poo he never touched, just the chicken poo. And now he was no longer with us, the job had become vacant.
It was only for a few days that we could cope with the state of the courtyard. The cockerels had all been despatched so at least the gang raping had stopped, as had the noise of several cockerels crowing to each other from early dawn to late evening, but still the hens were arguing quite a bit with other, and there were a couple of batches of growing chicks who were steadily becoming restless and unquiet. Try as we might, we could not encourage any of them to stay outside of the courtyard, which would have been better for them, but no, they would not. Roosting space was also becoming at a premium, with the younger chickens preferring to spend the night sleeping on Lester's tractors and tractor implements, and anything else they could sit on which did not involve climbing a tree. For some reason they would not roost up in the fig tree, unlike the older hens who did. 
And then another hen appeared out of nowhere with a couple of chicks trotting along under her feet. We looked at the sea of feathered beings, of all ages and sizes, laying siege to us. We looked at the big and small tractors and their implements all covered in chicken poo. We looked at the hay bale which was being shredded to pieces by the chickens. We looked at the couple of plastic chairs we occasionally sit on and they, too, were covered with poo.
All it took was a phone call to a neighbour down the lane who has an animal park. The geese went first, then the chickens, all of them. Boxed up and put into the back of a bright yellow Citroen 2CV, they were taken to their new home within the space two hours.
It was a relief. The geese will have a river to swim in, and not a bucket. The chickens will roam at will and have a better life than being cooped up in the courtyard, although they always had the option to go out on the smallholding if they wanted to. And we have no chickens, and no geese, and all is quiet, and I can sit outside without feeling besieged up chickens, and we can finish the Chicken Project at our leisure, and we can get the courtyard tidied up so it does not look such a rough and untidy space, most of all it is peaceful.
Looking forward to having chickens again next year as I already miss their shenanigans.  Looking forward to starting work on the courtyard now the chickens and geese are gone. Glad that we put a stop to the situation between us and the poultry, and glad that a solution came to us which was of benefit to us all.
It would seem that is a year for sorting things out, as the next to find a solution for are our two adult Tamworth pigs, who refuse to breed, and who cost us a lot of money to feed and provide water for while they laze their days away in the sun!
Bye for now,


Cottontailfarm said...

I think sometimes for me making a decision is much harder than carrying it out - I know I need to get rid of my ducks because of the mess and work but just can't bring myself to do it. Do you miss the eggs? Are you already thinking of what breed to get?

Dawn said...

It can so easy become chaos, enjoy the new quiet poo free space, we have ended up with more chickens than we planned this year some are roosters and are destined for the freezer, plans are afoot for new poultry quarters, I cant let them free range because of the buzzards, I dont want chickens in the garden been there and done it before.

Vera said...

DIANE, so sorry but I accidentally deleted your comment....but I do agree with you about new chickens having new ways..... I did think that if we had kept the original chickens then they might have kept coming back into the courtyard.

COTTONTAIL FARM, it took ages for us to make the final decision about the chickens and geese, but in the end they made the decision for us. I think the pigs will do the same. As for the eggs.....we have not had our own eggs for most of this year now because the hens kept finding secret hideaways, so now I have to buy supermarket eggs, which I really do not like doing! As for breeds of chickens in the future...definitely not Black Orpingtons because their meat is not particularly eadable, and black chickens around the farm just do not look right. I am in favour of the ordinary farm chickens, or the bare necks which do not look very attractive but are good natured birds, lay well, and cook up a treat!

John Going Gently said...

Living space free of shit is something The Prof now insists on
Cant blame him

Vera said...

DAWN, our chickens will be kept in their living quarters until after mid day, then let out for the afternoon so they get to be free range, but they will not be anywhere near our living spaces. I agree about having chickens in the garden...also been there and done that!

JOHN, Lester also!

rusty duck said...

Sad to see the geese go, I do love them. But having lived with them too I do know about the mess and the noise and the fighting. I'm just glad they've gone to a good home and not into the freezer!

Vera said...

JESSICA, Lester could never bring himself to put the geese in to the freezer, which is why we ended up with six. But it is not the end of us and geese....I am sure that when things get sorted out we shall get some more.....but only two!

Ally said...

There are only two of us here to keep in eggs.We have always found it best to just get 3 pol chickens, never a cockerel as they are noisy and unnecessary . Three are easy to contain and obviously we don't get fertile eggs
Here in Normandy we have a neighbour with a cockerel who seems to have learning difficulties. He starts crowing at two every morning and doesn't stop till mid morning
Sounds as if he is right under our bedroom window. Grrr

Vera said...

ALLY, we eat a lot of eggs, so need about six hens to allow for when they go off lay, and we like them to have a cockerel because hens don't seem to be the same when they don't have a male around, plus we get to have chicks occasionally. Too many cockerels, though, that does make for a bit too much noise!

Le Pré de la Forge said...

You'll have to change the header temp'rarily!!
Geese are visible... and they are in the text along with loads of chooks!!
Must be strangely quiet tho'??

Vera said...

LaPre DeLa Forge.............I am aware of the need to change the header photo and text and am working on it, but thanks for reminding me. It is quiet here, but we had to get the courtyard clear of poultry so we can move on with our plan to use it as a potager.