Thursday, March 01, 2007

Foul Play in the Barnyard

This is the handsome fellow who has been terrorizing my birds. He's a Northern Goshawk. No, I didn't take this picture; I am not that proficient in the art of photography. He likes to sit in the lofty branches of an old maple tree across the road while he monitors the activities of the chickens and guineas. I always know when he's out there because Braveheart and Bully will sound the alarm as, like true gentlemen, they usher the hens in orderly fashion into the barn then stand guard valiantly outside the door. I have yet to see the goshawk attempt a kill. Perhaps he is intimidated by the size and sound of the roosters. Either that, or he's flummoxed by the sight and sound of the guineas and is attempting to decipher their identity in his copy of Peterson's Guide to Eastern Birds.

If he ever does formulate a plan of attack, I question his success since the birds are currently incarcerated in an outdoor correctional facility off the coop which is also topped with netting. Naturally, because of the sinful behavior of a few bad birds (guineas anyone?), the remainder suffer.

To illustrate the superior brain power of chickens in comparison to guineas, I relate the following: We happened to have an exceptionally warm day last week so I opened the small sliding door to let the birds out into the fenced area. When Braveheart staggered out and ran to me with bloody spots on his comb, I was livid. Noting that most of the guineas were out, I opened the large door and both roosters quickly fled into my waiting arms. Well, they came out anyway. The guineas stoodly by dumbly (not to say "mutely") while, hoe in hand, I threatened them with bodily harm. As soon as the hens saw the roosters in the driveway, they fled in mass exodus back into the coop and practically knocked me down in their exuberance to make haste into the yard as well. The guineas discreetly clustered at the door with hopeful looks on their homely faces, but their escape was averted with further hoe brandishing on my part. Slam!

Chickens 1 - Guineas 0. Nyah nyah.

The chickens were as gleeful as chickens can be to be out of confinement. There was much strutting and crowing and puffing out of chests, scratching eagerly at the bare spots in between mounds of snow, and pecking at my feet in humble submission and thankfulness. Braveheart and Bully even allowed me to transport their majestic bodies out of the house after they followed me inside in a vain attempt to establish dominion over my kitchen. Did I ever mention that I love my roosters? Not to anthropomorphize them, but their personalities are so distinct; even their ways of communicating are different. In complete opposition to his size and demeanor (and name), Bully has a silly squeaky girly voice, while Braveheart's is deep and coarse, as befitting a gallant hero.
Anna-Rose has a favorite chicken she has dubbed Scarlet. She's great at coming up with names. Another hen is named Omelet. How perfect is that?!! Yet another one is Gloria (of the curly tail), and then we have Omelet's Friend. My favorite is Madam Marie whom I named when she was a bold, saucy little chick. Now she is plump and friendly, loves to stretch out in the sun on the back step, and if coaxed, will often jump into my lap for a scratch under the neck.

Scarlet is our house chicken. No, she doesn't live indoors, but probably would leap at the chance. Used to be that whenever the door was open, she'd dash in to make herself at home. The poor thing got quite a fright the week we brought Calvin home. She sauntered around the corner of the kitchen island just in time to glimpse Calvin's inquisitive face poking around the other side. After her initial look of amazement, followed in short order by a scream of terror, she launched herself at the back door in a whirlwind of flapping wings while Calvin took off for parts unknown. In the meantime, Braveheart was hovering at the back door looking concerned and warring with his fight or flight instincts. Poor Scarlet hasn't been as enthusiastic about coming in the house anymore, and when invited, tilts a wary eye toward the door and politely declines. At this stage in the game, Calvin just wants to make friends, but as he gazes longingly out the door, the chickens murmur among themselves and huddle closer to Braveheart and Bully.

We have an opportunity to acquire a Narragansett tom turkey in exchange for some laying hens. In my research online I've been reading that it is not a recommended practice to keep turkeys in close proximity with chickens. If anyone can advise otherwise, I would appreciate hearing from you. I believe the major concern is the blackhead disease which chickens carry in their manure and are immune to, but which is deadly to turkeys. The Narragansett is a beauty.....historically it is supposed to be a crossbreed between the wild turkeys of New England and those brought over from European stock.

Another topic of recent discussion for us has been whether to introduce a couple of ducks to intimidate the guineas. According to Peggy of Hidden Haven Homestead, since she has housed her guineas with her ducks, they have become much more quiet and acquiescent. We have a reliable source if we decide in the affirmative; friends of my in-laws raise several different breeds. I never thought I would enjoy barnyard fowl so much (well, the guineas are an exception, but I must say that they can certainly provoke my funny bone at times as well as my temper!) but there you have it.

Dwayne surprised me with this beautiful bouquet the other night. My heart's desire is that Spring can't be far behind but the landscape out my window of snow, slush, and mud, with nary a green bud to be seen does cast a pall on my wishful thinking. Ah Scarlet would say, "Tomorrow is another day!" May yours be a joyful one with all your hopes and longings satisfied and fulfilled by the One who is our Creator, Redeemer, and Comforter.


Blogger Lynn Bartlett said...

Hi Emily,

We keep our chickens separate from the turkeys since we had heard one can cause disease in the other. So far it has worked well to have the chickens in with the goats. We allowed our turkeys to roam from after we harvested until just recently, and they sure hate being confined! They are the most curious things I've ever seen! Let us know if/when you get some.

4:49 PM  
Blogger Ribbon Rock Star said...

Welcome to the blog party!

Pretty flowers!!


4:14 PM  
Blogger Marci said...

We have brooded chickens and turkeys together and kept them together for short periods in the movable pens. However, we only raise turkeys for Thanksgiving, so we don't have the experience of having to find a place to house them.

I loved your story1!!

Your flowers are beautiful and VERY spring like.

5:13 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home