Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘rooster

Sickle Feathers

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Well, it happened again already. Predators paid another visit in broad daylight, still ghosts to us, but deathly real to the chickens. This time we know that Rocky was right in the middle of it. Once again, chicken feathers were spread far and wide around our property. Rocky’s were close to the coop.

Tail feathers on Wednesday.

Minus tail feathers on Thursday.

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Cyndie found the intact bodies of two Light Brahmas. We lost the last Domestique, the two-year-old Golden Laced Wyandotte, and one of the Barnevelders. Another five down, leaving Rocky and three hens as all that remain to keep flies at bay, just at the time we brought horses back onto the property.

We can only hope that Rocky dished out as much abuse as it looks like he endured.

Cyndie picked up Rocky’s sickle feathers. We can only imagine what the fracas must have been like. I was at work and Cyndie never heard a sound. Most likely the horses would have been unsettled by the energy of predators on a killing spree. When Cyndie came out, everything was calm and collected.

I guess we should find solace in the fact our animals don’t appear to fret over the past. Everyone seemed just fine when it was over, albeit short some feathers, in Rocky’s case. Wish I could say the same for us.

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Written by johnwhays

April 23, 2021 at 6:00 am

Unpleasant Reality

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Today’s post is one I don’t really want to be writing, but it’s the story to be told. The ever-present risk of free ranging our chickens played out yesterday afternoon between the hours of 2 and 4 o’clock. We had stepped back into the house to dry off from hours of being out in the rain or slogging away on tasks in the barn.

An unidentified foe or foes, invisible like the ghost of almost every previous such incident we have experienced, attacked our chickens and left us down four hens. A fifth, the old Buff Orpington, was injured and cowering in one of the corners under the barn overhang.

Two of the Light Brahmas stood around her, appearing to offer both comfort and protection. The wide spread of locations where bursts of feathers revealed shadows of the violence that occurred presented a complicated picture of how this incident must have played out.P4090007e

Near the coop, two or three eruptions of feathers. On the other side of the back pasture fence near the round pen, two more, all looking like feathers of a Domestique and the only New Hampshire hen. Near the barn, another Domestique. In the middle of the large paddock, it looked like Buff’s feathers.

Way over on the far side of the barn and around the hay shed, up onto the pavement of the driveway, one more Domestique.

Cyndie picked up the Buff and placed her in a safe space in the barn. There was some blood from her injury. The hen accepted some water with supplemental iron and enzymes. She survived the night, but when Cyndie checked on her this morning, it was obvious she was in distress. While grasping with the difficult decision to end the Buff’s suffering, Cyndie ended up witnessing the sight of the hen’s final spasm of death.

We are down five hens, leaving eight survivors and Rocky. There is no way of knowing what our new rooster may have achieved during the fracas, but one version is that he saved eight. In fact, it’s possible he kept the Buff from being killed and carried away, which is interesting to contemplate since he was usually busy trying to excommunicate her from the group whenever possible.

P4090001eHe shows no evidence of having any of his feathers ruffled. The attacker(s) left behind the fully intact body of the New Hampshire, which means the only missing bodies are the three Domestiques. It is hard to imagine it was a lone fox carrying these three off from such a wide span of distances. Much more understandable if we envision two or three coyotes.

We know coyotes exist in the area, but in all our years here, I have yet to see even one roaming on our land. Even when predators pay us a visit in broad daylight, they remain unseen ghosts for me.

We are granted the privilege of living with whichever chickens they allow us to keep. We still have one hen of the Domestique breed left. While the surviving chickens were wandering around later in the day, I noticed that Domestique trailing far behind the rest of the group.

Poor thing probably wonders where her mates had gone. I was thinking she probably shouldn’t stray far from Rocky’s side. Her breed appears to be a favored one for the local marauders.

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Sky Colors

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We enter our third day of the current weather trend where rain is expected all day but comes in bands that are separated by reasonably agreeable conditions that don’t last long and end without warning. One minute it is actually a rather nice day and then, nope, it’s raining like crazy for a second but now it’s just a spattering drizzle.

During the week when I am occupied with the day-job, I rely heavily on the always interesting images that Cyndie captures while she is out walking Delilah or tending to the chickens. News is that our Rocky the Roo has become pretty frequent with his challenges to see if Momma is still at the top of the pecking order.

Cyndie has needed to conjure up her “bigger-rooster-than-you” posture and gestures to convince Rocky that he doesn’t want to mess with the humans in charge. I sure hope our lessons will translate to include all other humans who come to visit, as well.

I wonder if Rocky let out a hearty morning crow for this sunrise Cyndie captured.

The rain has quickly transformed the color palette of our landscape toward a much greener hue. In addition to the burgeoning buds on branches, the areas of mowed grass are looking almost summer-like.

The real feature of this last shot, though, isn’t the green grass. It’s the fabulous light from above Cyndie captured highlighting that billowing cloud.

I really, really hope we get a few breaks in the rain this morning like the ones in these pictures because my Ritchie® automatic waterer installer told me last night that he would stop by in the morning and that’s the closest I’ve come yet to getting him to commit to an actual day and approximate block of time since I first requested his assistance two or three weeks ago.

When the source of skills and knowledge desired is also a really like-able guy, it is easier to endure the anguish of waiting for him to eventually get around to it, but it sure tests a patient man’s patience. I will be exceedingly happy when (and admittedly, if) he shows up.

Maybe I’ll have time to take pictures of an interesting sky while I’m down there eagerly waiting in a couple of hours.

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Written by johnwhays

April 9, 2021 at 6:00 am

Deepening Self-Awareness

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At this very moment, take note of what muscle(s) you are unconsciously clenching in whatever position you find yourself. One aspect of deepening self-awareness involves moving our unconscious activity closer to our consciousness. This doesn’t mean we have to be thinking about every single breath or heartbeat, but you can become more “aware” while not being exclusively focused on each one.

Sometimes, awareness occurs within a split second, too. That’s all the time it takes to notice where your posture might be clenched. Then it’s on to the next attention-getter.

Maybe the rapid-fire jump of attention is the thing to notice. Slow a mind down and the body will happily follow.

The most valuable reward I have discovered with my growing self-awareness (a term I actually have an aversion to due to the unappealing aura associated with over-indulgence of said behavior) is an equal increase of awareness for those around me.

Coming from the perspective of the self-centered focus of depression to any increase in balance toward healthier attention for others has been a very positive boost for me in my journey toward optimal health.

In contrast, an unanticipated flare-up in nerve discomfort from the bulging of a degenerating disc in my lower back snaps my attention dramatically back to self over all others. Try as I might to avoid the onset of self-pity, the pull is stronger than gravity and almost as relentless.

Mind and body are engaged in a battle of wits at this point. Should I refrain from moving? Should I clench all the other back muscles to prevent my moving into a position where the mild discomfort becomes a jolt of stabbing pain? Will excruciating pain actually happen, or is that just an archived memory from when it did happen one other time years ago?

I’ve been treated with traction and therapeutic exercise over the years to ameliorate the impact of the worst symptoms. These days the impact is much more subdued. But the memories remain.

The daily planking exercises and yoga stretching I have been doing for the last few years have provided me with better core strength in my body than ever before, but that doesn’t stop degeneration. At this point, I credit the muscle-building effort with softening the blow of the failing discs and allowing me to continue to function, albeit a little stiffly, through occasional periods of decline.

I am slowed, not incapacitated.

There is another fella around these parts who is forging onward despite an uncomfortable affliction. The extent of frostbite our rooster Rocky suffered on his wattle and comb is clearly obvious.

It’s hard to tell if his growing orneriness is due to that or simply a function of his continuing maturation into the valiant protector of his brood of hens. For some reason, he has chosen to single out the Buff Orpington for ex-communication from the group. I’m guessing she was the previous dominant hen and he feels a need to go overboard in making the point he is now the one in charge.

Both Cyndie and I have needed to demonstrate our dominance over him lately to assure he understands the ultimate pecking order around here.

Rocky needs to improve his self-awareness to become a better leader who recognizes how everyone around him is feeling about his actions and behaviors.

Now check to see if those muscles you noticed being clenched a few minutes ago unconsciously tightened up again.

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Written by johnwhays

March 13, 2021 at 10:45 am

Bloody Mystery

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It is never a good thing for chicken owners to come upon loose feathers and blood drops in the snow. Yesterday afternoon, that is precisely the scenario Cyndie happened upon.

First, here are the facts we know. All 14 of our chickens are still with us. Cyndie was walking Delilah and came upon spots of blood in the snow. As they approached the barn, the appearance of enough loose feathers to imply something amiss raised her alarm. She secured Delilah in the barn and rushed toward the coop.

We are putting the basis of our conjecture about what might have happened on her findings upon arrival. Rocky was standing guard outside the coop and all the hens/pullets were inside.

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After determining none of the chickens were missing, she went back and followed the blood trails. When she told me about it, I joined her and we walked a long way to see if any more information could be gleaned from the evidence. We could tell the tracks made it all the way to the road, and by that distance, it seemed clear the bleeding was greatly reduced.

The size of the footprints lead us to suspect a small cat, which aligns with the location where we have frequently seen a cat of unknown ownership prowling.

The rest remains a mystery, but we have developed a possible explanation from the data available.

We think our rooster, Rocky, took on the attacker and successfully fought it off, sending it away wounded.

Earlier in the day, while I was walking Delilah, Rocky let loose with a series of about seven “cock-a-doodle” calls. He is still about one syllable short of the classic rooster crow, but it gets closer each time we hear it.

Cyndie is hoping to get a closer look this morning to assess for possible injuries. It looked like there were mostly yellow feathers tossed about, which points toward the Buff Orpington. They all looked okay in the coop, but the birds do a pretty good job of masking any problems they might be suffering, which makes good sense as a survival instinct.

Here’s hoping the wounded visitor will lose interest in our flock now and redirect its attention somewhere a little less threatening, and that our theory about Rocky’s heroics happens to actually be true.

Written by johnwhays

January 11, 2021 at 7:00 am

Various Tidbits

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It took wearing a face mask at work to discover how often I find a stray hair or fuzz on my keyboard that I want to purse my lips and blow off. It’s no longer the solution it used to be.

Sometimes, I wonder what the lesson is for me to learn as a selfish driver cuts directly in front of my car without bothering to signal. I watched him then make two more equally selfish lane changes without signaling as he navigated his way through traffic as if he and his vehicle were all that mattered in the world.

Speaking of driving, last week I was stuck in a traffic backup caused by a crash. Eventually, at a crawling pace, I reached the variety of emergency vehicles surrounding a car on its roof amid a scattering of debris. I hardly batted an eye. Just made my way past in the quest for a return to highway speeds. Why didn’t I feel any immediate concern for the victims of the crash? When I realized that, it bothered me. I’m afraid maybe I’ve been doing the long commute for too long if a flipped car is no big thing to me anymore.

I hope our unplanned rooster Rocky Roo will do an outstanding job of protecting the girls from predators in times of need. I want to have something to offset the trauma of watching the ladies becoming the undesiring victims of his “affections.” It happened yesterday as I was lolling around the coop waiting for them to hit the roosts. I heard squawking from one of the girls and found Rocky on top of a Light Brahma, biting her neck to hold her down while he jumped her. To my surprise, the Buff promptly showed up to convince Rocky to knock it off. For now, he yields to her. I’m guessing that won’t last.

On Wednesday this week, Cyndie described an instant of classic convergence of two things that rarely happen both occurring at the same time. At the very instant she was involved in a virtual meeting and a key point was about to be made, someone came to the door and triggered Delilah into a fit of barking. Cyndie had to apologetically excuse herself from the meeting for a moment to answer the door and tell the stranger, who just happened to be a neighbor we hadn’t met yet, that she couldn’t talk because she was on a business call. The speaker in the meeting hadn’t waited, so Cyndie missed that point and also wasn’t able to find out what the slow-talking neighbor wanted. (Subsequent inquiries with another neighbor we do know revealed the person was searching for a dog that’s been missing since October.)

These days, Cyndie has few occasions for business meetings –even virtual ones– and we almost never get strangers venturing up our long driveway to knock on the door, less so since the virus pandemic.

I don’t really have a point to all these tidbits. They just are what they are. Maybe I wrote them out to see if they would lead me somewhere. At the very least, typing them out might free them from cluttering my headspace. That will make room for whatever new tidbits show up next.

If they lead you anywhere in particular, let me know. Maybe that will reveal a reason I chose these snippets of my take on things and experiences today.

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Written by johnwhays

December 11, 2020 at 7:00 am

Big Boy

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During the recovery phase after Cyndie’s knee surgery, we’ve enlisted the assistance of our animal sitter to help with outdoor chores on the days when I am at work. Yesterday, she reported to Cyndie that we should check on the Buff Orpington hen because it looked like maybe she’s getting pecked, most likely by Rocky.

This didn’t startle me at all. I’d already witnessed those two square off and challenge each other’s perception of dominance. First, the Buff fluffed up all her feathers to look twice as big and stood up tall. Then Rocky did the same exact thing to pretty much equal her size. Since that didn’t decide anything, they took turns jumping on each other’s back.

There was a little pecking exchanged by each, and after a very short time, it appeared that both agreed to call it a draw. Calm was restored very similar to the way our horses would immediately return to grazing seconds after a spat.

The possibility that Rocky was starting to gain an advantage over time was not unexpected.

He’s grown into a very big boy. How would you like to be prowling the territory and suddenly find yourself face to face with this menacing looking guy?

In the afternoon yesterday, Cyndie ventured outside using a walking stick to look in on the chickens while I walked Delilah. She couldn’t find the Buff. By the time I returned to see what I could find, the Buff was standing right in the middle of all of the chickens. In fact, I wondered if Cyndie had mixed up the adult hens somehow because I couldn’t find the Wyandotte anywhere.

When I closed in on the chickens, I found just what Anna was talking about. The Buff looked like she had been mugged!

But, I have seen this look before. She is molting.

A short time later, the Wyandotte appeared. All 14 chickens accounted for, safe, and sound.

Hopefully, Rocky will see no need to challenge the Buff for however many weeks it is going to take for her to get her new feathers in. According to what we’ve read about molting, the new feathers are highly sensitive and touching them can be very painful.

I would expect a true protector to know how to respect her situation for the time being.

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Written by johnwhays

December 10, 2020 at 7:00 am

Happy Chickens

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Our newest chickens are now about four and a half months old and have reached a size that has the two remaining hens from the previous batch mixing with them as equals. As a group, they are behaving as the happiest and friendliest of yard pets. Almost too friendly, in fact. They are showing no hesitation about racing up to us when we are walking Delilah, who would not hesitate for one second to grab a mouthful of feathers.

On an afternoon walk after our Thanksgiving feast, Cyndie made me stop to occupy the chickens while she hustled ahead with the dog.

She paused to look back and see me chicken-whispering to thank them for agreeing to wear face masks for my little photoshoot the day before.

They had been very accommodating, lining up politely for their fitting.

This morning, there was a new level of excitement because Rocky found his voice again and was crowing many times in a row after weeks of silence following his initial experiments.

Rocky’s coloring and sheen are launching him far beyond the splendor of his brood of adoring pullets.

We continue to visualize his protective spirit as one that will include us and any people visiting as non-threats. He could be our ultimate test of the power of our chicken-whispering abilities.

For now, we are thoroughly enjoying the present state of bliss caring for our growing chickens. They seem totally happy, which is making us even happier.

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Written by johnwhays

November 28, 2020 at 9:55 am

Gender Reveal

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We are two months into our third year of buying chicks online and having them shipped through the mail. This year is the first time we have had reason to question the gender of one of the birds. Each day the evidence mounts, pointing to a probability that one of our two New Hampshire chicks is a cockerel instead of a pullet.

Do you see any signs of a difference between these two?

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The second one’s face is a little out of focus, but you can still get a general sense of the difference in the wattle and comb and detect the wider chest of the young dude on the left.

Cyndie thinks she heard an early practice crow last week that sounded like a “honk” before our rooster suspicions began to really gel. It was such an uncharacteristic weird sound, she had no idea who made it until we started looking into the possibility we might have a rooster. Cyndie then found some recordings online that matched what she’d heard near our coop.

Looking back, a behavior Cyndie witnessed one night when she got to the coop before they were all inside can be seen in a whole new light. When a Light Brahma and a Dominique straggled behind outside after all the others were in, the big New Hampshire suddenly ran down the ramp and grabbed the Brahma by the back of the neck, pushed her head into the ground, and held it there for a bit.

Then the New Hampshire let go and walked back up the ramp and inside. The other two followed soon after. Cyndie was shocked by the scene and I remember her describing it as seeming like the New Hampshire went out and ordered the other two to come inside. We thought it was just one of the hens being “bossy.”

Based on what we are coming to terms with now, that behavior would be totally in line with the way a rooster would treat the hens.

So, I guess we’ve finally had the question answered for us as to whether we should get a rooster to protect the hens, or not.

All that’s left now is to see if we can guide this cockerel toward behaving kindly with humans and ferociously toward predators when the rooster hormones fully kick in next year.

Cock-a-doodle-doooo!

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Written by johnwhays

September 17, 2020 at 6:00 am