Friday, April 30, 2010

You're Not the Boss of Me....

Continuing on the theme of chicken-related phrases in common use, I feel compelled to discuss "pecking order' as defined in Merriam-Webster as:

: the basic pattern of social organization within a flock of poultry in which each bird pecks another lower in the scale without fear of retaliation and submits to pecking by one of higher rank; broadly : a dominance hierarchy in a group of social animals
: a social hierarchy

No matter how many hens I have at any one time, there is always a pecking order. Depending on the dominant...we'll call her the peckerhead....the severity will vary but there is always a 'squawk" to alert you to the fact that someone is at the bottom of the pecking order. I believe Ginger to be the lead pecker in my flock and she's a mean one (see previous post). As a result, I've done more doctoring of hen butts with this flock than ever in my years of hen-keeping. Well, a while back I DID have to deal with a little Polish hen with a prolapsed oviduct ....I won't gross you out but it involved the chicken equivalent of a uterus on the outside of the chicken having to be returned to it's proper location with a gloved hand, Vaseline and a horribly unhappy husband for a helper.

This flock has been dominated by Ginger from pretty much the start so I've been dealing with wounds. Chickens will commonly peck at anything.....rivets on jeans and my pretty painted toenails are generally enticing. Should a peer develop a wound of any sort, the others will peck at it - and the bigger the wound becomes, the more enticing it seems to be. I've read that they are attracted to red and others have told me it's the 'smell of blood'. Who knows what the the girls are thinking but they just peck at stuff. I've collected medications and treatments to try and help. Blu-Kote is a spray that has an antibiotic in it as well as drying agents but I suspect it's best feature is it's color.....It's a punky blue-violet color that is lovely when applied to a bare chicken butt. The blue seems to disguise any injury so allows the wound to dry and heal without further distress. I also have Rooster Booster that helps stop the 'cannibalizing" behavior by turning skin (including my hands) that dark purple but also has peppermint and aloe which must be soothing. Poor Mavis has had her neck and behind plum plucked clean and has become used to being hung upside down and smeared with purple goo so much that I don't think she minds. Hanging a chicken by the feet, by the way, relaxes them - makes `em "go nonny". If you've seen pictures of villagers carrying birds that way, it's just a way of calming them.

This is my little tribute to Ruby, who has been pecked at for the last time. For the last week, I've been spraying her with Blu-Kote but am pretty sure her wound actually was the exterior part of an interior problem. It was difficult to diagnose since it was quite bloody at times and hard to keep her sequestered. She seemed to actually be enjoying the attention since she would hide behind me when I was in the pen and actually leaned on me and dozed once. After days of treatment however, sadly Ruby has "gone on holiday" (a Chicken Run reference if you're not familiar). She has "bought the farm" and "gone to live on a ranch".... poor girl climbed into the nesting box and packed it in. Hopefully, I can keep Ginger under control so she doesn't do that to others in my flock. I really hate to lose my little feathered friends.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Leave Me Alone

If you check any dictionary, the word "broody" translates to moody, introspective, contemplative....which pretty much sums up a "broody" teen. Although people brood and teens are broody, the first and truest definition of the word "broody" is "being in a state of readiness to brood eggs that is characterized by cessation of laying and by marked changes in behavior and physiology....a broody hen". Aah, crabby, grumpy, full-with- child attitude...THAT I understand.

Ginger has decided to set (on eggs) and flat ain't giving them up without a fight. I've had broody hens before that made it their duty to hatch every egg placed in the nest. Never mind we had no roosters to fertilize the eggs - they're just the motherly types. Reaching under to collect the eggs caused little more than clucking and bothering. Never before have I had one quite this snotty. When I reach in to check for eggs, she pecks at my hand and I don't mean gently. I've finally taken to tucking my hand inside my shirt sleeve but she can leave a mark even then.

Now that Ginger has herself become broody, other commonly used terms that come from chicken-raisin' come to mind....This, for instance would be Ginger with "her feathers ruffled". after being physically removed from her clutch of eggs. Can you tell she's pissed?

When I decide to wash down the coop walls to remove webs, I will share with you "madder than a wet hen".

UPDATE: It is now one month later and Ginger is, once again, broody. Sitting on the daily clutch deposited by her coop-mates, refusing to give them up. One month pretty much to the date. Do chickens PMS?

Friday, April 16, 2010

This Could Be The Start of Something Big....

It's April already and finally April and for us on the chilly north coast, it's a wee taunt, allowing us glimpse at spring and the warmer weather to come. I flipped the page on the calendar at the start of this month and realized that Humboldt calendars really should have bigger squares during the doing-stuff season. There were SO MANY things squeezed into the tiny square of my calendar for last Saturday.So many activities but the Surfrider Beach Cleanup won out....we cleaned the entrance to Mad River Beach with magnets and rakes, scouring the sand of nails before that could puncture the tender feet of beach goers. The fire sites are normally fairly easy to spot the the winter's high tides had caught the cinders in their flows, spreading the nails and covering them with sand. For our efforts, we took six buckets of rusty nails, and other bonfire debris from the beach. I had to keep reminding myself to stop and smell the salt air and enjoy the waves while I was there.
The pre-printed start to the Farmer's Market on my CAFF calendar was almost buried...but it was on my list of things to accomplish so I packed my market basket before I left the house. After tidying up the beach, I joined the throngs of people giddy with the first Farmer's Market of the season. I made my first loop around to ponder the possibilities then ended up with a new marjoram plant from Flying Blue Dog Farm (I even remembered to bring the coupon I received by being Facebook buddies with the farmers.) , some honey from Reed's Bees, some salad greens and a couple enormous leeks. Next week, chard and carrots....and more herbs as the season progresses. I made a run through the Gem show at Redwood Acres, passing by the rock hounds, I was in search of beads for future projects. First I find beads that speak to my creative soul then a centerpiece that will work. The creative juices flow and the colors of the stones, drilled, strung and stacked is always so appealing, I couldn't resist snapping a picture until the craphead booth proprietor scolded me. I was a little embarrassed and explained I would never take a picture of his actual designs (though I doubt he actually created the pricey pieces he was selling) and was only entranced with the pretty colors. He admonished even more until I spewed an admittedly insincere apology and stopped short of calling him a dick...only muttering it under my breath as I slunk away. Didn't buy anything from him but I did find a nice string of red abalone chips to create yet another necklace I could do without....but they're so pretty.......

This weekend is another busy one. I was hoping to do one of the paddles with Kayak Zak's for Godwit Days but it looks like there will be moving assistance for Hope and another run through the Farmer's Market on Saturday. I took Monday off so Mark and I can make some headway on the entry project. I hope I don't miss anything - I repeat, bigger squares on the calendar.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

She's Leaving Home....bye bye.....

So many changes have been taking place these last few weeks with all three girls in transition - one daughter is in the metamorphic stage of ending a relationship, another moving, yet again, this time back from McKinleyville into Eureka. And now, the old man and I are contemplating a life as empty-nesters as the youngest princess is embarking on a move out of the castle.

In a perfect world, we would return to something akin to our early days, the five child-free years between wedding and Ms. Monica when we could do what we wanted when we wanted...and do it naked if we cared to. If that included a spontaneous amorous encounter on the sofa, so be it (different couch entirely girls so get over it). Unfortunately, as boomers who chose to spread their child-bearing over a number of years, we're not as amorous, nor as limber as we once were. Our new life, once the urchin vacates, will probably involve eating what we want, when we want.... and that's about it.

Now that Glo is gainfully employed, her plan is to move in with her boyfriend. The conversations regarding our "no revolving door policy" have fallen on deaf ears as they have in the past with her sisters and she has begun to pack for this new phase of her life. No anger involved, just excitement on her part and sadness on ours knowing our baby has grown up and old enough to survive on her own. We remind ourselves (regularly) that I was younger than her 18.25 years when we got married and I left home. I survived. She will survive. And we will begin the transition to speaking to her as an adult rather than the child she remains in our minds.

When we were young and unencumbered by offspring, we considered no one other than ourselves. When he worked on City buses and had to run a bus from Santa Cruz to, say Watsonville to exchange for another in need of service, I would go along for the ride. Just two of us alone in a 50-passenger transit bus, cruising Highway 1 at sunset. Now, I will probably accompany him to tow a bike after he closes the shop and perhaps we'll grab dinner instead of cooking. And our dinners will probably include more sausage and pork and other things kids don't like. And we may return to a life with a little less structure and a little more spontaneity. We'll probably bicker more but...hell, maybe we'll bicker less.

Of course, the kids have lived for fifteen years in this huge rattle-trap of a house with peeling paint and sub-standard bathrooms and now that we're finally fixing these things properly, they're gone (not their fault we took so long). The goal is to finish it all, enjoy it for a time, then move to a smaller place without stairs in deference to our geriatric knees. and it will be in town so I can still get around when they rip my driver's license from my wrinkly little fingers.

Perhaps I'm thinking too far ahead; after all, Glo hasn't even emptied her closet and that alone could take a while.