Saturday, May 03, 2008

the mind of a chicken

I meant to start off by telling you how I don't understand what goes on in a mind of a chicken.

This is because last week we moved the chickens from one pasture to the next.

And the chickens, rather than going along for the ride, and calmly and peacefully moving into their new field, rebelled. resisted. fought back. gummed up the works.

I mean, here we are, we successfully move the chicken tractor, (we really do need a better name for that, too. Something with a little more pizzazz than 'chicken house on wheels') . Hooked it up behind the farm truck and like someone with a vacation mobile home, we moved it from one camp space to the next.

And around the new camp site, we put up the fence. The electric 'keep the predators out, keep the chickens in' fence.

And the chickens? We moved them too. After years of doing this we've learnedk. We set the new fence in place before opening up a hole in the old fence and then slowly, gradually shooed the chickens across the space between until they found themselves fenced in to the new location.

The move was successful. the move was complete. The mobile chicken home in its new location. the electric fence put up around the new pasture (camp site, if you will).

And the occupants? the chickens? They were there too. All enclosed with the electric fence.

Only...

However....

However I forgot to turn the current on that runs through the fence, at least I forgot to turn it on right away.

And when I did go out to the fence charger, several hours later, just before dark, something had knocked a corner of the newly placed fence down.

And over in the old pasture. The empty pasture. The one without a fence, with only my tractor still sitting were I'd parked it, right in the middle of the field.

Up on the roof of the tractor.

50 daffy chickens getting ready for the night. Roosting, side by side.

(have you ever tried to heard chickens after dark?)

Anyway, you know, of course what that means?

Sometimes I feel that at any one time there are dozens of eyes peering out of the woods at the chickens. Predator eyes. Waiting..

Waiting for the chance at a chicken dinner.

Foxes, bobcats, coyotes, raccoons or even a skunk.

And speaking of skunks. The other night, early morning, really, around two, I was out and about checking to make sure everything was safe, warm and sound when I walked down to the chicken pasture and the air was filled with the hint of a skunk.

I flashed the light back and forth. shinning it into the woods, Under the trailer, up on the roosts but I didn't see her (the skunk),

Which was fine with me, I didn't want to find a skunk in the henhouse. (By the way, how do you get a skunk out of the henhouse?

Several years ago a family of skunks moved under the storehouse, no doubt attracted by our chickens and their eggs.

I knew the skunks were there before I ever saw one. There was always that vague aroma in the air. And then when I first saw one, it was in the evening, I saw her come out form under that old building and nonchalantly strolled up to the chicken fence, that electrified fence I put around the chicken pasture to keep the chickens in and animals like the skunk out.

Well she got up next to that fence, looked around and then carefully using her front paws just as we would our hands, lifted up the bottom strand, the non electric strand of the electrified fence, and lifting it over her head squeezed underneath and into the chicken yard.

It's about then I started hollering and the dogs started barking and the skunk, not before eating several eggs and taking another one with her as though she had been grocery shopping, and repeated the process in reverse, getting herself out of the pasture.

It was right then that our dogs, the two huge Great Pyrenees caught up with her, surrounded her, double teaming her like I've seen them do to other animals.

One in front snapping and growling, right in its victims face while the other gp sneaks up behind and with a quick lunge.

Well I don't need to go into details. Only let it suffice to say that the gp's while they are sweet as can be around people and children are serious livestock guardians. They have been breed for hundreds, if not thousands of years to be very competent at protecting chickens and sheep, goats and cattle, pigs and geese from that class of hungry animals we so blithely classify as predators.

Only, only this time the instinctual plan of attack didn't work.

While the one dog was busy barking in ms. skunk's face, and while the other one was sneaking up from behind. Ms. skunk casually lifted her tail and quickly let fly with a stream of perfume.

Andorra, Andorra was coming up from behind, got a squirt right in the eyes. ,

It was a sad sight to see. She stopped her attack instantly and shook her head trying to clear her vision..

Apparently in shock.

Right then, though, the other dog. This was Mark Twain, Marcus's predecessor, he saw his chance and closed in on the skunk.

Only she spun around and let go with another stream. This time catching MT in the mouth.

And let's stop right there and think...

It's two oclock. Maybe two thirty in the morning and you are out by the hen house on wheels because you think that something's astray and there's that smell in the air.

What do you do?

While you think about that, let's do the farm news.

FARM NEWS

I'm obviously running late getting this out. Suddenly the amount of farm work has jumped. I'm switching the newsletter to early in the week rather than on Friday's.

Last week, putting me behind with the newsletter, we finished planting the onions. 20,000 onions and leeks.

We also planted the first week's worth of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and pac choi. That's a 1000 of each.

And on Friday morning at 6 am the woman from the post office gave me a call to tell me that fifteen pounds of bees were making a racket in post office and would I (she didn't say please) would I get over there right away.

When I did, around 10, there were five packages, with queens, three pounds of buzzing bees and a queen in each of five screen cages. I told the woman at the post office that the bees were nice and she didn't have anything to worry about.

I don't think she believed me.

Then on Saturday I counted about 40 shareholders (I sent out a notice to just shareholders on Friday night) came out to get eggs and cut asparagus. The Asparagus is up and growing and while there's not enough to gothe first 20 people, I think, went home with enough asparagus for a meal or two.

I will send out another notice later this week reminding shareholders of the time I will be around the farm over the weekend. If you want to come out during the week, e-mail me so we can coordinate times.

Finally, It looks like our shareholder list is firmed up for the season. For all the new people, I will be sending out information over the next month on what to expect and how the details work. Our first delivery of the season is on June 9th, the second week of June.

Leigh Hauter

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