Yesterday I was doing my normal morning stuff with the kids like feeding the mules otherwise known as the "horses," filling their water troughs and checking the wild bird nesting boxes while walking round our property. Ella was riding high and along side on my back in her backpack. She likes to be carried like this still.
I rounded the southeastern corner of Gemma's field and inspected the septamom's nest box. The momma tree swallow filled her box with SEVEN babies, and I could not help but think that they all are not going to survive. They are stacked in there on top of each other like birdy sardines. Somebody's going to get smothered. I think Mrs Tree Swallow must have heard about "Octomom" and thought she needed to show how birds can do it too.... The parents fly in circles or big loopy swoops around the pastures, catching insects on the wing, and are examples of constant motion in their efforts to feed their gang.
Then looking toward the chickens area about 300 feet away I saw THEM. That is the loose chickens, now playing the role as the fugitives. They were on the lamb. You see, they have been on lock down in the penitentiary since the vegetable garden and corn field have been planted. Their little, yet sharp feet are the equivalent of miniature rototillers and their beaks can peck a fruit off a plant in about three shakes of a ground squirrel tail.
Yet there was Mr. D, perched on the gate, surveying his land and HIS women. With chronic short man, bald guy syndrome he needs to get up high to feel superior. His beady eye and jaunty head flick reminded me that he is a predatory machine, although since he has no tail I still can't take him seriously. I think he would be happy if upon view of his splendid form, I was struck with fear and trembled at his mightiness. However this is just not to be. An 8 lb bird can not frighten the Amazon woman that I am.
Five half-feathered hens were browsing through the garden, pecking and scratching, doing what hens do. There was never a squirming bug or fresh leaf that was not edible to this herd of ugly ass chickens. Need I remind the uninformed that these birds still have no feathers across their back ends and they are a hideous site to behold. Saying they are butt ugly is a complement.
As I approached the scene of the jail break I could see the problem. Somebody left the gate slightly ajar...
Well there was no lamenting or cursing the perpetrator for the transgression. Jail keepers have an off day too I suppose. My duty as the underwarden was simply to herd the ladies and the rooster back into their pen before the hens scratched the garden beyond salvageable.
"OK Ella, lets round the hens up Little Woman." I commented to the monkey on my back.
"Yeah, yeah, yay. Go mommy," she eagerly replied.
The chicken pen is a fenced rectangular area of approximately 1,000 square feet and one side is backed by the chickens house. A row of eucalyptus trees forms a boundary on the southern side and the trees limbs hang over the pen in some areas. I began my circuitous route around the chicken containment system cautiously approaching the inmates.
The hens were now hiding behind the coop area and as I rounded the back corner they scattered like roaches scurrying across a dirty kitchen floor. They knew they were in trouble, since the tall person was nearing them. Actually, these days at the approach of any humans the chickens now run for the hills since they have it all figured out. If we chase them it is with the intention of confining their liberties in one form or another. These are Einstein chickens folks. They may be the most unattractive birds to ever walk on two scaly legs, but they are smart.
"Great." I say out loud, "They're gunna give me a run for my money today."
"Chickens naughty, Mommy!" Ella observes with glee.
"Yes, real funny Ella. These chickens are very naughty. They're going to eat the little plants in the garden too."
By this time Wyatt had shown up and he was eager for some live chicken action. I am all strategy with the birds. They are crafty now and wise beyond their 18 months of age.
"Wyatt, I want you to chase the chickens around the fence line and I will man the gate and close it when they come in. OK." I figured maybe Wyatt would not seem so imposing and the birds may not flee so quickly for him. Or did I just want him to do my dirty work...
"No Mom, I don't want to," Wyatt immediately responded. I was not expecting his reaction. This is my normally intrepid and fearless son, but then I forget how many times Mr. D has threatened the little kids.
"Uhhhhh, why not?"
"I'm uscared of Mr. D. He's gonna get me."
"Take a stick with you then. If he starts to charge you bop him one." I suggested to my barefooted caveboy. He grabbed himself a long piece of Eucalyptus and shook it around a little to test it.
Wyatt took a few steps toward the band of hellions then stopped and came back to me. "No, he's going to get me," Wyatt remained fearful of Mr. D. There was a genuine concern in my boy's face and I recalled how many times Mr. D has charged him. Maybe Wyatt had a point. Don't send a Boy to do what a Mom should do.
"Fine, I'll chase the birds. You have to stand at the gate then and close it fast when the hens go in the pen. Can you do that?" I queried.
"Yes." And with that settled I started to push the birds around the pen by walking slowly at them with my arms somewhat extended. At this the five "Chinese-crested" chickens clumped together momentarily then turned and bolted.
Normally, I can stalk one bird keeping it moving along the fence line and chase it into the pen by maintaining the correct body position. But not today. One circle, two circles, three circles, four circles around the pen I went.
At this point I was getting a little bit annoyed and I was starting to sweat. Picture if you will a mom with red backpack, toddler in tote, awkwardly ducking under tree limbs and trotting ineffectively after half naked hens as they dashed into the garden area. Where is the video camera when you need it.
I finally managed to get three hens in the pen through artful stalking, but then HE decided I had done enough. And by HE, I mean the rooster. The tides were about to turn according to Mr. D. As I rounded the last leg of the pen and moved closer to chase him into the gate, the rooster turned on me and put on his best feather fluff and started hopping at my legs.
"Oh so you're going to play like that now!" I laughed.
Mr. D, making his neck fluff up to appear twice his size, charged at me. Let the games begin I always say.
Mr. D has attacked everybody except me at our property. For some unknown reason he has avoided me. I am guessing it is due to my status as a tall person, but I am not a very good chicken whisperer so I could not tell you why exactly he has avoided me up until now.
So I simply put a foot out and shoved his body back a few feet. Undaunted he came at me for more. I judiciously put a foot out and softly punted him once again. I was surprised how light and airy his body felt as it contacted the top of my foot. I wondered just how far I could actually kick him without breaking him.
Back and forth we went. I gently kicked the rooster. Then he charged me. I kicked harder at the rooster. He charged me. I kicked the rooster loosing my crock. He charged me. I grabbed the crock and threw it at the rooster. He charged me.
Now I know what Suzi has complained about. Mr. D is a vile and evil little cock.
Meanwhile, Wyatt gazed on in a happy stupor while manning the gate. Ella was similarly stupefied and not a word was spoken from her monkey-like position on my back. Yeah, and I was kicking and avoiding and battling that bird with a 40 lb handicap on my back.
I had had enough of randomly chasing hens, irate roosters and kids who fear them. I chased at Mr. D one last time and he scuttled at me with intent to spur. I gave him a firm and direct boot to the chest and sent him flying near the gate. Finally, Mr. D capitulated to his jail time and ran to the hens within the pen. Wyatt shut the gate. Case closed.
Enough wasted time on a unsightly bunch of hens... and a mean ass rooster. The remaining hen running a muck in the garden would have a field day. I was just done.
I guess I won't feel much sorrow when we turn all these birds into freezer meat. Yep. You have read correctly. Come August when the new and fully feathered chickens are ready to move in at our compound there will be an in with the new-out with the old ceremony. Dirty big secret be told, we have a brand new batch of chickens growing up at the in-laws. And when they are ready, I won't have to look at these naughty hens and mean spirited roosters again!!
Whoo hoo! I can hardly wait for the pretty chickens to arrive. Call me what you will, but I want to have beautiful, fully feathered chickens, and they are only a few months away...