Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Croc of...

I am trying to figure out why so much time is passing between posts.  Perhaps it is because my evenings are simply filled to capacity with super fun activities. For example tonight as I was typing I had to stop and watch Annabelle watch an ant.  She was on the floor playing with her toys and we spotted an ant scurrying across the floor.  Bryan and I had to stop everything to see how this would turn out.  Would she it? Would she be afraid of it?  Would she care?  She did in fact see it and she got her little pinching fingers going ready to grab and squeeze...and potentially eat it.  Basically this activity boiled down to us staring at Annabelle and Annabelle staring at an ant.  And please reserve your comments about why there is an ant crawling on my living room floor. We just got rid of the Box Elder bugs, I have no energy left for ants.

And the other night we attempted to give Annabelle Cheerios which mainly consisted of lining up 4 Cheerios on the tray of her high chair and staring at her.  She'll eat them if we feed them to her, and she is able to pick them up one at a time, she just doesn't seem to understand that the Cheerios are food. But yet this same baby will pick up small pieces of gravel or dog hair and eat them.  And if you are going to give me grief about having gravel and dog hair on my floor, please see my comment above regarding ants.

And just last night I had to pause the tv and end a phone conversation so I could watch Bryan feed cole slaw to Annabelle, which she loved and happily ate.  So as you can see, I am very very busy. 

So lets get down to business. The chickens. The chickens are getting a little nuts and we are patiently waiting for Bryan's busy season to wind down so he can complete the outside run.  They are going to eat us out of house and home if we do not let them out to forage soon.  We have access to to a fair amount of free bread so the chickens get bread along with their chicken feed each day and night as a special treat.
As you can see, they really like it. 

I'm finding these chickens are doing very little or my self-esteem.  I try to participate in chicken ownership and give the chickens bread as often as I can, but they don't come pluck the bread right from my hand as they do for Bryan.  Living with Bryan is like living with Dr. Doolittle, minus the PHD, clean hands, veterinarian's salary, and madcap misadventures.  Actually...I take that back, Bryan is FULL of madcap misadventures.  But Bryan is a friend of all animals and they seem to be drawn to him. I keep telling myself not to take it personally, but no matter what logic tries to tell me I'm still pissed the chickens won't eat the bread from my hands. 

When I told Bryan about my hurt feelings and disappointment, he questioned my approach and technique.  I explained to Bryan that I walk into the coop and say "here chick, chick, chick" and toss pieces of bread.  Bryan said that's my problem, the chickens don't like talking.  So in addition to taking it as a personal attack that the chickens won't eat bread out of my hands, I also am paranoid that once the chickens are outside they will not come back in at night when I call them because they will not respond to my patented "chick chick chick" call, and because apparently I am really lame in the chicken world.  Apparently I lack the finesse required for feeding bread to a hungry chicken.
I also have become a bit skittish with regard to holding the chickens.  On more than one occasion Bryan has threatened to place 2 chickens in a burlap sack and place it over my head and tie it shut as some sort of aversion therapy.  But lets be honest, catching a chicken to pick up and hold is nearly impossible at this point and it is also a humiliating task.  It's humiliating even if no one is watching.  It is a humbling game of running around in small circles and flailing your arms and making large sweeping grasps at air.  It rarely results in actually catching a chicken. 

So when Bryan catches a chicken and gives it to me to hold, I make a lot of squealing noises.  The 12 big chickens are big, and like real full size chickens now, and not as enjoyable to hold as I envisioned.  There is a great deal of wing flapping and their feet are now at the point where they feel gross in my hands.  Chicken feet are cold and rubbery feeling and quite frankly... freak me out.  And there is the very serious safety risk they pose. Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens provides roughly 3 pages on the proper way to catch and handle a chicken. I will not bore you with all the details, especially considering I have yet to master any of the techniques covered in the book.  But Storey's Guide cautions:  "A frightened chicken will try to get free by flapping its wings and paddling its feet and may slice you with a claw.SLICE.  This is their word, not mine and is therefore serious business.  I asked Bryan if we could get shoes for our chickens to wear and he said no. I feel it necessary to point out that people put shoes on those creepy mini-ponies and Shetland Ponies. When I conveyed these very serious issues (both humiliation and safety related issues) to my mother on the phone she asked why I need to hold and pet the chickens and I didn't have an answer for her.  She also went on to tell me how many Italians cook and eat chicken feet, or at the very least put them in the sauce.  So fellow Italians, talk to me in a few weeks and see where we're at with butchering chickens, I may have some feet for you.

Our 12 big chickens are getting really big, and their personalities are not quite as endearing as the "babies."  And in recent reading I discovered that a fryer chicken is about a 7 week old chicken, so some tough decisions are going to have to be made soon.  Though we cannot for the life of us tell the gender of the 12 big chickens apart.  It is very easy to pick out the roosters from our batch of Black Sex Links, the problem is...the Black Sex Links (which bryan now exclusively refers to as Black Stars because he's sick of my sexter talk) are so pretty and sweet, I don't want to eat any of those roosters. And for those of my friends who are animal lovers and do not approve of eating our lovely roosters please consider all the chickens butchered and sold in the world for just a moment. I fed our chickens cantaloupe and lettuce this week. They each have a nesting box, and perches.  They get fresh air daily.  These chickens have a very good life under our care.

Regardless of personal beliefs on eating birds you raise yourself, I did consent to raising a few of these chickens for meat, but now I don't want to eat the nice ones.  I have no problems butchering the 12 big chickens because they are much less friendly, but we don't know which are the hens and which are the roosters, and we want to keep our hens.  Internally this raises a lot of questions for me about what kind of person I am deep down as it seems I take issue with eating the sweet, docile, adorable Black Stars but will happily eat the chickens that are flighty and a little bit mean.  These chickens are teaching me quite a bit about myself.

So as we all learn and grow with the chickens I will leave you with some parting wisdom.
Important lessons on appropriate behavior in the chicken coop:
  1. Absolutely NO flip flops in the chicken coop.  You will be very sorry.
  2. Conversely, it is ill-advised to wear a quality shoe costing more than $14 into the chicken coop. Crocs (purchased on sale) are an ideal coop shoe as they are made of rubber and can be hosed off frequently.  The only downside of Crocs in the coop is they have holes in them, which carries many risks. At the very least you will be picking straw out from between your toes. Please refer to exhibit A.
  3. No matter how much you think they might, chickens do not like to wear your hat.
  4. It is best to keep your mouth closed in the coop.
  5.  Chickens spook very easy. So if a chicken decides to "fly" i.e. jump from a perch to the coop floor and looks as though she might fly directly into your face which causes you scream "Oh my gosh! Holy Shit!" It will frighten all the chickens causing them to make chicken noises and move very fast as a group to the other side of the coop.  See lesson #4.
    Exhibit A
    (elapsed time in coop: 5 minutes)


**As of press time the chickens are eating bread directly from my hands. It seems if they get hungry enough they will give me the time of day.  I will starve the chickens into loving me!

He's standing on poor Flat Stanley, but it's such a  great picture of how beautiful our little Black Star roosters are, I had to share it.

1 comment:

  1. I am cracking up that you are learning to be a parent to both Annabelle and the chickens. LOL.

    And I'd be more inclined to eat the crabby ones too. ;)