Friday, September 14, 2012

Chickens are Pecular Animals

Yet another chicken blog post....but hey, you already knew my life was pretty nerdy right?

As of this past week we had to change our Partridge Silky's name from Penny to Copper. Yep, we have a roo...I'm pretty sure...I think...oh hell I have no idea.

You see, as I was doing my research on hen vs. rooster I came across some very interesting and weird facts on chickens. First, if you haven't had your chickens sexed at birth (usually requires an expert to do this and still isn't guaranteed) you basically have to wait until your chicken either lays an egg or crows.  However, come to find out, hens can mimic rooster behaviors...such as crowing. Oh and fighting, pecking, mounting other hens as if they are mating, and other such dominant behaviors. So really you have to wait until they are nearly a year old to see whether they lay or not. God forbid you own a slew of chickens and are unable to specifically tell who has laid what egg, in that case you're just pretty much screwed unless they have the tell tale spurs and pin feathers. Silkies, on the other hand, go against all chicken rules of feather appearance, crown/waddles, and they have fluff all over their feet making it hard to tell if they grow spurs or not.

If you aren't confused enough already, there's been some findings on the random chicken who starts life as a hen and somehow switches sex to be a rooster and vice versa. What the heck?? This hasn't been well documented but the info is out there.

Two weeks ago we woke early to hear a pseudo crow, broken record style. As soon as we rushed out to witness the guilty all chickens stood there solemn and quiet. No one was talking or pointing fingers. We were stumped although knew it was one of the dark heads we saw bobbing from our window. A few days later, the crowing started up again and we again flew downstairs and outside. Penny, uh hem, I mean Copper had his head held high, proud as shit, neck straining, wings flapping, completely vertical, and crowing as if to sing, "Bitches check me out!!" As soon as I let him out of the run to wander around the yard he quit crowing. He just wanted to get out and strut his manly bits around. Let him out and he shuts up.

That is, until this week. Now he'll strut and crow about three or four times a day, thankfully not for very long periods. He has short-man-syndrome trying to make up for it by stroking his own ego through his voice. I didn't mind it much having grown up in the country and got somewhat of a kick out of hearing him develop, but my better half was not impressed. Copper was earning his way to the soup pot (I had to inform Cowboy that the Silkies are more of an ornamental laying breed and would only provide about a chicken wing's worth of meat if he got the 'ol axe).

Then, last week, I had the very first day ever of regretting my decision to be a chicken lady. It was a freaking nightmare.

Martha had been laying every single day since she started and, soon after, Lucy followed suit. Martha has this, shall we say, "routine" she gets into just prior to laying. She becomes completely bat-shit crazy. She frantically paces and loudly bawlks. It's similar to the "egg song" but on crack and she tries to get places she wouldn't normally venture (lately on the other side of the fence) until she finally finds her way to the nesting boxes and settles down.  I've even tried to pick her up and set her in the coop or nesting box to chill her out but it doesn't work. You just have to let her work it out herself. That day, she was singing her "chicken on crack song"  (causing the rest of the girls to join in which resulted in a complete ruckus) and pacing when, from inside the house, I heard a loud thump as if a bird had flown into the back window. I rushed outside and couldn't find Martha...until I looked up. There she was perched atop of the flipping gutter on the roof of the house! I quickly grabbed the rake and scooped her back down to the ground, scolding her as if she knew exactly what I was saying.

Flighty Martha has now bought herself some clipped wings. We should have named this girl Amelia Earhart, seriously.

Shortly after that fiasco, I heard another commotion coming from the back yard and found Copper and Agnes going head to head UFC-style. Feathers were flying in the air, blood was dripping from their crowns, and each had ahold of the other in their beaks and were not letting go. Around and around in circles they went until one broke loose, with feathers stuffed in his/her beak, only to jump up in the air like Bruce Lee and pounce down on the other starting it all over again. It would have been entertaining to watch if I hadn't been convinced they were trying to kill each other. After trying to separate the two without any success, I finally resulted in punting both of them to separate corners. I had to continue my soccer-ball dribbling technique until I could safely pick one of them up to stop the fighting. Cowboy grabbed the small dog crate we bought for broody girls and tossed Copper in. Suddenly, out of no where, Agnes stretched her neck up, flapped her wings, and gave a scratchy anemic crow!! Son of a.......!?! She or he gave a few more pathetic attempts at crowing and settled in amongst the rest of the girls quietly grazing in the yard.

 After a few hours I un-jailed Copper, watched closely as they played nice with each other for a total of five minutes then went back to their Chicken Kung Fu. This usually ended in Agnes running frantically away from a Copper hot on her tail. I continued throughout the day to alternate the Silkies in their "time out" sessions until finally they started behaving. Copper and Agnes kept a respectful distance from each other and pecked around the yard with a few hushed grumbles and growls in each others direction.

I seriously was about to tear my hair out. Do I have two roosters?? My sweet little "special needs" girl Agnes who loves bubble baths is really a boy? It can't be! And Martha- what an obnoxious day with her trapeze acts. That day I contacted a lady I knew who owned a chicken farm up north and asked her advice. A few emails later along with another farm lady (who owns several Silky roos), none of us were totally convinced Agnes was a "he" but I do have a home for Copper if he keeps up this unacceptable attitude. They also meekly suggested Copper may still be a Penny, simply a dominant hen acting out and trying to be leader of the pack. (eyes rolling) For Pete's sake...

No one knew where Martha's annoying behavior was coming from but one theory was that all the fussing between the two Silkies were messing with Martha's hormones and wrecking her laying Chi.

Yesterday held no exciting events. All the children were well behaved and calmly grazing around the yard as Argos stood guard (okay he was lazily napping next to me in my chair outside). Today, they grazed then nestled in a lump together under the lawn table like one big happy family....and Copper continued to crow his song. I'm back to loving my chickens.

Things my chickens LOVE: watermelon, cooked beans, yogurt, blueberries (pretty much any berry), grapes, meat, scrambled eggs, oats, tomatoes, corn on the cob...

Current egg update: 2 eggs every single day (Martha and Lucy are our superstars....the rest are slackers and know it)