A Little Local Color (Part 2)

 

Farewell, Colonel Brandon

My husband, observing several discrete piles of feathers behind our house, said, “Well, looks like something got one of our chickens.” It had been several years since a predator had made off with a chicken. Once, it was a fox. Our younger daughter thinks she saw it, boldly dashing away by daylight with a delectable hen in his jaws. Another time, we thought there was evidence that the thief had been a bear. We took action–played music near the coop, rigged bright lights that came on with movement at night–yet we could no longer feel at ease letting our chickens wander the property, an activity they seem to blissfully enjoy.

Then we got the rooster from a friend’s organic egg farm. He had been one of three males in a barn teeming with hens. He seemed a little wilted when we first brought him home. Perhaps he had stood out amongst the hundreds of ladies at the farm, not an enviable position where hens are concerned. I still thought him an attractive rooster, though. I hadn’t before seen a specimen with his white and blond coloring.

A few weeks later, I was surprised to see him transformed. He strutted the yard at the peak of health, handsome and proud. He escorted our little cluster of hens while they grazed on the property, watchful with tinges of fussiness and anxiety. And remarkably, although there were incidents with circling hawks, no prowling opportunists had nabbed the hens in years.

I studied the feather deposits, each twenty feet or so apart from each other and telling a sad story of struggle and death. I had been home all day and hadn’t heard a thing. Our chickens aren’t known for going silently into that good night. Then, as my husband was counting the hens, I realized that the feathers were blond–blond and white. “I think it was the rooster!” I called to save time. And to express some disbelief and maybe a little disappointment.

After talking with the neighbors, we’ve found out that there’s been a “black fox” that has shown interest in chickens. There’s been talk of getting a live trap. And, since it’s probably not safe to let the chickens wander, my husband will reinforce their outdoor cage to keep out predators. My thoughts are a little less practical. The rooster was named after a Sense and Sensibility character, when one of my daughters went through a Jane Austen stage. And between short lifespans and brash foxes, there won’t be any Eleanor or Marianne and for sure no Colonel Brandon to bring to mind the sweet parts from that particular chapter of our lives.

The shed in the front yard, around the corner from where Colonel Brandon met his demise. What appears to be a random circle of chicken wire keeps the hens away from the grass seed, which, as Marianne loved her Willoughby, they passionately adore.

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  1. Mike-K Member
    Mike-K
    @

    We have a family of quail with newly hatched chicks that are about 1 inch long each. They seem to have set up house in a cluster of agave plants that should provide shelter from coyotes.  This morning there were 6 or 7 chicks. They must have hatched this week they are so tiny. There was a foot long lizard stalking around but I don’t know if he has the gumption to brave the parents. One parent is seen just to the right of the agave.

    • #1
  2. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    My uncle and I determined that it was a fox taking my grandmother’s chicken, so we rigged for night ops and waited him out one night after making sure the chickens were all in the coop by the orchard. It made eight year old me feel like a grownup.

    • #2
  3. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka
    @sawatdeeka

    Mike-K (View Comment):

    This morning there were 6 or 7 chicks. They must have hatched this week they are so tiny. There was a foot long lizard stalking around but I don’t know if he has the gumption to brave the parents.

    They sound like they are going to be so cute and appealing in a few days.  But it’s obviously a dangerous world out there for them.

    • #3
  4. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka
    @sawatdeeka

    Percival (View Comment):
    so we rigged for night ops and waited him out one night after making sure the chickens were all in the coop by the orchard. It made eight year old me feel like a grownup.

    That would be exciting for a kid, for sure.  Did you get him? 

    • #4
  5. Nanda Pajama-Tantrum Member
    Nanda Pajama-Tantrum
    @

    Awww, rest easy, COL B!  Thanks, again, @sawatdeeka

    • #5
  6. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka
    @sawatdeeka

    Nanda Pajama-Tantrum (View Comment):

    Awww, rest easy, COL B! Thanks, again, @sawatdeeka!

    Thank you for reading, Nanda! 

    • #6
  7. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    sawatdeeka (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):
    so we rigged for night ops and waited him out one night after making sure the chickens were all in the coop by the orchard. It made eight year old me feel like a grownup.

    That would be exciting for a kid, for sure. Did you get him?

    Yup.

    • #7
  8. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Obviously it was the rooster’s toxic masculinity that did him in. If he were woke he wouldn’t have had that “cock-of-the-walk” attitude that made him a prime target. 

    • #8
  9. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    The farm’s layout faced the fox with a tactical quandary. The coop by the smokehouse was shaded from the security light by the smokehouse itself, but the dog was chained to the smokehouse, which might have been why he went to the orchard coop. But the light was better by the orchard.

    • #9
  10. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka
    @sawatdeeka

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Obviously it was the rooster’s toxic masculinity that did him in. If he were woke he wouldn’t have had that “cock-of-the-walk” attitude that made him a prime target.

    Wow, politics seeping into everything.  Ha, ha, ha.

    We think he might have been defending his brood in those last minutes, a scenario which might explain the signs of protracted struggle. On the other hand, chickens do dump feathers as they are dragged off. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had been fighting for his girls, though.  His protectiveness certainly proved useful to us.

    • #10
  11. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    sawatdeeka (View Comment):
    On the other hand, chickens do dump feathers as they are dragged off. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had been fighting for his girls, though. His protectiveness certainly proved useful to us.

    We found the same thing on our back patio this morning – two or three clumps of feathers with a trail of feathers between. We’re guessing something got hold of a dove – hawk, roadrunner, bobcat.

     

    • #11
  12. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Fun essay.

    Here at Toad Hall, we used to let our chickens roam free. We’ve lost them to hawks, foxes, and weasels, but we think we have found a way to guard against that now.

    We take spells as chicken herders to guard and protect the girls. We use two golf clubs to extend our reach and direct the hens, and herd them from one shady patch in the yard to another.

    This keeps them out of the places I don’t want them (they poop, they dig up beds, they kill your favorite most finicky plants that have been tenderly and patiently nursed along for years and are just starting to do well) as well as protects them from predators and becoming roadkill (our roadside ditch has always got tasty snacks for happy hens).

    It also gives the children something to do, and allows us to concentrate our chicken power in areas where ticks might be lurking, which is one of their primary purposes in living at Toad Hall.

    They don’t get as much foraging as they would if they were free-ranging, but it keeps them alive and does not make our yard a pick-your-own-chicken attraction for foxes and hawks.

    We buy our day-old chicks from Agway, and they are all sex-selected, but one time a little cockerel snuck through the process. He turned out to be a gorgeous auracana, bright white, but crowing at 4 am was not something we wanted in our chickens, so we found him a home with a friend who wanted an auracana rooster.

    We used to keep the door to our chicken coop, which is surrounded by a fairly solid chicken yard, with netting above and all around, open at night, but a weasel got in one night and slit open three hens, ate their innards, and left the corpses neatly on the floor. Greedy little bugger. 

    Since then, we keep the door closed every night and we have not lost any more chickens, except for the aggravated and aggravating hen who just worried and fussed at every hen around her incessantly until she just up and dropped dead one day. What a relief.

    • #12
  13. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    My daughter when she was in the fifth grade brought home to our little farm her science project a peep. They watched it hatch from an egg. Of course it grew up to be a rooster and my best friend. It’s a long story by my Doberman killed it. I loved that chicken. I get a tear in my eye thinking about it 35 years later.

    • #13
  14. EHerring Coolidge
    EHerring
    @EHerring

    My daughter found out that free range isn’t always a happy range.  They buy eggs at the store now.

    • #14
  15. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    I like all this talk about chickens.  They’re among the more interesting and amiable of God’s creatures (except when they get angry).

    We seem to have some authentic and very literate farm girls on this site.  I grew up in the city, but I love farm girls.  I married one.  I also love the jokes that farm girls—and their “suitors,” the traveling salesmen—appear in.  Or I did when I was a kid.  No one tells me a farm girl joke anymore.  Sad.

    Kent

    • #15
  16. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    I like all this talk about chickens. They’re among the more interesting and amiable of God’s creatures (except when they get angry).

    We seem to have some authentic and very literate farm girls on this site. I grew up in the city, but I love farm girls. I married one. I also love the jokes that farm girls—and their “suitors,” the traveling salesmen—appear in. Or I did when I was a kid. No one tells me a farm girl joke anymore. Sad.

    Kent

    Do you know that old song, “Sweet Violets?”

    There once was a farmer who took a young miss
    in back of the barn where he gave her a lecture
    on horses and chickens and eggs,
    and told her that she had such beautiful manners
    which suited a girl of her charms,
    a girl that he wanted to take in his washing
    and ironing and then if she did,
    they would get married and raise lots of

    Sweet Violets, sweeter than the roses,
    covered all over from head to toe,
    covered all over in Sweet Violets.

    The girl told the farmer that he’d better stop
    or she’d call her father and he’d call a taxi
    which got there before very long,
    for someone was doing his little girl
    right for a change and so that’s why he said,
    “If you marry her, Son, you’re better off single
    for it’s always been my belief,
    marriage will bring a man nothing but

    Sweet Violets etc.

    The farmer decided to wed anyway
    and started out planning for his wedding suit
    which he purchased for only one buck,
    but then he found out he was just out of money
    and so he got left in the lurch,
    standing and waiting in front of the
    end of the story, which just goes to show,
    marriage will bring a man nothing but

    Sweet Violets etc.

    • #16
  17. Suspira Member
    Suspira
    @Suspira

    sawatdeeka: The rooster was named after a Sense and Sensibility character, when one of my daughters went through a Jane Austen stage.

    Oh, my. Austenphilia should be a lifelong pursuit, never a stage to be passed through.

    • #17
  18. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Suspira (View Comment):

    sawatdeeka: The rooster was named after a Sense and Sensibility character, when one of my daughters went through a Jane Austen stage.

    Oh, my. Austenphilia should be a lifelong pursuit, never a stage to be passed through.

    Yes, the name of the rooster was certainly a really great part of the essay.

    • #18
  19. Sweezle Member
    Sweezle
    @Sweezle

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Obviously it was the rooster’s toxic masculinity that did him in. If he were woke he wouldn’t have had that “cock-of-the-walk” attitude that made him a prime target.

    Or white privilege.

    • #19
  20. Mike-K Member
    Mike-K
    @

    PHCheese (View Comment):
    My daughter when she was in the fifth grade brought home to our little farm her science project a peep.

    When I was about ten,  my father gave me ten chicks and two ducklings for Easter. That was not that unusual at the time. Since he hd grown up on a farm, he built a chicken house from an old dog house. He drilled holes in the sides and built roosts for the chickens. By late spring we had pullets laying pullet eggs and young roosters starting to crow.

    About that time, my parents decided to send me to Wisconsin to spend time with relatives. When I got home, the chickens and ducks were gone, to the Farm my parents said. Our family had a farm in downstate Illinois.

    We had fried chicken several times in the next few weeks.

    • #20
  21. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Mike-K (View Comment):

    PHCheese (View Comment):
    My daughter when she was in the fifth grade brought home to our little farm her science project a peep.

    When I was about ten, my father gave me ten chicks and two ducklings for Easter. That was not that unusual at the time. Since he hd grown up on a farm, he built a chicken house from an old dog house. He drilled holes in the sides and built roosts for the chickens. By late spring we had pullets laying pullet eggs and young roosters starting to crow.

    About that time, my parents decided to send me to Wisconsin to spend time with relatives. When I got home, the chickens and ducks were gone, to the Farm my parents said. Our family had a farm in downstate Illinois.

    We had fried chicken several times in the next few weeks.

    When we first started keeping chickens, we had a priest who had grown up with an old Italian dad in NYC. His dad used to get chicks and raise them for meat, never long enough for eggs, and our priest used to joke with my tadpoles that he was going to come over to our house and steal and eat our chickens. 

    My children loved this and thought it was delightfully fun to share this with the priest. He really was delightful.

    • #21
  22. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    I found Grandma’s chicken ledger from back during the Depression: how much she took in for eggs and grown birds really made a difference to family finances.

    • #22
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