Another Day in the Country
Something to crow about
© Another Day in the Country
There are new chickens in my neighborhood. My friends across the road got chicks this spring and a couple of ducks.
I’ve always been tempted to try having ducks in my yard. My artist pals, Bennie and Marie, have always loved their ducks. They swear that duck eggs are superior to chicken eggs in every way. Their ducks are like family members, but it’s the mess of ducks that’s always kept me from owning any.
Even with a pond of sorts in my back yard — which, I often tell myself, would be perfect for ducks — I haven’t made the leap, even though ducklings are so darn cute.
As I sit on the front porch in the morning, drinking coffee, I can see my neighbor’s ducks and chicks running around in their back yard.
Of course, by hard-earned experience being a wee bit cautious of dogs in the neighborhood, I fear for the lives of these tiny, free-range creatures. I keep my hens behind fences mostly.
Goldie, one of my Easter Eggers, thinks she is free range. She flies over the high fence with seeming ease. At first, I was frightened for her, but finally I reasoned, “If she can fly out, she can fly in,” and so far, that’s worked.
She seems to love running across the lawn over at the Ramona House to meet me. She follows me to the chicken house door and waits for me to open it and go inside, and then she follows me in. It’s our own little ritual.
Recently, all my hens have been molting. They are a sorry-looking lot, with feathers missing here, there, and everywhere. Goldie is missing some vital “flight feathers” and she’s been grounded, much to her dismay.
The chicks across the road grew up during the summer. Evidently, they were “straight run” chicks because several of them turned out to be roosters.
They look like Barred Rock roosters, beautiful black and white specimens of poultry perfection.
The young roosters remind me of their owner, who is always in his yard scurrying around, doing things: gardens, trellises, playhouses, ponds, hydroponics, you name it.
He walks with a forward tilt, a man on a mission, and so do the roosters, one after another, in a rush, following the leader.
They are everywhere. You know me; I’m fearing for their future. When I talk to my neighbors, they ask, “Do you want one?” and I have to think about this.
I have a pretty stress-free chicken yard. It’s my first time without roosters in the flock, and it’s actually quite peaceful, so no, I don’t think I need a rooster. But those young roosters have found my hens.
Early in the morning, I can hear them crowing — front yard, back yard, over in the vacant field. They tear back and forth across the road, always on a mission.
When I let my hens out for a bit in the evening, they appear, suddenly, out of the thicket next door. Surprise!
“What the heck,” squawked Goldie. “Did you just see what he was trying to do to Betts?”
Goldie turned tail and tried to fly up and over the chicken fence even though the door was open to the hen house. Mayhem ensued. Three of my Astralorp warrior hens, who believe that they actually rule the roost, jumped on the young rooster, who himself was trying to befriend one of the more compliant hens.
“Oh, my, this isn’t working,” I said to myself. “Those boys must trot on home.”
So I clapped my hands to get their attention and shooed them out of the yard and across the street. They didn’t go exactly willingly, but I was a strange presence to them. The leader of the gang decided the only smart recourse was to call retreat, and the other guys followed.
I see only two bright young chaps these days. I know their owners have given them names because they are so fond of them, but I can’t remember what they are, so I call them Sir Galahad and Charliemain. These gallant young fellows won’t be on anyone’s Sunday dinner table, I can assure you.
Charliemain, being the main man, is always the first to strike out across the street into my yard in the morning. He sticks out his chest, lengthens his beautiful neck, and crows. Sir Galahad, two steps behind, running at a tilt, is on his heels.
Galahad is usually the one who stays longer at the fence, hoping that the girls inside the house will come out.
He’s very bewildered when they all run tittering inside, sneaking a peak at him through the screen door. He’s the gentler of the two, bowing and swishing out a wing in some semblance of courtship. But he’s got a lot to learn, on another day in the country.