Across the road is a pond. The pond is alluring. So very alluring is the pond, that the chickens can’t WAIT to cross the road each morning.
There are bugs and worms and all sorts of delicacies over there that one can’t find in their own backyard. Sad mistake of the ages, yet even people make this mistake over and over. In fact, these chickens have their very own spring on THIS side of the road.
Just the other day, I was raking muck and twigs off the bottom of the branch of the spring, and one of my Rhode Island Reds caught and ate a crawfish that I had inadvertently raked from its muddy hiding place. Yum!
One evening when I had gone out to tie up loose ends before the sun set, there were several straggler hens out. I saw a blob on a rock. Believe it or not, it was a bat! I don’t know why it was on a rock so close to the ground, unless it was disoriented or sick. I called Bud out, and we marveled over it. Then we just sort of hung out waiting for the chickens to go inside, since it was a nice evening. Lo and behold, one of our Chocolate Orpingtons spied the bat on the rock. It looked and looked at it, then it grabbed the bat in its beak, and slammed it into the ground until it was good and ‘daid’. Then she ate it whole! Anything is fair game for supper in the chicken world.
Grace likes to catch mice and play with them until they die of fright. One day, she had found one outside, and was just playing with it. One of the Rhode Island Reds saw her delicious looking ‘toy’, ran over there, and snatched it away from Grace. Then she proceeded to eat it. Grace just watched her, stunned. Actually, she looked like the mouse had gotten her tongue.
The pond across the road belongs to our neighbor…the neighbor from whom we bought our property. We don’t like for the chickens to go over there, because it’s wide open, and a long run to cover. They don’t just go right to the edge of the pond. Lately, they have been going up the hill beyond the pond, almost to the dilapidated little house across the way! We’ve also been finding coyote poop in our yard, in our field and by our spring . One morning, I heard a coyote howling in the pre-dawn morning, and it sounded very close. I just don’t want to take a chance that some sleeping coyote across the road will be awakened by chickens being where the aren’t supposed to be.
So every morning, Bud or I go across the road and shoo the chickens back to their own place and every morning they go over there again. Rinse and repeat. I think they seem more tempted to go over there since our neighbor took the barbed wire fence down. He did this so that the county workers could come and dredge out his pond. Buddy the Road Grater was responsible. Each time he grates the road, he pushes more dirt and gravel into the pond, making the pond smaller and smaller.
No one in these parts (that we know of) is happy with the road grating job that Buddy the Road Grater does. He makes a big production of grating dirt from one side of the road to the other and then leaving piles of it on either side. He undercuts the trees. He piles dirt and gravel around the base of the trees and it is killing them. Others are in the throes of death due to being gashed deep into their bark by road grating machinery.
Buddy the Road Grater wants our road to be wider. There is a silent war going on. Some want the road wider, and more modern. Others of us don’t. Strangely (though not always) it seems that those who have lived out here since birth, who cut their teeth on the branches of the forest, want to bring the comforts of the city out here. It seems that those of us who moved here to escape the city want to keep it as rural and as natural as we can.
Rumor has it that the good ol’ boys succeeded in lobbying to get federal funds to help pave the end of the gravel road. Rumor has it that this is in addition to the wealthy land owners out that way who held sway as part of said good ol’ boy network. There is no faster way to get the dander of the neighbors up than to start talking about the road, or Buddy the Road Grater. I can’t even think about anymore. It upsets me too much. I DO pray for Buddy the Road Grater, though. Even though he makes me angry, I know I’m responsible for how I react to what he does. Christian people don’t want to go and throw their bodies in the middle of the road in protest. I know this.
Spring is nipping out our heels. Flowers are popping out everywhere. This is in spite of the fact that we just had snow about a week and half ago–two days in a row! It was only our second and third snow of the season. The weatherman said it was ‘mashed potato’ snow–wet and mushy. Though it snowed a good long while in huge snow flakes, it didn’t stick very well.
However… Spring marches forth, and its sentries stand and salute. They charge into battle gaining ground every day, come hell, high water or snow. (Our postman could take some lessons!)
It has been so warm that we have opened the windows during the day to freshen the house of it’s winter mustiness. I picked some flowers and brought them inside to cheer the place. I couldn’t help it. A few flowers in a mason jar can really brighten my day!
In honor of Spring we got some Spring chicks, too! (Another thing that never ceases to warm my heart.) When we stopped by the feed store the other day, I couldn’t help but take a peak at the chicks in the big silver water troughs, all peeping at me to come take a look. We currently have 25 grown chickens. Some of our ladies are in the midst of peri-menopause, and will soon stop laying altogether. When Spring starts blooming, their ovaries start blooming too. They will lay a few eggs, far between, and then they are done for the year. We are getting between 10-12 eggs per day. We eat a lot of eggs anyway, but sometimes I boil them and feed them back to the chickens, shell and all. It’s good for them. The shell is good for calcium to make their own egg shells strong, and the extra protein is always good.
So after looking at the chicks in the feed store, I went back to where Bud was waiting for the guy to load the feed into the trunk of our car. I asked him how many I should get. Bud said six. So I picked out six bright, shiny, chirping new little chicks. I carried them home in a little cardboard box that looked like a Kentucky Fried Chicken 2 piece dinner box, only with breathing holes in the side.
Since our Alpha Rooster is a Buff Orpington, and most of our Buff ladies are past their egg-laying prime, I got three Buff chicks (in case we want to hatch our own Buff chicks one day), one Barred Rock, one Sliver-Laced Wyandotte, and one Dominique. Dominiques look similar to Barred Rocks, but they have a Rose Comb, rather than a single comb. My Corla Bird was a Dominque and was one of the sweetest hens I’ve had. That is why I wanted another one.
There is this thing called ‘chicken math’. Innocent first time chicken owners naively think they will own a ‘couple of hens’ and before they know it, things add and multiply. They go out to the hen house one day and wonder where all of these chickens came from because they now have 25! It happens to those least expecting it.
Chicks grow so fast! Every day, there is a noticeable difference in their feathers. Though they are still under a heat lamp at night (this keeps them warm until they have enough feathers to contain their own body heat) I have been taking them outside during the day, since it has been so warm. I have a Dog playpen that I use, though sometimes, I will let them roam in the planters by the house as long as I am there to watch them. Grace, our cat, enjoys this exercise, too. Though the chicks have great fun, this soon makes them discontent with their smaller quarters.
It is cute to watch the chicks doing all the things the ‘big girls’ do. If I drop a worm in front of them, one will grab it and run, the others pursue in chase. The chicks also like to dust in a pie plate filled with dirt…just like the big girls.
The big girls pretty much ignore the chicks, even those hens who have been great broody mamas in the past. They want nothing to do with motherhood until broodiness hits them like a brick again. I think it must be sort of like PMS.
I have been working hard to get my garden ready to plant. I’ve had to turn it all by hand with the shovel. Bud helped me with it. So far, I’ve planted two kinds of lettuce, spinach, and kale. These are cool weather plants. It is still getting into the 40’s and 50’s at night. Info I have found says that you aren’t supposed to plant tomatoes until after April 20th. I have some Arkansas Travelers in my window sill that are begging to be planted.
Speaking of Arkansas Travelers…I’ve been thinking of going back to finish the trail. Not sure if I will or not. Bud is the one who brought it up. I think if I don’t do it this year, I probably never will. It’s not that I feel that I have ‘unfinished business’. I think I accomplished what I intended with my hike. I would just like to finish what I started. That wouldn’t happen until August or September, so still plenty of time yet to make a decision, though I’ll have to start training soon if I plan to do it.
We are still continuing work on the inside of the house. It is looking great, and I have a brand new kitchen which I am enjoying very much! I still need to get some curtains under my sink and in the windows. I will have to re-teach myself how to use my sewing machine, first. There is still so much, yet, that needs to be done that I don’t know whether to wait to put up pictures until it is done or show it half-done. There may be pictures forthcoming. Stay tuned!
That’s all of the news from Lake Winnipesaukee. Hope you all are enjoying Spring, too!
“Earth laughs in flowers.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson