Fowl Romance

At the moment I have three flocks.

The laying hens: Pecky, Sweetie Hen, Zinc, the Remaining Ploska Twin, Not-Pecky-but-the-other-Barred-Rock, The Three Goldilocks, Mary-Penguin, and Rufus their Rooster, as well as the two Two Turkey who think they are laying hens – Trixie and Turks (and yes, they lay lovely, edible eggs).  This flock lives in the coop attached to the barn.

Rufus, the Laying Hens' Rooster

Rufus, the Laying Hens’ Rooster

Then there are the Greeks, Hecate, Hebe, Hera, and their rooster, Hades.  These are very small bantams, Old English Bantams.  They free-range by day and roost in the barn at night.

And last, but not least. The Fancy Banties.  They live in the lean-to which also houses the pigs.  I’ll do well to remember their names.  Emma, my Greek-God-loving child, named most of them.  With one clear exception.  There is Iris, Athena, Phebe, Cocopuff, and Persophone (I think), then Celine, a creamy white bantam, the perfect moon goddess, who turned out to be a rooster, as of yesterday he is Zeus.

Well, the fancy banties don’t like living next to the noisy, hungry pigs.  Makes them very nervous.  So I’ve been letting them free-range with the Greeks.  Then I felt bad for the laying hens and decided to let them free-range, too.

There are risks involved.  Hawks.  Foxes.  Etc.  But today we had romance.

The Laying Hens haven’t ever really accepted the Three Goldilocks and Mary Penguin as part of their flock.  It’s been two months since those ladies, large laying hens,  moved from the Fancy Bantie pen to the Laying Hen coop. At first there was flat out meanness, then slight meanness, then annoyance.  But never acceptance and certainly not love.

Rufus, the Laying Hens’ Rooster is a Japanese Bantam.  He is much, much smaller than the ladies in his flock.  He has ignored the Three Goldilocks and Mary Penguin for the last two months.  Too much failure, I imagine.

While I was milking this morning Hades, the God of the Greeks, began to make eyes at Mary Penguin.  Hades is small, perhaps also a Japanese Bantam. He is black and white and gray.  Quite Handsome.

Hades, with Hera, the red bantam, and behind him two tiny Old English Bantams, Hecate and Hebe.

Hades, with Hera, the red bantam, and behind him two tiny Old English Bantams, Hecate and Hebe.

Once Mary Penguin caught his eye the show was on.  He made himself as big as big could be.  Puffed out chest,  Flewphed up tail.  Feathers arched and fanned.  He doubled his size.  He beak-shined each and every feather.  Over and over again.  He about broke his neck trying to polish the feathers directly under his chin.

Mary Penguin watched for a minute or two and then scratched the hay around, looking for seeds or corn.  Then she couldn’t help it, she went back to watching him.  Sarah, my 15 year old, was watching and laughing from the feedroom.  If Bonniebelle hadn’t whacked me with her tail the first time I laughed aloud  – I would have had myself more than a silent chuckle.  Hades was something to see.

One of the Three Goldilocks came over and studied the two of them for a while and then wandered off, unamused and certainly not falling for all the fluff.

Mary Penguin fell.  Once Hades felt confident he’d won Mary Penguin’s attention he went for it.  The deal maker, the sure bet.  Food.  Keeping his feathers big and wide he began to nose around for food.  Calling Mary to come see, pointing with his beak.  Unfortunately there wasn’t really anything to see. Mary Penguin looked hard and then looked disappointed. She began to wander off a bit.  No longer looking at Hades.

Sarah decided to help the poor guy out.  He had to be exhausted.  Holding himself so big for so long.  She quickly tossed a bit of corn Hades’ way.  He quickly began his food call again.  Mary Penguin gave him one more try.  Bingo!  He had done it.  She moved her beak right up to his, gobbling up the corn.  Handsome as the devil himself and able to produce the real thing!

When I went out a few hours later the courtship had moved to the lawn.  Just the two of them, well off from any other flock.

Poor Hecate.  After all the birds had settled for the night I saw her up on the fence between my field and the neighbors.  She jumped over and hide in the bushes.  William followed after a while and shooed her back.  I shooed her into the barn, fully expecting to see Mary Penguin and Hades roosting together.

Close up of Hecate and Hebe

Close up of Hecate and Hebe

But that Mary Penguin, she is no floozy, she was right up in the rafters with the Goldilocks.

Hades was sitting on a fence, half way between Mary and the Greek Gals’ Roosting spot.

Poor Hecate jumped up with Hera and Hebe.  They’ll have a good gossip tonight – I’ll bet.

“Did you see that Mary Penguin?!”  “Imagine!  Moving in on our man like that!”  “Just ’cause she’s got those feathered feet doesn’t mean she is all that!  Men will fall for anything!”  “I’ve never really trusted that Hades, how can you trust a guy with a name like that?  No -really I mean it! A name means something doesn’t it?”  “And those green glittery tail feathers of his, can’t trust a guy that flashy.  My grandma always said that, flashy fowl is falsy fowl!  Maybe not quite that but something like that!”  “I didn’t think Mary Penguin would do this to us.  What have we ever done to her?”

PS:  The oPERation is complete.  Egads.  Per, Eric, and I all needed a beer after that.  You’d think a procedure like that would set a fellow back some, but nope, not him.  Operated yesterday, today he jumped the 2 – 3  foot fence of his pen like nothing had happened.

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The Big Day

Annabelle on Jan.28,2012

GOOD FACTS:

Made Johnny Cakes from Dorcas Dishes Cookbook.

Fabulous little cookbook, includes an introduction I hope to post sometime, and some great joke recipes at the end of the book.  Intro and jokes both written by Kate Douglas Wiggins.  She is well-known for writing “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms.”

Johnny Cakes included lard, cornmeal, molasses, eggs, and milk.   Am not sure who Johnny is.

Quick search says that maybe Jonakin, Journey Cake, or Jannock are the original names so perhaps there is no actual Johnny.

Today was the “Big Day”.

Yesterday morning Annabelle was extremely affectionate to both me and Huckleberry – not her normal mood.

Last night she was flighty and a tad cranky.  And most importantly she tried to mount Huckleberry.

This morning both cows had lots of muddy hoofprints on their hindquarters and shoulders.  Annabelle’s rumen was all but empty and her milk production was very low.

Bovine mating rituals lack grace and beauty. Sexy it is not!

Heat cycles are 21 days –  today was day 20, so I was watching carefully trying to decide if it was too soon to make the call to the AI tech or not.  (AI – artificial insemination)

At noon a certain calmness settled on the pasture so I made the call.

“Standing” heat is the point in the heat cycle in which the cow actually stands still so as to allow ‘the job’ to be done.

The tech was here in 15 minutes and upon examination decided that the ‘tone’ of the uterus suggested good timing for breeding.  There was no follicle on the ovaries either so she had ovulated, another good indicator.

However….

Annabelle has a fold-y, gravel-y cervix which makes the whole AI process arduous.

Keep your fingers crossed that she ‘settles’.

I’d love to dry her up for August and September, maybe even July.  An October calving would be excellent.  Not milking, or having milk, when veggies and fruits are being harvested, preserved, and eaten seems like an excellent plan to me.

SAD FACTS:

My husband butchered Lancelot today.  More often than not, I do the bird butchering but this guy I just couldn’t do today.

Lancelot, The Rooster

Lancelot was our bantam rooster.  A gorgeous black roster with lovely red and green highlights. And he had those marvelous feathered legs and feet.  The cutest feet ever.

But…his cock-a-doodle-dooing was getting to be a problem.

The lighter the days, the earlier he begins that cock-a-doodle-dooing.

And who wants to hear that?

Good fences and quiet animals make good neighbors.

And frankly the hens won’t miss him either!