Saturday, December 3, 2011

Not Exactly Chicken Of The Sea

I stepped out onto the Mansion porch this afternoon, into the 60-degree temperature on this freakish December 3, and spied a curious sight.

Farmer H and The Pony were fishing for chickens.

I had intended to toss some old bread to the fowl. Normally, they peck around in the front yard. But today they were curiously absent. I attributed it to Juno, our adolescent puppy, who purely loves to chase after them all the live-long day while we're at work and school. She hasn't hurt any of them. They're like living toys. Sometimes I think that pup is not too bright. She gambols up to Genius, the most mild-mannered of our cats, and snaps at his legs. Genius is not into canine frolicking, and delivers a hissing right slash to Juno's nose for her insolence. Yet she comes back time after time. Genius stands his ground. He's a patient teacher of puppy lessons.

As I tossed hamburger buns, corn muffins, and the gummy white sandwich bread that teenage boys find so irresistible, the roosters came a-runnin'. But only the roosters. I saw a commotion in the smallest of the chicken pens, the one with a wire roof, where we keep the hens with young chicks. Not the baby chicks. They go in an old rabbit hutch, because the chicks will scoot right through the chain-link dog fence that comprises the chicken pens proper. That stresses the mother hens. They cluck-cluck and pace, while the chicks insolently traipse back and forth in dog-and-cat territory. But I digress.

There was Farmer H, wielding a large fishing net. It was bigger than a basketball hoop, but smaller than a hula hoop. The Pony was the border collie in this herding exercise. It was his job to channel the hens toward the pen, where Farmer H scooped them and deposited them into the lock-up. The purpose is to imprison the egg producers. Farmer H thinks they are holding out on him. He cannot discover where they've been laying. I told him that last December, they virtually quit as well. And it doesn't help that Tank the beagle has taken to sleeping in their chicken house. I think he's eating the eggs. Or at least making the layers nervous.

I figure it costs Farmer H about $.50 per egg when we're gathering eight per day in the summer, and $5.00 per egg during the winter. Of course, he doesn't want to hear that. Or get rid of seven superfluous roosters.


Chickadee said...

I guess hens don't stop laying eggs in winter? A lot of birds will change their (reproductive) behavior as the length of daylight shortens and temperatures get colder. But I don't know about fowl.

Hillbilly Mom said...

I tried to tell him. But Farmer H listens to no woman where his fowl are concerned. Every winter, they have virtually quit laying. Why bother? The eggs will freeze, or the chicks will freeze. Our chickens who refuse to roost in the chicken house, but instead choose the big cedar overhanging it, lose their tail feathers to frostbite. So I can imagine a tender chick out from under its momma's wing.