Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Fourth Day

"And God said, 'Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.'” Gen. 1:20

DG here. Remember when we were thwarted by Bureaucrats? Our Purgatory Ranch (PR) future was torn in two. One family would build at PR, and the other must cast out into the deep! So I slunk back to suburbia, back to my rock that I can crawl under and brood. (C.f.: Suess's Onceler and His Lurkem) But then, a wonderful opportunity came along, an opportunity to make Purgatory Ranch better by expanding and deepening its community. And behold, a new ranch was born.

My family has purchased 10 acres approximately 4 miles from PR proper. Nearly everything we own is a castoff, scavenged, adopted (kids and animals as you'll see) or bought used. Thus, our humble 10 acres is dubbed "Second Hand Ranch" (SHR). Think of it as the staging point for PR, and its little sister to the northwest.

While this blog is still about Purgatory ("Remember..."), every once and a while we will give you a glimpse of life at SHR. It's like Tanto's side-plot to the Lone Ranger. Which brings us to the Birds.

Our Plan: Slowly build up a homestead. God's Plan: Let there be chickens. And other flying crap.

We heard tell of some animals that were for sale at a bargain basement price. A friend of a friend was moving back into the city, and needed to cast off some flying stock. Chickens? Cheap? We were interested. We drove by the seller's farm and entered... an avian sideshow.

I will attempt to capture this in the pristine typeset of The "chickens" of our naive imagination had now transfigured before our eyes into a pole barn full of feathered friends. For half a Benjamin, we were to receive 7 Bantam chickens, 2 Guineas, 2 Turkeys, 2 Ducks, and 1 Goose. Daunted but not repulsed, we meekly said we'd take them, and I retreated to rally logistics. At no time did I ask myself, "Self, what in the #$%^@& are we going to do with Turkeys, Ducks, and a Goose?" To quote John Candy's character from Canadian Bacon, "There's a time to think, and a time to act. And this is no time to think!"

We returned the next week, armed with 7 dog carriers and reinforcements. The dog carriers were for the birds and the reinforcements, as it turned out, were to heckle. I was wearing work gloves, sturdy boots, and the cloak of naivete'. The birds, docile when being viewed previously, turned malignant upon my approaching their enclosure. The goose was mostly bark, but the turkeys? The turkeys were vile. Also, there was (magically) a third gobbler. Bigger than the others. Where did he come from? The coop was the inside of the northern quarter of a tall Wick-style lean-to, with chicken wire running to the rafters. It looked a lot like Thunderdome.

There was some discussion of whom to take first. My dad offered some sage advice, in the hypothetical sense. HE wasn't going in there! Biggest first, we decided. I entered the Arena. I reached for the nearest duck and it was ON. Like Donkey Kong.

What ensued was a grand spectacle. Feathers, expletives, birds, rocks, and poop flew. The general tactic devolved to:
1. Pick a bird
2. Chase it until it gets cornered
3. Smash it down and pin its wings
4. Run to the nearest available dog carrier
5. Jam it in

At first I was trying to be gentle. After gently chasing burds and only succeeding in scaring them, I went for shock and awe. After a few chickens, guineas, and a duck, I learned to hold me hands and arms over my head, walking like Frankenstein. This apparently scares them and prevents them from flying because you look so freakishly tall. They mostly cower and you can smash and pin.

Oh, but there's one thing. Turkeys. Yeah, none of that works on them. The first turkey I approached opened its generous (Read: terrifying) wingspan, flapped as if fanning the very furnaces of Hell, and attacked my face in its flight to freedom. Bounced off South wall, East wall, and then promptly flew the coop. It settled into a roost in a tall tree, looking very indignant. We were at a loss.

What works for turkeys, I can say now, is a modification of the general tactic. I like to call it "Turkey Rodeo". You lunge and grab, essential roll into the fetal position to protect your eyes and face, then hold on for dear life. After about 10 seconds, the turkey stops flapping to see if you are still there. Then pin and runnnnnn!

By perseverance, a lot of scrambling on hands and knees in chicken/duck/guinea/goose/turkey poo, throwing stuff for distraction, and yelling at small semi-flightless fowl, I managed to load the back of my truck with about 120 lbs. of pissed of birds stacked like a Jenga game in the bed. Thus began a very interesting 6 mile voyage back to Second Hand Ranch. Driving 20 mph is advisable. Any faster, and the two turkeys simultaneously went vertical, lifting their dog carrier about half a foot and scaring the bejeebers out of their fellow avian passengers. And me. Fortunately, my fellow motorists were understanding. At least once they figured out what the heck was in my bed.

James and I had prepped a coop and run the day before. Before de-birding my pickup, my Dad and I threw a tarp over the run and wired it down. The chickens were eerily quiet. Even the turkeys seemed beat. Had they survived? I was worried. We had somehow bonded in the harrowing cage fight. My little feathered friends were good, pleasing to the eye, and desirous for making eggs.

I moved the carriers inside the covered run and some birds came out. Others had to be coaxed. The turkeys... well I admit I just shoved the unlatched carrier into the darkened coop. We left them with water and some food. They went straight to roost. They seemed so peaceful. Then I realized- what if we had moved them AFTER they roosted? Duh.

The next morning, the roosters (2) went to it. A marvelous sound. All the birds were up and alert. I let them free range and they happily began working on the surplus SHR bugs. Each has their own personality, and the turkeys are my favorite... of course!

This should be a nice preliminary to when James and Co. get their own flock. Perhaps they will learn from our mistakes!


  1. Hilarious, but I'm glad it got done!

  2. Beautiful! Maybe I'll start with chicks. I hear they're easier to catch!

  3. Very funny!

    Luckily they tend to stay close once they know where the good food comes from. We had a wind storm upset our chicken tractor and all the roosters (about a day away from butchering) just stood around and then came right over to Kansas Dad when he went out to round them up in the morning.