Thursday, December 12, 2013

Chicken Trauma

Having a single flock of free-ranging birds (12 guinea fowl and 2 chickens) regularly establishes exactly why we DON'T free range our egg-laying flock.

Tuesday night, James raced into the house with a seemingly incoherent account of birds, dogs, and missing ears.  I asked him to be quiet as the baby was asleep, not really registering his actual words, and he said,  "She's missing.  I need you outside right now."

J&J's bird dog had escaped her leash.  Again.  Another neighbor's son, seeing the dog headed for our yard, tried to get his dog to distract the dog.  Even in writing that sounds like a bad plan, and it was even worse in reality.  Their dog, Sophie, is loathed and despised by Hope.  J&J's dog and Sophie went after our guinea flock.  James saw one bird at least potentially dismembered, then Hope went after Sophie and tore off part of her ear (and, might I confess, later went back to the field of battle and ate said missing ear after we couldn't find it?).  James traversed the neighborhood in search of the neighbor's errant bird dog.

And that, my friends, was the beginning of a two hour search for my birds.  I was initially able to locate 11 guineas, no chickens.  All appeared to be uninjured.  After another 15 or so minutes, I found Darkest Winter, our gimpy chicken, hiding behind the barn.  She was uninjured.  After another 20-30 minutes, I found 12 guineas huddled on the neighbor's roof.  No Stew.

Stew's feathers littered our yard like a rained out TP party.  Searching, searching, searching with a sick feeling in my stomach.  I really didn't want to find a bird bloodied and needing to be euthanized, nor did I really want to find a dead bird.  Finding a live, healthy chicken seemed to be an impossibility.

James eventually came back and joined the search.  He invited neighbor boys with a bribe of money to help.

Still, given my record at finding things, I finally found Stew.  Alive.  Unbloodied.  Missing a lot of feathers, but otherwise okay.  She had hidden herself in a clump of decorative grasses and looked like an old weathered log.
She cursed us roundly for cooping her up, but she needed to be monitored for a few days.  We did add bedding and food to the dog crate.  She didn't move for almost 24 hours, but this morning was up and at 'em when I took the kids to school, so I released her back to her flock.

Poor girl.  James is right.  Is this poor chicken lucky to have survived or unlucky to get picked on so much?

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

P.S.  She had finally started to lay eggs again.  I'm thinking she'll have stopped again for quite a while.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Misty Morning

Temperatures remained above freezing last night, for the first time in a while, so the air was heavy with moisture on my way to deliver Spunky to her ride to school.
The Assistant is suffering from a nasty persistent and prolonged cough, so she's home for the day.

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

December 1

Thanksgiving was late this year and Advent early, so the Saturday after Thanksgiving we ran out for our Christmas tree.  Since it's a fairly local tree farm, we could it pick it out and still be home in less than two hours.

Our Advent custom is to hang our Jesse tree ornaments on our actual Christmas tree.  While others use a stick or branch, we decided this is the best way to incorporate our Advent traditions into Christmas.  So the tree is bare... lights, since they have to go on first, one Jesse tree ornament, and an ornament for each child to hang.  Tomorrow, another few will be added.
 We decorate the house in the same manner... slowly, deliberately, and as a crescendo that will reach its high point Christmas eve with a fully decorated tree and everything ready for Christmas.  Even our Nativity scene comes out piece by piece, starting with Mary, Joseph, and the donkey.

This gives me a chance to clean as we go and gives my husband a little closer to his childhood tradition of Christmas being out all Advent.  In my family, the tree was decorated Christmas eve and not before.

After a few weeks of unseasonably frigid November weather, it's nice for December to start out pleasantly:
 The end of the week will be more chilly weather, but this gives me time to make further preparations for the cold, as one of our roosters suffered minor frostbite on the tips of his comb one of the last "under 20" days.
 The guineas are still busy finding bugs and seeds to eat, as they aren't interested in their feed (which is just fine with me!  It was attracting mice to their coop.)
Happy Advent!

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.