Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Depressing Signs of Spring

The first body turned up on Thursday morning. The victim was an Australorp, a breed known for ease around humans and striking black feathers. Judging from the loss of those feathers this winter, as observed when the little flock was recently released from the coop for some time in the yard, she was also low chicken on the pecking order.

Dead, just before spring. “Like a soldier dying the day before the war was declared at an end” said Whusband, who found the body.

The horrible surmise was that the other four hens, perhaps stimulated by their first break from the coop in months, had pecked her to death. It was a horrible surmise but also a reasonable one. The Australorps had been added to the two surviving members of the flock we bought last summer and so had always been junior members - and she was the most junior among them.

The senior hen, Mable, was a survivor extraordinaire. She had lived through at least four predator holocausts. Each time something got at our birds, we tried new security measures. Their A-Frame coop, covered with tarps and foam insulation for the winter, is surrounded on all sides by chicken wire – including the floor. We replaced boards around the bottom this fall. The winter has been a bear, and the chickens showed the signs of their hard winter when I sprang them for the first time a couple weeks ago.

Imagine my horror when I came out yesterday to release them and found Mable in a nest bucket, feet up, a literal stiff.

Funny, given all the chicken I’ve eaten, how horrible it was to find trusty, clever Mable down. Two summers she has wandered around the yard with her Sancho Panza, the other clever hen called Buffy. The two of them would appear whenever we came out, following us here and there. Once I removed the body I saw that she was in the midst of egg laying, and I figured she had become egg bound. Poor thing, what a way to go.

It was a nice day yesterday so I let the three survivors wander around for the afternoon. Buffy and the two Australorps sunned themselves on the front porch of our little cabin. I shooed them back in the coop for the night and sealed it up. I went to give them some bread this morning. No one came to the door of the coop. Black feathers were everywhere. Really. I wanted to cry. The first day of spring. I am rethinking the cause of death of the first two birds...

If we get anymore chickens we’re getting a proper building with a hard floor and some perches up high in case some horrible weasel breaks in there.

Also, it's mud season. See below.

7 comments:

Deborah Pipes said...

death to go along with with the revealing flotsam & jetsam of post winter is even depressing -

it was in the upper 70s today. we have been working on tidying up the perennial beds & fertilizing the fruit trees this weekend.

thinking of you Vermonters and the goo to come over the next few weeks....

(yes, i am, aren't i?)

Lulu LaBonne said...

Poor Mable

and Mud Glorious Mud ... and snow, right now I could do with a cool down!

Nan said...

I just put up a new blog header photo today and it looks like your picture. ;<)
I hate, hate, hate weasels and their winter color and name, ermines. We've been very, very lucky over the years with chickens. It's probably because we have a barn, and there are always animals in there with them to protect them. But also Dominiques are an incredibly hardy (and, may I say, cheerful) breed of chickens. We have fifteen babies showing up here in May.
And when I saw your blog title today, I grinned and thought only KSV.

R. Sherman said...

We don't have weasels, but foxes and coyotes are the main chicken thieves around here. One really needs a vigilant dog, plus a cat for the snakes and rats to maintain a good chicken flock all year.

Cheers.

uphilldowndale said...

Chickens can be so cruel...

KSV Woolfoot said...

Deborah - All I know about Kansas I learn from you, and the Wizard of Oz... We are a loonng way from 70 here.

Lulu - Loved that post on the evil chair and its cohorts on your blog. Try not to get your head cracked or your seat wet while you're down in the tropics. If I could get you some of this mud I would.

Nan - I would love to get a proper little shed - no, let's add a barn since the one we have has a dirt floor and more holes than a sieve. Then along with chickens we could get a couple of sheep and maybe a goat. I expect that along with the animals your own attentions have saved your chickens. I will look for Dominiques this year. Can they arm themselves?

R. - No weasels in Mo.? Really? Like no snakes in Ireland? I am sure you know a lawyer or two who might sneak into a chicken coop and do some damage.

Hi Mrs. UHDD - A chicken's life does put things in perspective sometimes.

J.G. said...

Oh, poor birds! When one knows them personally, every death is a diminishment. I hope your luck (and the flock's) turns now, along with the weather.