Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tales From the Roost: Serena

I am the last of my kind.  There were five of us originally.  My attendant removed us all from a wire cage in the back of a feed store one cold October day and transported us home, to the little red coop.  All of the others perished or disappeared over the last year and a half.  I alone survived.

Was it my breed that saved my feathery neck?  I am a Barred Rock, otherwise known as a Plymouth Rock.  As in Pilgrims, don't you know?  It wasn't good stock that got me by, though.

No, I beat the odds by sheer wit and a little bit of luck.  You see, dear reader, as sprightly as I am, I've lead a sickly life.  I've been down that oak strewn road to the chicken vet more times than I care to count.  The last time was supposed to be, well, the last.  My attendant was in tears, murmuring about "being put to sleep" after I didn't eat for a week.  That's a story for another time but suffice to say, I'm still here!

If my attendant was a real farmer - instead of the one she pretends to be puffing over her raised beds and raking out wildflowers for a "pollinator garden" - she would have given me the ax in the beginning.  There would have been no chicken vet, no antibiotics, and certainly no buckets full of worms and scrambled eggs to "get my protein in".  But that is the lucky part.

The rest is all brains.  It is important to train an attendant early on.  Greet them at the coop door and give them a good talking to.  When you are out of the coop, free ranging, you need to keep tabs on the attendant as they often come bearing treats, snacks and scraps.  It is important to be the first chicken to them and for that, one must assume the correct aerodynamic posture: head bent low and derriere up.  As a result, you can be hand fed instead of having to peck for the sunflower seeds or scratch off the ground like a common chicken.

Stay close and monitor your attendant while they are working in the garden.  Any sort of digging will unearth worms which will need to be plucked and eaten - off the shovel if necessary.  And, if your attendant forgets about you or seems busy, never hesitate to remind them.  In such times, I march down the patio steps and right up to the window until the attendant recalls her duties and comes out armed with treats.

As important as it is to train one's attendant, it is equally important to monitor one's companions.  Distance yourself from trouble makers.  It is acceptable to peck new girls but not to deprive them of food and water.  Doing the latter earned my former companion, Butterscotch, a new home.  Make sure everyone stays in line though - not too many greens for this one if that one has had none.  And, of course, ensure that all eggs are laid correctly.  Whenever the coop-mates go up to lay, you follow.  Eggs are too be laid in the nesting box but only the one on the left.  The one on the right is haunted and only Puff uses it when the madness touches her and causes her to go "broody".

It is critical to begin all of this training as soon as possible.  It endears you to the attendant and sets you up as Queen of the Roost in preparation for that day we all know is coming - when you stop laying the golden (yolked) eggs!

I've learned a lot in my time at the Green Bean Homestead.  The life of a chicken is a tenuous thing.  There are predators, sickness, screws, and plain bad manners.  The most important lesson I've gleaned, though, is this: If you want to live a long life as a chicken, be a pet.  The livestock thing is for the birds!



ruchi said...

Hey, GB, now that you have chickens of your own, how do you feel about antibiotics for farm animals?

I pretty much only buy organic, and I'm reluctant to eat meat or drink milk from an animal that has been given antibiotics, but I've heard from an animal welfare point of view that organic farm stock can often be sickly and have a rough life so it seems like somewhat of a moral dilemma.

Green Bean said...

I still think it is a good thing to avoid antibiotics in animals and animal products. When we buy at the store or farmers' market, we certainly look for non-antibiotic animal products.

Also, it is, in my experience, a misconception, that organic animals are necessarily more sickly. We have 5 hens (and had another who we gave away because she was a beeoootttch!, oh yeah and another who ate a screw). None of them have ever been on antibiotics. Just Serena. If I were a true organic farmer, I would have offed her. But what can I say? She's the sweetest, most friendly girl I've got.


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