Friday, January 10, 2014

The Chickens, Part Two

Here are four of the chickens as pullets in September, before they were laying. The two Ameraucanas are on the wall, Violet and Isobel. In the garden are Sojourner and Harriet. Sojourner is a Plymouth Barred Rock and Harriet is a Buff Orpington. Mrs. Patmore, a Salmon Faverolles, and Lucretia, a Black Australorp, are elsewhere in the garden. All the girls are flufflier and bigger-bottomed now. No more squeezing through the picket fence, like Violet did once. (She popped right back.)

They love scratching in the garden and looking for grubs and worms and who knows what else. They also poop in the garden. Both of these activities are fine things. I did learn to keep them out of the just-getting-established rhubarb. Though the leaves are toxic to humans, they are lovely salad greens for chickens. Seriously, chickens are great for the garden in between seasons. The garden above is mostly herbs and perennials they're not interested in, so that's why they're allowed.

Isobel was the first to lay an egg, in late September. All her eggs are a light blue-green. Next was Violet, whose eggs are a more muted blue-green. They are the Ameraucanas, and one reason I got them was for their beautiful eggs. The other chickens' eggs are brown, and a bit bigger. One of them lays quite a large egg, but I'm not sure who, and Mrs. Patmore is not laying yet. At least we've never seen her hanging about the coop in the daytime and we've certainly never seen her laying on all the eggs keeping them safe and warm.

Mrs. Patmore is a character, and seems to have some kind of leadership role. When I let the chickens out to roam, she will sometimes stay closest to the coop and squawk if she can't see where anyone else is. She likes to forage under the butterfly bush. I will try to get you a good picture, as she has an extra toe, feathers on her feet, and feathers sticking out of the side of her head as an homage to Einstein.

The other standout character is Sojourner, who engages in standoffs with our collie Zane, in which she wins. She has pecked Zane a few times, and he whines and walks away. Harriet in her younger days could be a bit hard to lead back into the coop. Lucretia likes to jump up vertically to eat leaves, which is fun to watch.

Zane, let me add, is fine with the chickens. I don't need to worry. The first time I put them out there, he ran around the coop for a couple of hours, barking at a horribly high pitch I had never heard. But soon he got used to them to the point of just passively accepting their existence. Sometimes he gives them a halfhearted, momentary chase.

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