Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Chickens

Last Thursday, the 23rd, when Justin came home from work we got to work. He quickly culled our three Speckled Sussexes (it used to be a common table bird in England over 100 years ago, hence why we chose it as our meat bird) and I got to work processing: plucking, taking off feet & necks, and then cleaning out the insides. Jomo was very happy for the fresh chicken necks, but other than that the dogs did a good job of staying away.
Killing the chickens and processing them for food has gotten easier. Now, when I am sitting there hunched over & plucking away in the cold (3 hours total work that night .. my ass was FROZEN!!) I feel a profoundly deep sense of gratitude to the bird for it's gift of life and food. I feel a deep sense of pride in knowing that we can, very literally, grow and raise food to put on the table ~ that we don't have to rely (always) on supermarkets and others to "do the work" and that the food we grow and raise is healthier and tastier by an easy ten-fold than that which we could buy. A wonderful "fuck the man" feeling! ;)
We also moved Easter & Bunny, our two Ameracaunas, into the tractor with the rest of the remaining gals (LadyBird, Ann Bancroft, and the two "Patti"s). Matt was over helping, and together he and Justin moved the birds one by one into the coop, then moved the empty tractor back against the coop, ready for them to come out in the morning. As you can see in the photo above, it frosted that night ~ I took the photo early Friday morning, so that was the reason for "let's do it now".
The transition has gone well. Easter & Bunny have been picked & pecked on, but that will happen until the new pecking order is well established. In the photo you can see LadyBird, our Buff Orpington, and both of the Patti's, our Partridge Cochins, hanging out in the tractor. They weren't letting Easter or Bunny come outside so we put some feed and water inside to give them a better chance.
Sadness struck yesterday though. The biddies were attacked by either a possum or raccoon. It tore through the chicken wire on the tractor and broke into the coop. The little food & water feeders had been dragged outside, and the dogs' heads couldn't have fit through the opening to the coop, so that is how we know the dogs didn't do this.
Shannon and I went out to collect eggs. We saw Easter, Bunny, and both Patti's laying outside, huddling together ~ honestly I thought they were dead. Gentle nudging proved otherwise, but the holes in the chicken wire, the food and water outside, and the amount of feathers on the ground told me they were far from ok. I looked into the coop and found LadyBird and Ann Bancroft huddling together, alive.
Shannon and Tristan luckily went with my step-dad and mom yesterday, and after checking on the birds Justin came home from work to help. We bought Bactine spray for their wounds ~ it is better than ointment as litter and dirt can get stuck in ointment.
Three birds were injured, very thankfully none were killed. LadyBird was injured on her back. Their skin is so thin it is quite easy to tear through it. We poured hydrogen peroxide over the wound, then sprayed it with the Bactine. Ann Bancroft was bleeding on her belly. I cradled her like a newborn while we did the same treatment. Bunny was the one I feared the worst. When looking at her before Justin got home it looked like a hole was ripped in her neck, and the way she was acting was the worst of them all. But upon bringing her inside (we cleaned and cared for each of them in the bathroom) we found her wounds to be the most minor. She got the same treatment, but I really think she is just the one on the very bottom of our pecking order and is the most passive and scared. Unlike "moving night" when both Easter and Bunny pitched a fit about being moved and carried, Bunny let me carry her into and back out of the house without a sound, as did the other birds.
I locked them all up in the coop, gave them some fresh buttermilk and frozen cherries to entice them to eat and then we headed to Lowe's. My mom was sweet enough to give us the money to buy new materials needed to fix the tractor. We bought a hardware cloth with squares 1/2" thick. Justin put a 2x2 beam across the sides in the middle to help keep the dogs from leaning on the wire and causing it to bend in so much. He was able to get 1/2 of one side as well as one end (where the biggest holes were) done last night before it got too dark to work.
He went out this morning before work and checked on them. They are all still alive and were huddled together. He left them locked up in the coop and I will go out in a bit to make sure they have food and let them out. Most attacks happen at night, and though it can be quite loud our house can be rather sound-proof at times and so we don't know what time it occured. I figure the more into the day we can get, the safer the birds will likely be.
The pharmacist yesterday told me that everything seems to like eating chicken, that they're the lowest on the totem pole and it is amazing they have lasted so long. From reading it seems that is pretty on the mark. And even though I wouldn't go so far as to say we consider these birds part of our family, we do care for them. Panic filled me yesterday until we were able to get all three examined and treated, and worry over their health will fill me until they heal. With everything we have had to go through, both physically and emotionally, just to even get to HAVE these birds, we are MOST certainly NOT ready to just let them be picked off by greedy predators.

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