Saturday, April 26, 2008

Chicken Scratch

Last weekend was awesome. Girl and Gerbil went to Sharlene-of-Webs' house and got some day lilies she was eliminating, and brought them home. We love Sharlene of Webs. I adore day lilies and cannot wait for these guys to grow and bloom. They are filling in the bank where last year we removed 40-odd trees.
There was an afternoon of raking and planting, and Jules arrived with her camera (that's why all the pictures in today's post look so blessed good. Nikon something or other SLR v. Canon Powershot? No real contest.) Everyone worked (I knitted.)
Chickens did not work, but supervised. Actually they can be said to work if you consider de-bugging the grounds to be labor. As an organic gardener, I find it so. They are saving me from labor and insecticidal soap.
A few people have asked me over the years why I keep a rooster around. There is always one, sometimes more than one. First, it's how they come. My first chicks were from the feed store, but subsequent batches have been from small farms that focus on rare breeds where chicks come as God intended them to - "straight-run", meaning a mixture of both boys and girls. Second, roosters make more chickens. And last, well, I have a sick love for the crowing. I think it's genetic. Keeping a couple of roosters has rarely been a problem. My old man, Napoleon did his job right and well for a long time. A while back I got new chicks and kept two of the boys - Plush and Bedhead - anticipating that Napoleon would eventually move on to the Happy Pecking Grounds. Plush and Bedhead were raised in a group of 25 the way all my birds are. The chicks live in huge stock tank with a heating lamp until they are big enough to move to the garage, and then ultimately to the chicken house. They are all handled daily so they're not as likely to see humans as the enemy. Until now. Plush, in his second year of life, has developed "issues". The "issues" all revolve around me, apparently. This is a problem. I feed. I water. I gather eggs. I sometimes like to WALK THROUGH MY OWN YARD. Plushie does not share my opinion, and for a few weeks now has in varying degrees been coming after me. I will spare you the pictures of the 4" long bruise down my calf, or the myriad scratches and cuts. One might even have been called a gash. Under different circumstances, Plush would be stew. But Nap's gone, and Plush is it. He's The Man. The all-seeing chicken eye. The boy who protects my girls. The rooster who will make new babies next spring. For now, I need him.
Roosters, for their own protection and the defense of the flock have what are called spurs. Spurs begin to grow when a rooster is still a young cockerel. They get longer, curved, and sharpen as the guy ages. These spurs can do a lot of damage and are what's been causing my discomfort when doing chores. I face the bird, I am fine. I turn my back and he runs up behind me and attacks, jumping off the ground, both feet coming in my direction, spurs delivering a relatively painful blow to the back of my leg. He's ripped through jeans. There's been blood. It has not been pretty.
But there is a solution, or at least a point of compromise betwixt stew and bleeding knitters. I try to avoid altering the birds from their natural state as much as I can. I do not de-beak. I don't have them "sexed". I don't put a light on for them in winter, preferring to let them take the break nature intended. But. I draw the line at bleeding through my jeans while trying to walk backwards into my own house, balancing a dozen eggs, the mail, and a freaked out Bernese Mountain Dog who thought the big chicken wanted to play.
So last week we had a little confab in the poultry house at dusk. My Wonderful Mr. Wonderful, who hates bloody jobs, but loves me more agreed to help me de-spur the roosters. It's really not any worse than cutting the dog's nails, but it's more difficult to see where the quick is, and there's always a chance that you'll cut too close. Although the roos appear to not feel this (and I have seen them respond to pain, so I know they'd let me know if this hurt) there can be blood. One person holds the bird, one the large nippers, and in a second it's over, for better or worse.
But there wasn't a worse this time. Everyone lived. Both Bedhead and Plush got their little trim, and I am free to walk about if not unmolested at least not bleeding from various slice and dice gashes on my calves.
Plush had a bit more trying recovery than Bedhead. He'd been first, and as a result upside down a bit longer than I'd like. His red, red comb is a combination of pure wrath and head-rush. He still hates me, although he's a little less aggressive about it. And that's fine, as long as he does his job, and next spring makes me some more chickens. Then we'll see. He may age gracefully and accept that biting the hand that feeds you is nothing short of stupid.
Knitting? OK. Preview of coming atractions:
Acero Sock, pattern will be available soon. Yarn: Brooks Farm Acero. This was my first ever Brooks Farm, given to me by Kathy after a TNNA or something. She came home with it and I fell madly in love.
Assateague Sock, ditto. Yarn: Seacoast Panda. This has been the longest two socks ever to reach pattern stage, I swear. I got the Panda at NENA last year, and it's nearly NENA time now. Still no final pattern. I know how it is. I do adore this yarn though.
Castaway Socks, also ditto. Yarn: Regia Kaffe Fassett 4-ply.
Taconic Hat, which will be available from Knitting for Noggins, I don't know just when, as part of an online collection of patterns. Yarn: Valley Yarns Williamstown, which I love. It felts, too. But that's another day.
For now I return to knocking out a couple of samples for tomorrow's class, and planning for my evening of fun in Northampton, and contemplating my garden. At last, spring is here!


Petra said...

Wow... you do love your birds don't ya? I think I might have had some roast rooster and found another one somewhere else! Those spurs are something else. Hey... I have some Brooks Farm Acero! Looking forward to that pattern!

Yarnhog said...

Those spurs look downright vicious!

We want to replace our "lost" chicken Patti (who went to visit the dogs next door and never came back), but being city folk, don't know how to tell a boy chick from a girl chick--and a rooster is not an option in our neighborhood! Is there a way to tell what you're getting before the angry neighbors start calling at dawn?

tina said...

I am sorry to tell you that I found that post just completely amusing.

You are superwoman, honey you can do anything can't you???

P.S. I want eggs. I get giddy at the mere thought.

Virtuous said...

Love the Regia Kaffe Fassett socks!
Can't wait to how today went with YH! ;o)

Mary said...

Ahhh. Why'd you make me click the de-beak link. :(
Chickens kinda freak me out That just doesn't seem like a good idea.

maryalice said...

Love the cap and the girl!!