Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Life on the farm - Feathered Friends

Chickens are a standard on a hobby farm. They are relatively easy to take care of and the benefits of keeping them outweigh the effort it takes to keep them. They really do earn their keep.

In recent years urban chickens have gained popularity and are becoming a common site in neighborhoods around the country as Home Owner's associations loosen their guidelines and city officials amend ordinances.

At the Rural Living farm our chickens are simply pets who give back to us.

Take for instance our hens. We have not given any of them formal names but we refer to them as the white hen or the Cukoo (maran) or the Americana's. We can pretty much tell who furnished eggs that day because of color and size. They react to us as we talk to them calling them "our girls" and produce many more eggs if we throw treats of left over produce into their coop and announce to them that they can have a party with the extra food. They are always in the coop and not exposed to the roosters except when we choose to let them. Their coop is quite big and very nice, nicknamed the Chicken Condo. 

On the other hand, there are the roosters and some of them do have formal names. Take for instance WJ. WJ is a hulking rooster who is much taller and larger than all the other roosters on the farm. We acquired him not too long ago from a friend who was trying to reduce their rooster stock. We'll gladly take any rooster as they tame quite quickly and their benefits are endless.

WJ is so big he looks mean yet he is one of the biggest woosies in the flock. Despite his size he simply won't take food from the others nor fight them. He is tame enough to jump into John's lap and eat out of his hand and will often simply fall asleep as John strokes his breast.

Then there are the smaller roosters. Two of them are true Bantum roosters and one is a half breed Bantum and Cubalaya mix. They have formal names that describe their character.

The half breed is named Help Help. Help Help is a beautiful rooster and we named him after an incident last summer. Lots of evenings John and I scoop chicken scratch into red solo cups and feed the roosters out of the cups. When they are close and if you are quick you can grab them and put them in your lap. They fuss for few seconds but after some petting they tame right down and fall asleep.

As a routine John reached down and grabbed Help Help. He put up quite a fight even as John tried to pet him and twisted and turned to try to escape screaming the entire time. His scream mimicked someone screaming "Help! Help!" Poor thing never stopped screaming as I am sure he thought he was doomed. John never calmed him down and finally, after several minutes of trying to calm him down he let him go. Hence he was known from that day forward as....."Help! Help!" 

The other two bantums are black differing only in one white feather on one of their tails. They were recently acquired when we got WJ and are quite skiddish. Although they think they are bigger than WJ and certainly give credence to the term Cocky if spooked just slightly they will both jump and squak and scramble away. Thus we call one Oh Shoot and the other Oh Heck (or a variation of those names).

We have a variety of Cukoo Maran roosters we raised from babies and Dominickers which look very similar to the Cukoo's except the leg colors are different. These guys are meaty birds although I must admit after this long I am sure it would take hours of  boiling or a chainsaw to cut their meat. We don't raise these birds for their meat but if there ever comes a time I wouldn't hesitate or at least breed a hen with one for meaty chicks. It might take a bit of nerve to slaughter my first bird, not a chore I look forward to but I could do it.

The Cukoo's are excellent snake hunters on the Rural Living farm, a necessity especially during this early spring. So far we have only seen a couple of benign snakes but we are certain there are others that are lurking under brush piles and numerous other hiding places. I am not looking for them but I hope the Cukoo's are.

Our roosters are quite spoiled. John occasionally visits various fast food restaurants to order french fries, not for us to eat but to feed to the roosters. It is quite comical to watch several roosters run to a precisely tossed french fry and run into each other scrambling for the tasty treat. We liken it to a train wreck or desperate bridesmaids trying to snatch a bridal bouquet as it is tossed.. Sometimes one rooster will pick the entire thing up, french fry hanging loosely from both sides of his beak and will take off running only to have the other roosters chase him all over the pasture to try to steal it away. The rooster who grabbed the prize will get some relief to finally enjoy his tasty snack if we throw more french fries to the other roosters.

So you see, our roosters are our beneficial pets who reduce the bug population on our acreage and provide fertilizer at the same time. They also are a great stress reliever when they eat out of our hands or follow us with french fries or come to us when we simply call out "ROOSTERS."

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