Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Moby Dot, Papa Dot, Big Dot Org...... we mostly just call him Dot, after the large spot on each wing.
Dot was one of seven unordered chicks in a shipping box of forty, tossed in at the last moment and noted on the invoice as "Red Star Males included for warmth". Like all cockerels, Dot would ordinarily have been barbecued at about six weeks of age, but he has been here ten months now enjoying the open range and leading his folk. Dot, Prince of Pear town , is chief chicken here, with territory wider than the farm, and power over dogs, people, and tractor trailers.
While the chicks were growing in a kiddy pool in the middle of the one room house he shares with the two dogs, Davey worked on the three room chicken house with its internalized trailer, over-sized cupola, and feather-crested gargoyls; but the chicks grew faster than the chicken house. Chickens grow faster than lettuce or beans. Only bamboo or the fuiting bodies of mushrooms grow faster than chickens.
Although, when Davey finally had to move the leaping and bounding chickens into their own house, he had already spent so much time ornamenting the place that it seems to have been designed by a rooster baron....still the essential chicken access door was not yet secure.
One night during the first week the chickens were in their house, some sporting animal lifted the chicken door , walked in, and massacred four chickens.
Then, two days later, it came back and murdered two more.
Whatever it was, it didn't eat much. Maybe it planned to start eating seriously when it had finished killing all the chickens.
Davey secured the door and didn't call for me until the chickens themselves became a problem and began to get ahead of him, eating the blue styrofoam panels faster than he could stucco them, but after the second massacre, Big Dot, with eleven others, abandoned the chicken house and began to roost nights in the Horse Chestnut tree right outside Davey's window.
This group included all the white male Red Stars, two partridge Rock roosters, a Speckled Sussex cock, plus Nestle the partridge Rock hen and Rusty, a Red Star hen which had been mistaken by the packers for a male. Togather, they are very ornamental in the trees by the deck lights and the window glow. They are also close to the seat of power and the source of food.
Each day during the summer, Dot would lead his flock up or down the road a hundred yards or so to the swale on the South or the Cotton wood stand on the North, and he wojuld call from there occasionally to draw others to his flock, and to shout up the roosters who had dispersed to other parts of the property.
Dot's little flock holds the territory around the house and won't let the others approach, except for two Dominiker roosters who have learned to simply appear, instead of being seen coming up the path. The other white cocks, with slighter bars on their wings, are Dot's lieutenants and he allows them occasional orderly access to Rusty.
Under Big Dot's protectipn, and with the distracting influence of the Partridge Rock hen Nestle (who orbits the little group and has no protector better than open field running and hiding) Rusty is usually able to endure the six to twelve cocks in Dot's ranging court without loosing a lot of feathers.
This little society is generally well regulated and peacable within itself, but when Rusty seems a little worn or down trodden, Davey takes her in the house for a few days. allows her to eat the houseplants, and to roost where she will.
In the late afternoon every few days or so there would be some very convincing no-contact cock fighting along the territorial border , and some harsher attacks from both camps toward dark, when the wandered Dominikers break for the home roost. When a Chicken House Rooster can intercept one of the Dominikers or one of the low rank of the regulars trying to sneak back to the roost, he will chase him from the door and all the cocks out will sometimes join the pursuit and if the poor bird , gets cornered and pinned down, there can be some bad gang banging.
I am always saving Eric the Red Aracuna from this punking. He is big, handsome, and not particularly aggressive, so the hens like him and flock around him where he ranges up near the well head during the day. But he has low, or at least hated, status amount the roosters and they will often chase him down when he comes home to roost or comes down from the roost to feed. If they have him pinned and are seriously punking him, I kicks some butts, and put Eric in with Davey for a while.
Davey gives him a rubber salamander which Eric then spends fifteen or twenty minutes killing.
Dot himself also is not particularly aggressive, and he doesn't join in the mob behavior. He is smart enough to know that if he abandoned Rusty for a moment , the Rocks at the fringe of his flock, and the Dominikers in the bushes, would be on her until he returned.
For several days running after two months or so, when all the hens were almost ready to lay, Dot led Rusty to the dog house on Davey's deck, scratched around it it, picked up little sticks and other smalll gifts and tossed them around near the door. She entered, and wiithin a week Rusty was going straight to the dog house every morning, sitting there for an hour or so and leaving a large chocolate brown egg. Nestle located her own nest in some loose fiberglass insulation under the house.
In the Chicken house, where Davey had made half a dozen nest boxes but there was no good direction, the hens tended to simply follow one another , and lay all in the same nest, sometimes lining up three deep to wait for a turn.