Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Last Summer this hill was a desert, and this Summer it's a jungle about to clamber over the chicken house.
Never mind that the moisture is only a foot deep and the dug ponds have shrunk back into the deep shale trenches. The ground cover is so thick that roosters who ranged up and down and even across the road last year, now stay within a hundred feet of the chicken house, eating volunteer crops and everything in Davey's garden. Davey has been building cages for his vegetables , but the roosters still leap up just to knock down the tomatoes.
The deer had their fawns in Davey's orchard and wouldn't even run from the dogs. The dogs are agreed not to chase anything that won't run. Before the deer wandered off to see the big woods, they deer broke off some of Davey's fruit trees to get at the growing tips, so Davey as been building caging his rees.
But there haven't been any critters recently trying to eat the chickens themselves. The coyotes have gone wandering for the summer, and the foxes and weasels, and coons must be stuffed with a mincemeat of mice and fermented fuit, sleeping back in the cover.
We have never that I know of had a problem with the Harrier hawks, which are temporarily off their range, with the owls, even when we have illuminated white chicken roosting on the open deck. No problem with the crows who share the corn beside the chickens , or the vultures which only eat the dead. The skunks, which are technically weasels, are still living with a passage into the rooster quarters, where they eat with the roosters without conflict.
For a while, the neighborhood dogs were a problem. The Roosters do know that it's their job to guard the hens and, being also wide and bright targets, have taken most of the hits from the dogs.
Now that the neighbors have taken charge of their dogs, there has been no problem with them either.
So there would be little predator problem at all, except that the sexual predators among the roosters themselves are the worst threat to the hens.
One night a month or so back, when Davey was up at Lake Bonaparte to do some fireplace repairs, the roosters broke through one of the barricaded windows that he had slapped up to keep them from the hens.
The roosters mangled one hen, killed another, and kept the rest from getting to the food and water until I showed up.
I decided right there, this rooster rescue business has gone too far. We had to get rid of the three or four roosters most inclined to rush the hens, the ones that always wanted to pile on, to pull out their feathers, bite combs, and use their spurs. Some of these buckaroos have wicked spurs; they could ride a dog .
Maybe it was a mistake not to wring a few necks right then, instead of leaving the cull to Davey. But getting and harvesting is Davey's end of the chicken business here; my job is to keep them alive.
And anyway, There is road kill fresh every day on this hill , and I occasionally take a liver or bring back a pheasant from that source, but I long ago lost my taste or guns and killing . Mostly, all those years ago, when I shot the bear in Alaska and saw him l(ike I can see him right now) running around and gushering blood, with his head flapping on only a hinge of hide. So I left the slaughter to Davey.