Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Tough (and lucky) rooster

New Year's Day was about 45 degrees and sunny, so I let the chickens out to run in the pasture about 2:00. That would give them a couple of hours of "play time" before dark.

When I went out to do chores about 4:00, I found Slim Jim, my Black Australorp rooster and a Rhode Island Red hen in the lower corral by the hay storage. It's not unusual for the hens to be in this area, but I'd never seen the roosters in there. As I focused on Slim Jim, I thought, what happened to your tail feathers? It seemed odd that one of the other roosters would have pulled them all out. I picked him up to exam him further as there was a bloody spot on this tail. Under the wing feathers, he'd had a whole bunch pulled out of his body and there were some bloody scratches (not deep).
After searching the area better, I found a pile of tail feathers and then another pile of body feathers.
It appears that something tried to get Slim Jim - most likely a fox. But Slim Jim is a tough old guy and managed to get away and I think give all the hens time to escape. No hens appear to be missing (although when you have 70+ of them, it's a bit hard to tell).

The next morning a dusting of snow revealed fox tracks (possibly more than one). So I won't be letting the chickens out to pasture for awhile. But with the coming cold and snow they won't want to be out anyway.

End of a Legend

 Bernadette aka The Barn Queen, passed away about 10:00 on Dec 27, 2013. Many of you will remember her as ruling the barn with an iron claw and demanding "MEOW".
She showed up when we built the barns and moved the goats in. Mice and warm milk (plus some cat treats) were the attraction. She spent the next 8 or so years living part time in our barn and barn time in the neighbors barn . I think she spent her nights at the neighbors, as no matter what the weather I'd see her come across the pasture at milking time in the morning. Then she'd head back across after evening snacks were finished. If the snow was too deep you could see her walking at the edge of the gravel road between our houses.
 Wendy and Bernadette were friendly advisories. Wendy really just wanted her food.
A couple of young black cats showed up at the barn in about 2009. Bernadette told them they could stay if they respected her position. They did.
 In November 2010 I noticed that Bernadette was having more trouble jumping onto the hay bales - her age was showing and there was probably some arthritis. I decided that she wouldn't make it through another winter outside. If the cold didn't get to her, she might not be able to escape the foxes. So I brought her inside and settled into the sun room of the basement. The couch became her throne. Horace and Sage, the other two house cats also accepted her as The Queen.
An interesting transformation occurred, Bernadette's demanding voice became nicer and she actually enjoyed being petted. As if to say"It's about time you let me inside".
Eventually Bernadette stopped grooming her fur, but she let me brush her. On Thursday December 19th she refused her canned food (she quit eating dry food awhile ago). She did drink the warm goat's milk I offered. That was her last meal. She lived for the next week on water.

Bernadette is buried overlooking the barn.

The neighbor says that she showed up to their place when they moved in. That was in 1990. Bernadette was at least 23 years old.