Saturday, December 31, 2011

Puberty comes to the Chicken Coop

Cock a doodle errrrrr. Ahh pubescent roosters in their first crow.  Like human boys when their voices crack, the roosters just don't get it right at the beginning.  It sounds like someone decided to choke them half way through a crow.  That is what we heard when we first entered the barn this morning.  Cock a doodle errr. 

We purchased day old Partridge Chantecler chickens at the end of September and they finally have moulted into their adult plumage.  The five hens are a beautiful liver chestnut with black partridge marking on their feathers; the roosters have a glossy chestnut head and mane and irredescent black/green tail and wing feathers - stunning birds and Canadian winter hardy.

I am teaching them to come to a foil pan with cooled oatmeal, a trick I learned over 20 years ago with my first flock of layers.  I teach them to come to the banging on the bottom of a pie plate full of oatmeal and then entice them into the coop for the night.  They love the oatmeal and come running.  Once the spring comes and they are outside I will post a video. Actually somewhere in the archives of CBC television is a video of my first flock doing just that. Thankfully the footage of me crowing at my rooster to get him to crow for the camera ended up on the cutting room floor.

During the transition to laying eggs in the spring you often get very odd sized eggs from tiny to huge.  When I got one of the huge eggs (probably a triple or quadruple yolker) I entered it in the Rural Delivery Great Canadian Big Egg Contest.  The egg won and was shipped to the World competition (or more accurately the eastern seaboard of North America) where it came second.  As a result of that success I was on television once, the radio at least three times and in the press a couple of times.  I figured that I deserved a seat in the Senate after that (seems to be all the qualifications required).   By the way, the chicken died.

Now I have to enter the strange and wonderful world of poultry fanciers to find a Chantecler rooster from an unrelated line.  Then in the summer I will start breeding and hatching chicks for sale.

It's cock a doodle dooo  Stupid rooster, get it right!


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mamma - The story of a little cat and a love story

The year was 1992 and after 10 years of marriage, I was on my own again.  My sister came down down from her home in the Arctic and asked me what I wanted to do.  My reply: 1 hire a lawyer, 2 buy a stereo and 3 get a dog.  That week we did all three. 
 The dog was an 18 month old Bearded Collie called Dixie who really should have been called Houdini.  She was able to escape anything that she was put in leaving behind a pile of chewed door, window etc.  Just change the noun and she went through it.  The solution was a chain link dog run connected into another run in the garage.  When I was home from work, she had free run of the farm.
It was heading into the winter when I first noticed that Dixie might have "company" while I was at work.  Her kennel often had rodent parts scattered about: leg of mouse, tail of rat.  About one month later I noticed a black streak dashing from her kennel when I pulled in the driveway. Finally I saw her companion, a diminuative jet black cat. Over the winter, the cat had kittens in the kennel, leaving Dixie to babysit while she would go hunting.  She would return sharing her spoils.  She had a second litter but lost most but Shadow who went to my sister's house.
By spring I realized the cat was there to stay so, unless I wanted to be continuously finding homes for kittens, she would need to be spayed. She needed a name. A discussion over coffee break resulted in Mamma.  Not original but appropriate as she became the grand dam of every farm since.  She stayed in the house for a week after her surgery, one of only two times she came in to stay over a period of close to 20 years.
Mamma and Dixie were inseparable and often you would see the two curled up together.  
In 1995, enter a new man in my life, a whirlwind romance, marriage and move to another farm. Mamma tolerated the new extended family of cats and dogs.  We were not sure that Mamma would stay at the new farm but home was where her Dixie was.  She would cry outside the door until Dixie went out in the morning. 
In 1997, we moved to Hawk Hill.  Again Mamma came with us and was the constant companion with Dixie.  If we left the car windows open, Dixie would soon crawl in the car to sleep and Mamma would join her.
A new dog joined our flock - Haley, a exuberant Golden Retreiver who was about the same age as Dix when I first got her.  She was suitably ignored by Mamma.
When Dixie was about 13 years old, she became quite lethargic one night and by the morning had died.  It was almost as it her time was up and that was it.  We buried her by the boulder behind the house.  Mamma was devastated crying at the door for her Dixie to come out.  She was still not interested in human comfort. But slowly over time she adopted Haley as her dog.  You would see the two in the same way you saw Dixie and her. And she cried for Haley in the morning to come out of the house.
More years passed and last year Haley developed a rapidly progressive spinal tumor and need to be euthanized in February.  Mamma was a very old cat by now spending most of her time in an insulated box house in the garage only coming out to bask in the sun.  She again missed her dog and had to turn her attenion to us as we no longer had a house dog.  She tolerated the occassional scratch but no more.  
This week age finally caught up with Mamma.  She spent her last day in the house beside the wood stove (the second time in her life).  She is buried by the boulder behind the house.  She and Dixie are together again.  And now it is me crying outside the door for Mamma.