One of the “lessons learned” from 2018 was that animals are unpredictable. Well, that has never been more clear than this weekend.
With Y out of the country for work, the farm chores have fallen to me, which hasn’t been easy in this polar vortex -37C with windchill weather. I was looking forward to this weekend because warm weather moved in, and the animals were able to free range more.
Well, Saturday afternoon I was setting up some things I bought for the animals: a modified patio swing for the goats, and a clothes rack as a perch for the chickens. While hanging out in the coop, I noticed one of the Silkies (the white, fluffy chickens) was bleeding from his head feathers. Not much, but enough to be noticeable. I stayed in the coop for awhile to get a sense of the dynamic. It turns out, this rooster was trying to mate with the hens, which apparently made the Alpha rooster quite jealous. As soon as the Silkie was on top of a hen, the big rooster would charge over and start pecking at him to stop. Clearly, this dynamic isn’t going to work.
I brought the injured rooster inside to camp in our bathtub for the evening, to make sure the bleeding was minor and he was still doing okay. He seemed unaffected by the whole ordeal, but I think our best option is to re-home him. I’ll be listing him for free to good home today, in hopes he’ll find a flock that’s a better fit.
Saturday night, as I was driving home quite late from a party, I noticed the oncoming car was driving very slowly, and they flashed their high beams at me. I slowed down and proceeded with caution, to see two cows at the side of the road, well outside their enclosure, happily chewing their cud only feet from traffic. The farms at the four corners of that intersection are all owned by one family, one of whom is my neighbour, so I raced to his house and knocked on the door. No answer! Fortunately, some of his relatives (who we’ve met, if only in passing) were listed in the phone book, and I was able to get a hold of someone. She was naturally upset, but thanked me profusely for calling. Since there were no signs of roadkill the next morning when I drove by, I really hope it all worked out and those cows are back where they belong!
Sunday was “normal,” if that word has any meaning at all. The Silkie rooster went back out to the coop, since the weather was beautiful and they could free range again I figured he’d have space to escape if he was getting picked on. Goats were playing, chickens were pecking and laying and crowing.
Fast forward to this morning, Monday. Before work, I went to feed and water the chickens. I’d left the gate open to encourage free ranging the night before, so I wasn’t surprised to find fewer chickens indoors. I was, however, surprised that I couldn’t find more than half our flock anywhere.
I feared the worst. Perhaps someone had come on the property and stolen the birds? Perhaps an animal had entered through the open gate and absconded with them? I walked the whole property looking for them. A dead animal on the road caught my eye, but it turned out to be a skunk. Where the cluck were these chickens?!
Eventually I heard the rooster crow, and it was coming from my neighbour’s yard. I ran over to find the rooster and seven of his favourite ladies camped in heavy brush under the neighbour’s front window. The rooster was crowing loudly and with reckless abandon, which, I can only assume, annoyed our neighbour to no end. I crawled through the brush to herd the chickens back to the coop. I spent over half an hour getting them back where they belonged, making me disheveled and late for work.
We already planned some netting/chicken wire around that area, to keep the poultry from wandering off the property or onto the road. Clearly that plan should be accelerated. I’m also planning an apology note and some freshly laid eggs in the neighbour’s mailbox – Chris, if you’re reading this, I’m so sorry!