Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hot Mamas!

It doesn't feel very springy this week (20 degrees at night!) but two of our three "barn hens" got that broody feeling nonetheless. I didn't expect much, it being so freakin' cold out much of the time, but between them, we have 16 new chicks!!!! Not really needed but sort of cute just the same.

Pearl hatched hers out in the sink:

I keep expecting to find little chick-cicles in the barn in the mornings, but these mamas have managed to keep their broods nice and warm. Wings spread wide, this girl has managed to warm 10 chicks through the long, cold nights. this little yellow guy's out for a breath of cold air; the other 9 are inside those feathers somewhere. Pretty remarkable, I think.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Poultry Politics

Anyone who's spent time around chickens knows there's a constant twitter of tension afoot. Hens have their pecking order (I believe that the term "pecking order" itself was more or less invented in conjunction with chickens...) and yes, there are the bossy ladies and their underlings, poor "Lulu", tailless through the winter and "Chicklee", whose innocent name belies a steel-eyed ferocity. There is "Happy Chick" who is generally not happy at all but scurrying out of the way of more powerful hens and so on and so on. Always a simmering dispute, a newly formed clique, a ruffled feather.

But this is nothing compared to the all-out warfare of the boys. "Little Jaguar", our two year old yellow green gem, remains top seed in Maggie's Farm version of March Madness. He is the sole coop-living rooster, buds with all the established ladies (many almost 5 years his senior-- an accomplishment considering that each chicken year must be about 10 human ones), courtly and well-mannered to a fault.

Then there are, Apollo and Dionysus, last spring's chicks turned ruffians. They've managed to peel a few low ranking hens (well, their sisters, mostly) away from Jaguar and flee to their not so secret (and very messy) hideout in the barn. These two get along famously and together, they strut just out of range of the old man. There have been a few skirmishes. I twice found the boys, and Jaguar too, heads streaked with brawl-related blood. But so far, it's mostly a cold war.

And then there is the "nerd" of the flock, poor "Soccerball", he of the funny name and low, low ranking. Soccerball spent a good bit of the winter huddled under the coop, ostracized, cold, miserable. (At least as miserable as a chicken can be). Even Soccerball's siblings, "Pearl" and "Basketball" (Yes, the kids name most of the poultry...) have joined up with Apollo and Dionysis. Poor guy!

Soccerball spends most of his time on the outskirts of Jaguar's flock, one eye fixed covetously on the hens, one on a quick retreat. Maybe one day he'll manage some sort of coop coup.

Until then, the politics-- and politicking-- goes on.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Hints of spring in the air this weekend. Tiny buds on the brambles, fat-bellied ewes, broody hens (ugh!) and all sorts of unearthed treasures.

A fairy house forgotten all winter:

A pair of bulldozers (Come to think of it, this is what our vehicles looked like parked in our driveway a few weeks ago...)

The remains of a spectacular fort (And the tools that created it, too)

So THAT's where that hat went!

And this baseball too.

I feel a certain kinship with these objects today, as if I too, am waking from a long, cold snowy dream.

I enjoy some aspects of winter, really. The woodstove for instance. I even sort of enjoy getting up early to stoke a nice warm fire for the kids. (Our house is primarily heated by wood, so this task is crucial on those below 20 mornings.) And a cold clear 4 AM makes me feel tough. I like Orion in the sky, the look of our neighbor's white fields under a blanket of moonlight, the cozy, homebound feel of "snow days"... and the inevitable power outtages.

Of course, there are many less pleasing aspects of the New England winter. But I won't dwell on those here.

This weekend, the first that shouted "Spring" with certainty was also a weekend of cleaning (Spring cleaning?) and full-throttle writing, of kids NOT stuck inside arguing and puppies out for a walk.

A great weekend all around--

as if we've all shrugged off a little snow and started up where we've left off.