Animals, Homesteading

Life and Death

“There is a right time for everything: A time to be born, a time to die…a time to laugh, a time to grieve” (Ecclesiastes 3: 2, 4)

Last week I blogged about the addition of Pat and Shelly to this little homestead. They are both thriving, running around, jumping on Taffy’s back. As they grow, I am more convinced than ever that they are NOT Taffy’s biological children. She simply had the deepest maternal instinct to sit on them until they hatched. There are five eggs still in her nest that she’s sitting on…along with the four chicks that peep and peck and dart around the cage, driving her to distraction.

Did I say “four”?

Yes, Pat and Shelly have been joined by Kelly and K.C. More androgenous names as their genders are not evident yet. And, as Pat and Shelly were named to honor some friends of mine who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help this struggling homesteader in her hour of need, so, too, Kelly and K.C. Friend Kellie spells her name differently. The “ie” seems to be the more effeminate spelling; I chose the “Y” in an effort of neutrality. K. C. are the initials of another dear friend who has “been there” a lot lately. Again, I’m not sure how either of them would feel about having chicken namesakes but, as they’re all animal lovers, I hope they understand.

K. C. is only a couple of days old, so he/she is much smaller than the other three. But that doesn’t stop her. She’s full of piss and vinegar, chirping and squawking and racing around the cage like her little non-existent pants are on fire…she might be Taffy’s biological daughter after all as that’s usually Taffy’s take on life. (chuckle)

And, in my last post, I mentioned how I could’ve sworn one of the eggs I had attempted to remove after Pat and Shelly were born peeped at me. I had carried said egg all the way to the compost bin. Taffy had kicked it out of the nest and was ignoring it so I assumed this one wasn’t a fertilized egg after all and thought to dispose of it. And then it peeped. So I put it back under Taffy. Kelly hatched by morning. And Taffy still kicked her out of the nest. I found her half-naked body tucked into a corner away from Taffy. Again, I thought “Oh, no!” and went to pick her/him up to bury her. Suddenly, she squawked and started kicking and moving about. So I dug out one of the heat lamps I use for the coop in the winter months and set it atop the cage, lifting it up upon a couple of rocks to give it more height so she wouldn’t be too warm. I also touched a few drops of water to her beak; she swallowed greedily. Less than an hour later, as her little body warmed, Kelly started trying to walk. She would crawl and roll closer to Taffy, only to be rejected again. It took about a day and a half before Kelly got her legs completely under her and began tottering, at least, over to Taffy. Finally, Taffy accepted her. And, in less than a week, you’d never know how fragile she appeared at birth; I thought I would lose her. Before Taffy finally took her under her wing and care, I must’ve checked a half dozen times to make sure she was still breathing. She’s a fighter. And she’s more than capable of keeping up with Pat, Shelly and K.C. as they explore their small, safe world.

Of course, this isn’t the most optimum time for new chicks to be born. Pat and Shelly have first feathers appearing. And, because K.C. is about a week younger than the rest, you can see how much the older chicks have grown in such a short time. But I’m putting Taffy to shame with my ol’ Mother Hen antics, worrying and fretting how they’ll withstand the winter months and how maybe there’ll be a cage set up for the four of them to over-winter in. It will be a few months before they get their full growth. And, of course, there’s the careful introduction to the other chickens as they mature. It’s going to be an interesting winter to say the least.

And, lastly, this is one of “those” posts again. I lost my beautiful Flame the day before yesterday. She was one of my older hens and had been tottering around a bit over the last week or so. In short, I’d been expecting it but hoping I was wrong. As Ruby, Amber and Rouge neared their end, they also started getting stiff in their legs and walking a little bowlegged across the barnyard. Most people I know “cull” their hens after a couple of years so rare do I come across anyone who has let them live out their full lifespan to compare notes. However, Flame also loved goat chow and, whenever I fed Felicity, Domino and Chester, she would make a dash for their bowls. Domino and Chester share nicely but Felicity is all attitude. Any chickens get too close to her supper, they get headbutted away. Despite any effort on my part to shoo them away and entice them back to their perches with their own feed, Flame was determined. In this last week, as she started stiffening up, she was unable to get out of Felicity’s way as quickly and at least once had a wing stepped on. She seemed okay afterwards but it doesn’t stop me from wondering if there was an injury after all and she was just too stoic to admit it until the very end. Mom found her in the yard Wednesday afternoon. She was still alive but was having trouble walking and Mom feared the other chickens might start pecking her, or one of the goats step on her again, so she set up another cage next to Taffy’s and brought her indoors. Sadly, she left us anyway. Again, she was an old gal and there were signs that her end was nearing days’ before. Doesn’t stop me from missing her beautiful self in the barnyard each morning.

May God bless you & keep you!

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