Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Barley And His Wives
This year turned out to be "The Year of the Rooster". It had nothing to do with the Chinese zodiac, mind you. It was because everyone unloaded roosters on us.
One day a neighbor showed up, shortly after the incident that led to the goats being jailed indefinitely behind permanent fencing (the neighbor to the North had caught them on wildlife camera destroying his corn field). We took a deep breath when we saw the pick-up truck pull up, and wondered what priceless food crop they had eaten now.
But instead he wanted to give us ten roosters. His elderly mother had ordered a bunch of straight run chickens to start a laying flock, and half of them grew into a rowdy bunch of roosters. They weren't sure what to do with them, and hoped we could take them off their hands.
We didn't have the time or funds to raise meat chickens this year, so a bunch of free roosters destined for the pot was an attractive prospect. Arrangements were quickly made, and we found ourselves with ten roosters all of a sudden.
A week or two before they crowed their last crows and fought their last petty battles, one of Rose's friends made the unpleasant discovery that a little pet chick that was supposed to grow up to be a backyard laying hen was actually a loud, obnoxious rooster.
Barley was just barely out of the awkward adolescent pin-feather stage when we got him. He was still peeping, but nonetheless was able to screech out a surprisingly powerful peep-crow with his little beak gaping open. It would have meant death to put him in with the other chickens, so he was kept in a separate coop in the orchard until he grew up.
Once the other roosters were out of the way, he was moved to a moveable coop, which he had all to himself. He would get so excited to see us arrive every day. His crow gradually got less squeaky and more polished and professional. He added some extra doodle-doos in there at the end, too.
Just after I planted my starts in the winter garden, we started having trouble keeping the hens in their moveable coop. The cows were in the next paddock on hay, and Sappho (nicknamed Sapphole), kept jumping out, bumping the lids off, and then going to check out the neighbor's cornfield that the goats had already ravaged. The hens were all over the place scratching up bugs and roosting in stupid places. Miraculously, none of them went missing - at least none that we noticed, since they all look exactly alike. Meanwhile, they ate my entire winter garden and scratched up all the beds.
It took a week or so to finally round them all up, and they started ranging quite far. One of them made it all the way through the garden to where Barley was housed. Confused by seeing the other coop, she bobbed cautiously over to check it out.
As soon as he set eyes on her, Barley go SOOOO excited. He flapped and crowed and did little dances and raked out his wings. After his long, monastic celibacy, here was a gorgeous female (well, sort of - she was in the middle of a molt, but I don't think he was so particular) coming right for him! It was his dream coming true.
Ethan caught the stupid hen and popped her in the coop as a sort of revenge for eating all our vegetables. Barley went insane with joy. He was so excited he couldn't stop dancing around in a little circle. The hen was bewildered and not super thrilled about being the object of his attentions, but it was too late - she was stuck with him.
A few days later, another hen ranged over that way, and in she went. Barley could hardly contain himself again. This was beyond his wildest dreams.
In just a few days, his breast became noticeably more puffed and his strut got more swagger. His toes barely touch the ground now since acquiring not just one, but two wives.