Friday, 15 February 2013

Chicken Wars - Heads On The Block

A certain tradesman arrived before 9 o'clock this morning, having NOT been to any other jobs first. Sue said that if this happened she will be doing a naked streak down the land. That's over 500m there and back. I'll let you all know the time and date!

We also had a visit from the window man today, as well as the tiler (both at the same time) and two calls from the solar panel company. Then, in the afternoon, a lorry came to deliver a brand new wheelbarrow - more on this in another post. Two minutes later the lorry from the builders merchants turned up to drop off a ton of ballast and some cement bags. Then lo and behold the food merchants lorry arrives. We had our first traffic jam.

Meanwhile it was a very eventful day on the chicken front.

Cocky and Cream Legbar square up - thankfully separted by a fence.

The departure of several of our cockerels has been long overdue. Just with one thing and another we've not got round to it. Besides, the gang of young cockerels have been quite peaceful, six boys and two girls sticking close together and often coming right up to the house.
But once Cocky, the original, old dominant cockerel goes to bed, it's a different story, as the young cockerels take every chance to jump the females.

So Wednesday was set aside as a day for dealing with the chickens - dispatching a few cockerels, clipping wings, cleaning out houses, fixing bolts, latches and doors. But Wednesday was very, very cold. Wednesday night, after a couple of hours of snow flurries, the warmer air took control and it absolutely lashed it down all night. Catching any chickens would be extremely tricky slipping and sliding around in puddles and mud.

But this morning the decision was made for us. Today would be chicken day.
We had planned to clipped all the chicken's wings, as it won't be long before they are banished from the veg garden. Also the Cream Legbar hens, who have been housed separately with the cockerel, keep jumping the fence.
Wing clipping is a simple operation. It is catching the birds which is the problem. So we had planned to take them out of their roosting houses one at a time. However, what happened this morning happened after Sue had let them all out. For when she went to let the chickens out, one of the Indian Game cockerels had been getting a very tough time and all the birds, even the guinea fowl, had ganged up on him. He was laying on his back exhausted. I didn't hear it, but apparently the victorious cockerel was giving a victory crow the likes of which Sue had never heard.

And so it became chicken day.
We started by clipping the wings of the Cream Legbars and the Polands, all who are housed separately from the other poultry.

I could show you a much gorier picture!
Then the axe came out! I have talked about this before. This, for us, is the quickest and easiest method. First to go was the forlorn Indian Game. Then the other Indian Game cockerel - he fought back when I captured him, drawing blood with his spurs and giving me a nasty scratch down my arm.
Sue did the plucking while I cleaned the chopping board ready for the next victim.


















Next we turned our attentions to the Welsummer cockerels, four very handsome lads. We were aiming for the morning's victor, identified by his somewhat floppy comb after the battle. But he was giving us the run around and one of the others conveniently decided to stroll into one of the chicken houses. Not a good piece of timing.

This Welsummer escaped...for today.

Finally, as Sue dealt with bird number three, I went searching for Mr Floppy Comb. He clearly knew something was up, for he was nowhere to be found. Eventually I found him and managed to catch him.

Guess who's inside.

And that was it, for now. We have two pigs going off on Sunday so freezer space is going to be at a premium.

While Sue got on with processing the chickens - my large, sometimes arthritic hands are not well adapted to plucking and gutting - I took the saw, the drill, a screwdriver, a box of assorted screws and various bolts, latches and other miscellaneous devices, down to the chicken pens.
Some of the doors needed better locking mechanisms, just in case Mr Fox comes round one night. But the other problem we have is doors blowing shut and chickens getting stuck in, or out. So a variety of contraptions were fitted to the doors today so that they will remain open, or closed, according to need.

















And that was it. A most productive day. Darkness was welcome though, as a well-earned rest was needed. Guess what's for dinner tonight!

One final thought. I don't believe in god, but I will give thanks to the birds which gave their lives today. I may occasionally seem blase about taking their lives, but it never gets any easier. But at least I know they had a good life. Commercially, cockerels never get past their first day. I also know that to keep them any longer would be cruel though, cruel to the cockerels who would fight to the death and cruel to the hens who would be hassled endlessly  and there is not much romance in the chicken world.

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