Goats, rabbits, chickens (pages)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Twelve Mables

For many, many years I have wanted a little red hen named Mable. When my husband surprised me with six baby chicks a few months ago, I promptly named the prettiest red one Mable. Unfortunately, Mable met an untimely end. Then my daughter-in-law and granddaughter brought me a red hen in the dead of night (well, not really, but I go to bed early!). They had been at some friends house and the dog brought home a chicken. She wasn't feeling very well; I tucked her in for the night and went back to bed hoping my new Mable would recover. The next morning I mixed up an herbal potion, cleaned her wounds and hoped for the best. Her wounds were extensive; she didn't make it through the day. Another Mable in my chicken grave yard.

I always look forward to our weekly paper. I snatch it up almost before it hits the driveway. FOR SALE - laying hens. Well, I already had a chicken coop and yard all fixed and waiting. When I arrived at the farm, there were hundreds of red hens along with geese, ducks, pigeons and numerous other animals. I took three boxes with air holes; I planned on five hens per box. When I stepped into the chicken yard my stomach did a little lurch. All the hens had had their beaks clipped. Their little tongues stuck out and in addition they were moulting so they had large bare patches of skin showing. Not exactly show hens. I felt queasy. Now, I know that beak clipping is a common solution to chickens pecking each other, especially when there are a large number in an enclosed area. But, that didn't make me feel any better. I had hoped to pick out the ones I wanted, but once the owner started catching hens, chaos ensued and I saw that would not be an option. As I took them home I was smiling and wondering which one I would name Mable.

The weather turned bitter cold and unfortunately the ones at the low end of the pecking order were miserable. I lost three hens. I was glad I hadn't chosen a Mable yet. From that low point I ascended into chicken nirvana. The weather warmed up, and the hens decided not to fight among themselves. They are very tame and will let you pick them up for petting. I sat in the barn yard watching them scratch the dirt and sing their little chicken songs. The first egg was a red-letter day.

My husband came home from a loooong business trip and I commiserated that I could not decide on which one should be Mable. In his calm matter-of-fact manner he said "why don't you call all of them Mable? After all, George Foreman named all his sons George!" I remembered Grandma Lizzy named two of her sons William. What a great idea! I loved it. Mable they are! They all come when called and it's hard to keep from stepping on their little toes. Their feathers have all grown in, they free-range and eat a good diet; they're beautiful. Their eggs are beautiful and yummy.

A couple of weeks ago we acquired a lovely colorful cocky banty rooster, Jack. He came to us bloody and battered; apparently he was no match for the other larger rooster. Jack now struts his stuff and stands on top the chicken coop crowing and standing proud. He's cock of the walk and he has twelve Mables. Life is good.
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