Witchetty Grubs!

Witchetty Grubs!

Anthea and Effie like to hang around the woodpile when there is chopping going on, because there is often something edible for them. The last lot of wood we got contained some witchetty grubs, and if you want to give your chickens a treat, nothing hits the spot like a big fat wriggly witchetty grub. One chicken will grab a grub and run around madly trying to gobble it down before the other chicken gets a hold of it.

Personally, I would prefer something with a bit more chocolate in it.

Anthea looking for witchetty grubs

Anthea looking for witchetty grubs

Breaking News: Fowl Play

Breaking News: Fowl Play

In the small hours of the morning, a gang of four desperadoes let loose a chicken in McDonald’s at Thomastown. The hapless hen was shooed outside by staff. The staff then called the police to come and pick her up, as she was, in the time-honoured tradition of chickens, attempting to cross the road and therefore guilty of jaywalking.

Once installed at the police station, instead of being charged, the chicken was seconded to the force and granted the rank of First Officer Nugget. Her duties consisted largely of clucking, being patted, and crapping all over the counter.

A second chicken was released by the gang into a BP shop at Bundoora at 5 am, after which they flew the coop (don’t blame me! That’s what they said on the news!).

Three hens were missing from a  local primary school. Someone soon put two and two together, and the hens were reunited with the children. It wasn’t revealed where the third hen was found; probably indulging in a bit of road-crossing somewhere.

ISA Brown

Blueberries vs. Strawberries

Blueberries vs. Strawberries

I have recently watched a video where a woman throws blueberries to her chickens and they go nuts running all over her verandah to get the blueberries, which were described as chickens’ favourite fruit. Two thoughts came to mind while I was watching:

1. The chickens either hadn’t been on the verandah for very long, or this woman has discovered the secret of toilet-training chickens, in which case she is a goddess and I worship her.

2. Would my chickens prefer blueberries to strawberries? They luuuurve their strawberries. Whenever they do a chicken run and escape into the greater garden, they either make straight for the strawberry plants, or they hide out under the rose bushes growing over the septic tank. Another example of chicken intelligence: not only do they realise that we are unable to follow them in there (for fear of being shredded by thorns), but they can enjoy a feast of grubs while watching our pathetic efforts to coax them out. However, it only takes a shiny red strawberry waggled enticingly in front of them to lure them from this hiding place. (It is wise to have several on hand as they are both adept at the quick lunge and grab!)

Having obtained some blueberry bushes from our friends at Nellie Kelly, next season I will find out which of the two fruits they prefer. This is another burning question to be answered along with “which came first, the chicken or the egg”.

Blue chickens 2 small

Anthea learning to be a trick chick

Anthea learning to be a trick chick

Anthea ISA Brown hen

I went outside today to wipe down something with a moist wad of paper towel. Anthea was standing on the front doormat; she jumped up and snatched the paper towel from my hand and ran off with it in her beak. I can foresee the day when we will have a tug o’war over something!

Since she was obviously looking for a bit of mental stimulation I decided to try teaching her a trick. Effie has been quite accomplished at her card trick, so I thought I would teach Anthea something different. I put a piece of chicken kibble under a plastic cup, and when she pecked the cup I let her have it. I then added a second cup, then a third. She pecked the correct cup every time, even after I mixed them up and moved them around quite quickly. Admittedly they were clear plastic cups and she could probably see the kibble, but the speed with which she grasped what she was supposed to do and the lack of mistakes was quite remarkable.

Chooky poo

Chooky poo

Blue chickens

Where there are chooks, there is chooky poo. Since Effie and Anthea hang out on my front porch quite a bit, ipso facto there is chooky poo all over the front porch. Of course it’s wonderful fertiliser, but I really don’t need it all over the concrete and the welcome mat. Yesterday I scrubbed the welcome mat clean and replaced it, only to have it redecorated by the girls almost immediately. You know the flooding technique when you ice a picture on top of a cake? Well there’s a raised picture of a tulip on my welcome mat and it’s been “flooded”!

I think I may have to ban them from the porch altogether….

Free Range Feral Chickens

Free Range Feral Chickens

Wyandotte hens head

 

The Hawaiian island of Kauai is home to a large number of feral chickens. Chickens roam everywhere, so much so that they have become a tourist attraction, rather like the cats on Japan’s Cat Island.

Scientists are studying the chickens as they appear to be reverting back to their ancient form (the chickens, that is, not the scientists).  The process seems to be domestication in reverse. Dr Dominic Wright, a biology professor from Linkoping University in Sweden, says that the chickens’ combs are becoming smaller. Since domestic hens advertise to roosters their laying ability, and so presumably their fertility, by their big red floppy combs, why are the combs in the feral chickens becoming smaller? Good question. I’ll bet this puzzle will be good for a few learned papers from Dr Wright, not to mention a few trips to Hawaii. Who could blame him? If your local recreation consists of going to the ice hockey and listening to Ghost CDs, a trip to Hawaii is probably a pretty appealing idea.

The featured picture shows the head and comb of Melissa, my late Wyandotte hen. It’s a rose comb, which is small and unimpressive looking. Melissa wasn’t much of a layer either, so at least she couldn’t have been accused of false advertising by any passing roosters. Effie and Anthea both have nice big red floppy combs and they lay prolifically, so perhaps there is something in this theory about the combs.

Back in the Pen

Back in the Pen

Anthea ISA Brown

Again it’s been too long since I have posted. This is largely due to two factors: 1) One of my cats peed on my Henpen paperwork, including my admin password, and 2) I have been too overwhelmed by my day job. The day job is no longer an issue, and the cat has been spoken to severely.

Much has happened in the hen pen since I last blogged. I lost another chook, although it wasn’t unexpected as it was when I lost Melissa the Wyandotte. Old Cyclops went to the chicken coop in the sky a few weeks ago. I estimate that she would have been around six years old, and she was starting to show her age. One night she was unable to make it to the coop in the evening, so we gently placed her inside in the straw and that night she quietly left us. I miss her one-eyed stare.

Chickens need companionship, so it was off to the pet shop to buy another chicken. I so enjoyed watching the poor pet shop lady chase around the pen with me saying “not that one, I want THAT one! Oops, no, you missed her again. Quick, she’s in the corner, the red and white one!” (They were all red and white.)

Finally the selected chicken was cornered and boxed. Anthea is an ISA Brown hybrid, and is a deep red colour with lots of white accents. Despite dire warnings from the pet shop lady that Effie would probably tear the new chicken’s head off, remarkably few feathers flew. After a couple of days  Effie and Anthea were already the best of buds. Since they were sourced from the same farm they could even be related for all I know!

They are partners in crime, and like nothing better to hang out on the front porch crapping all over the welcome mat and begging for food. Except perhaps plotting raids on my strawberry plants.

A Sad Day in the Chook Pen

A Sad Day in the Chook Pen

Melissa the WyandotteLast week my little tribe of chickens was reduced by one as we lost our newest member, Melissa. This was unexpected as she was also the youngest bird.

Cyclops is now feeling lonely again. Effie largely ignores her in favour of roaming around my garden. I will have to get another chook, although I doubt whether it will be another Wyandotte. They do have wonderful puffy feathers, and pants which flap appealingly around their legs when they run, but those same feathers can easily get stuck together with chook poo and dirt. A couple of times I had to give Melissa a bath, all of  which she bore without much complaint, but washing dried poo off a chook’s bum is hardly a riotous way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

The Bread Stash

The Bread Stash

Melissa the Wyandotte is starting to try to outwit Effie. I broke up a stale crust of bread and tossed it into the pen so the girls could have a little snack. Melissa immediately picked up a piece, waddled off with it and stashed it some distance away. Then she came back and grabbed another piece and stashed that somewhere else.

Effie foiled her cunning plan within seconds as Melissa, clearly not the Einstein of the chicken world, had stashed them in plain sight.

Wyandotte hen SN852911

 

The Chicken and the Blue Monster

It’s been raining a lot at home today. When the weather’s foul, there’s usually a fowl on my front porch, frequently fouling the front doormat. I look up from the computer every so often to see Effie glaring at me through the glass sliding door.

At some point in the afternoon I decided to make use of the pouring rain by sponging the mud off the lower panels on my car. Sensibly, I dug out my blue plastic rain poncho and pulled it on, hood and all, before braving the elements.

I hadn’t even reached the car when there was a terrible squawking behind me. I turned around to see Effie flapping hysterically and running from one side of the porch to the other. It seems she thought she was being trapped on the porch by a hideous blue monster. The stiff plastic makes a sinister swishing sound with every movement, and doesn’t contour to my body, so with the hood up I must look like some kind of bat-winged, two-legged monster to a chicken.

Nothing says “panic” quite like an hysterical chicken. I had to go back inside to let my chicken chook run back to her coop so that I could get on with what I went outside for in the first place.

Effie’s demeanour towards me later in the day was normal, so I guess she had no idea the blue monster was me. Or maybe she did, but decided to forgive me when I arrived at the hen pen with food.