Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Container

This farmette is yet unnamed.  Farm Without Borders? Fencemore High?

Not so long ago, after adding several seven foot t-posts around the corral to prevent the going under, I came home to find the calf high centered.  She kicked herself free, on the free side of the fence, but the damage was done, the guards had been alerted, the security breach discovered.  After luring her back with a bucket of grain (the stomach of the cow is her downfall), I slammed in a few more posts, fixed the electric fence, and shocked the crap out that Sukey-girl.  No more escaped cows.  They are sadly well contained in their cozy corral while this early spring turns them green with envy.  We all impatiently await the funds for a new, utilitarian, ugly fence for the pasture.  However, I suspect this new fence won't make the grass on the other side appear any less green.   

But what of those chickens?  Their fence around the barn proved wholly inadequate.  They cleared it every morning within five minutes of being let out of their hutch.  And they were devouring my fresh, new sprouts just about as fast as they shot up.  Well, now, I didn't plant 200 bulbs last fall for the chickens, damn it.  So we moved them back to the dog run.  Five foot fence.  Last summer, I knit bird netting over the top to protect the small chicklettes from over-head predation.  It would be a secure spot until I could patch all the cracks in the corral fence.  Then, I thought, I'd put them in with the cows and they could have their precious maggot meals back.  Alas, after spending all day securing the fence to the ground, I plopped my test chicken in there and she walked out, right THROUGH the fence.  It's 4"x4" pigwire, and I guess my smallest foul cannot be foiled by that.  I'll have to line the corral with chicken wire but so far I haven't found a crumb of motivation for that activity. 

So the girls are still in the dog pen.  And they are not happy.  They are on an egg strike.  We are getting one a day. Apparently, once you've had maggots and wild seeds, there's no going back.  They wouldn't eat their chicken food.  They wouldn't lay their eggs.  They spent all day kvetching, loudly.  And then a wonderful thing happened.  We got snow.  The snow covered the netting and collapsed it under the weighty weight of 1 whole inch of wet white stuff.  Blessings from above especially for chickens.

With the netting gone, and bird migration upon us, our chicks were no longer forced to stare down their food all day.  Nope.  Within minutes of feeding, 200 migratory birds swooped in to the pen and devoured all their chicken food.  My girls did not fight back.  Good riddance to bad rubbish, they said.  You like that crap?  You actually like that crap?  Well, I guess I've never flown 300 miles a day, I wouldn't know THAT kind of starvation.  

And yet, as time went on, they became hungry.  Rather than eat the several varieties of chicken scratch that I've tried, they turned to the back side of the dog run, the garage.  And they ravenously devoured it's white paint.  This is an old garage whose history with brush and bucket we do not know.  How old is this paint?  How much lead could it contain?  Now we were getting two eggs a day, and they were really really heavy.  I'm still not sure I want to eat them.

And then, those crafty chickens began to fly away.  They climbed onto the roof of their hutch and leapt through the air.  Three mastered the zen and art of airborne escape over a five foot fence.  In the throes of freedom's thrill, they run to the barn, lay their eggs in the hay like old times, and stuff their faces into the cow patties.  This, apparently, is heaven to chickens.  They are not highly cultured.

Wing clipping.  Sounds gruesome.  Sounds gory.  Sounds like a tendon under the knife.  But it's just scissors and a few flight feathers on one side to throw off her balance.  This worked on everyone but Angel.  Angel can fly anyway.  Angel can clear the fence.  Angel can eat my hyacinths. Angel is a paint addict now devouring the white off my back porch.  Angel gets maggots.  Angel gets to lay her egg wherever she wants to.  Angel is no angel, but she can sure fly.

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