Monday, March 14, 2011

Springtime circle of life, we hope

The handsome rooster and the black hen in this photo are no longer with us. One of the brown hens actually left us a couple of months ago, having died of illness, but RR (Road Runner or Red Rooster) and the black hen were killed just a few days ago by a mink. While we have made peace with the tiny ermine shown previously, the mink were kept away primarily by the ease of finding other tasty critters. When there is any opening in the pond at all, they are there eating crayfish. They've not bothered to venture nearer. This past week, however, following the only really significant snowfall we've had (it snows steadily, but no big dumps this year until now), apparently access to crayfish or other food became scarce. S/he invaded the shop where these three, RR and one brown and one black hen, along with the Old Clucker and Baby Bird (who were loose in the shop, not with these three) lived. S/he killed the black hen, and mortally wounded RR. From what Aaron saw, RR probably attacked the mink, not the other way around, after s/he attacked and killed the poor hen. Sachairi went after the mink, got a bite on the nose but it seemed to have escaped (I heard this at the side of the house, then heard it after their tussle). We brought RR and the three hens into the house, keeping them in dog crates. We tried to keep hope for RR. But the next night he died. I feel I should have put him out of his misery sooner, but we were so hopeful. I suppose if I had killed him I'd then have wondered if he might have made it if I let him try. There are times you know, but there are times you don't. I try not to get too attached to the chickens. We don't name most of them and mostly the names they get are sort of default. Lots of "brownies" and "blackies." Most of the males are called "supper." Some are special, though, but even their names are descriptive. Clucky got "named" because she's broody and she's lived so long, broody chickens are called "cluckers" or "cluckies." Baby Bird got named because she's going to be Clucky's last to raise, and she's a big baby. Actually, she's pretty small, but she's still a baby, remaining with Clucky. When we breed her to the Dorking rooster this year, she'll not stay with the flock but return to Clucky for as long as Clucky lives. Clucky's ten this it may not be for long. RR got named because when young he was plain and brown and looked a lot like a roadrunner. He also ran a lot as we had another, bigger rooster at the time. He then grew into Red Rooster. He was gorgeous and personable, a well mannered rooster who treated his flock well. And gave his life trying to defend it. He's Baby Bird's daddy, which hen was her egg mommy we don't know, but the Clucker is her hatch mommy....but due to various circumstances, we never got any other chicks out of the flock. I had hoped to this year, both with this last two hens and some of the Dorking hens. I really liked this rooster, it breaks my heart. I have his genes in Baby Bird, but ..... I realized that the remaining brown hen was with him until the mink attack. I checked and a hen can remain fertile for about 10 days after being breed. I'm hoping. She's older now, not laying every day and she skipped the first couple after the trauma. In fact, we're surprised she started laying so soon again, but she has. We got an incubator. We're hoping. True, due to her age and the fact we don't know when the last time they might have mated was, this may not work out. Due to our inexperience incubating, it may not work out. But we're going to try. Just in case. Because, like making the choice not to kill him, to not do so will be to constantly wonder if it might have worked if we tried. Life and death are a constant part of this path. Sometimes you get to choose when those things happen, but not always. Not often. And so we hope. We hope that following this unplanned death we shall have planned life. But hope is all we have.