Monday, June 6, 2011

End of an Era at Dùn Sgàthan

This has been a real bad year for us and chickens. So I never got a "It's Bealtuinn" post up. We lost the pullet, known as Baby Bird at the beginning of May, that was the daughter of the rooster I lamented previously. We don't know what happened, one day fine, the next "we should call the vet" and the next gone. It happens. Always on weekends, of course. But as those following this might know, it was really hard this time as she was the last from that rooster. And the last chick that our Old Clucker had hatched out. They had been together still, so I felt bad for Clucky.

And then we lost Clucky too, on May 23. Unlike the loss of BB, which was tragic due to her extreme youth, losing the Clucker was hard in a whole other way. She was waaaay old, as far as we know, for a chicken. No one we know has ever heard of a chicken living 10 years. But Clucky did. She out lived all her hatches except for the one red-brown hen.

But her age wasn't the first thing that made the Clucker stand out, the reason she got her name (and she and BB and RR (Road Runner or Red Rooster) are the only chicken's we've named, although my sister named one Foghorn) was the first. She was a Black Sex-link aka Black Star, a production hybrid which never, ever, ever go broody. It wasn't what we intended to get 10 years ago, we wanted something a bit more basic-farm-bird with brooding potential but we got screwed over at the feed store with our order and it was what we got. Vicious males, which attacked us when we gathered eggs and made us not regret eating the ones we did, and females that laid a lot but weren't going to raise any young.

Except, this one black hen went broody. We weren't prepared, but got things together so she'd have a good nesting spot and she raised out a hatch. She went broody every year. She became known as the Clucker or Clucky as it's a common term for a broody hen. When we first decided to get dorkings, we got hatching eggs and put them under the already brooding Clucky. She hatched them out fine as you can see here.

As she kept outliving flocks, the appellation "Old' got tacked on too. We kept expecting to lose her every year, and every year she'd persevere. Even when a fox got in the chicken house and wiped out almost our entire flock of Dorkings, she survived. Just as she survived illnesses and this past winter's mink attack.

But she slowed down, became less sociable with the chickens she had hatched out. Kept to herself. Often not far from them, but not with them. She started showing her age, she even got white feathers although after her last molting she went all black and brown again. We felt she was too old and hadn't shown any interest in brooding last year when we were getting more Dorkings so we got chicks rather than eggs. But she was very interested in them and shortly afterwards went broody, so we got some eggs from the other hybrids we had (from eggs we bought locally and that Clucky hatched out) and only one hatched, that was Baby Bird. With only one, she was still the dedicated mama she'd always been.

And she kept on kicking along. We joked that she was a vampire...even in our sadness over losing Baby Bird, we actually almost felt it might be true! She was 10 after all, who heard of a chicken living that long?

After losing BB, she seemed fine. Okay, that sort of led to more of the dark humor musings. The weather was warmer, she wandered around outside, pretty much as she'd been for years. Over looking her domain here...this was her place. And then she took an obvious turn. She wasn't lively and she just died lying in the sun in the yard, which was hers.

It really does feel like the end of an era, the end of The Old Clucker's reign. We had only been living here six months when we got the chicks she was one of so it's like she was always here. We knew her, we were used to her...she lived so long it really did feel like she'd always be a part of this place. It feels weird that she's not out there somewhere making sure all is right with our land.