Friday, November 24, 2017

I (heart) chickens

We have nine recent hatchlings—with three already home when we lost the three chickens to the likely fox—and by Christmas they'll be ready for outside in their own pen while they finish maturing. Chicks are adorable, even when they squeeze out a healthy dollop of "the brown" as they tweet from your palm.

But the adult survivors on the outside (the gray chicken and one brown) have altered their behaviour due to the trauma of the attack; such as going into the hutch at night without prompting for me to close up and fox proof with kettle bells on the lift up side sections and a bin in front of the raised ramp that covers the sliding hatch above. 

It's my job to get them in at night and out in the morning. When I arrive they can be seen at the grill above their door side-eyed waiting with impatience from their enforced corral. 

I nearly called the brown one by the name of the dead scruff—and a pang shot through me. The feathers of their death battle (and the gray's survival) have churned into the dirt of the pen or blown away but each time I look at the back fence I recall the dread at seeing the dead, the two browns and the scruff, lying by the fence stiff in death then the relief of finding the two survivors. The gray one having fought of the fox since it did not escape with its kills and there was a puff of the gray's feathers over the fence from where the attacker landed having bitten it in the arse before being put to flight.

The gray chicken had another wound that we did not see, the underside of the bite, but she survived that injury too. The tea tree oil on the first wound—then second when we found it—helped her recovery and now there's healthy scarring from her battle.

I've been spoiling the survivors by expanding their range of treats to include leftover pizza—blue cheese garlic on a pizza base from Pizza Capers—bread and now cheese. I scattered lumps of a desiccated babybel cheese that I threw over the pen fence then finally hand fed, to one chicken at a time, chunks from my fingers through the gap by the gate. 

The fox attack did a number on me—my home became unsafe for living creatures in my care—and my forever feeling unsafe is a core component of my being, fostered from a childhood where I felt unsafe and unloved even as I enjoyed the security and comfort of white male middle class prosperity. 

The brown and the gray like me better now. The brown lets me stroke her and she's not afraid to walk between my legs. They gray chicken is still wary and does not like to be touched, but then she's recovering from having her arse nearly bitten off by a fox—a fox she fought off.

The gray chicken is a survivor and so am I. We bonded through the loss of our brood as much as a man can bond with a chicken that won't let him pick it up. But in time I hope she'll see me as no threat and, like her, I protect the brood—a brood expanding by 0–9 depending on the sex of the new adults.

It's one of our family's mottos; "we protect the herd". And, by extension, that applies to any collective noun of animals in our care—be it a brood of chickens or a pounce of cats.


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