Four decibels less

Araucana bantam rooster

It finally happened this week: the first complaint about our chickens being too noisy. Fair enough too, nine roosters crowing in unison is bloody ridiculous. I mean, we’re not running a charity home for useless cocks! I was pleased to show the landlord’s wife that I had already taken steps to terminate the problem, with five of the offending beasties in the “death row” pen, awaiting execution. Such is the nature of being born male surplus to need on a farm.

They start out so cute and innocent, yet they all grow up to be soundwave terrorists

They start out so cute and innocent, yet they all grow up to be soundwave terrorists

I had been plotting the demise of these aggressive louts for weeks already, as more and more of our home-hatched Araucana chicks turned out to be roosters. Oh the dismay upon hearing their awkward baby crows! Oh the rage as the whole hoard cranked out full blown rooster anthems at 4am! Fortunately I am up at 4am anyway, getting ready for work, but I did feel vaguely sorry for one of our neighbours who I know is a shift worker. The other neighbours, a couple who foster feral cats and cultivate weeds along their boundary fence, I must admit I savoured their getting a rude pre-dawn awakening, thanks to my army of feathered heralds. Hehe. The flipside to my spiteful glee was being woken up myself on sunday mornings by relentless deafening crows. My only day off – sleep-in thwarted. Owh, so sad.

So the cretins had to go. The roosters, not the neighbours, I mean.

You are going to die

You are going to die

Today my dad came round to help me knock four of them off. Doling out death is not an enjoyable prospect to face alone, the task is much less grim with company. I used my broom handle technique, where I first calm the chicken by laying it on its back and massaging its crop, then I stretch out its neck, placing the broom handle lengthwise on top. Then I step down on either end of the broom handle, grab the chicken’s legs and wrench upwards to snap the neck. Dad was rather dubious after the grisly results of my last culling attempt, which I haven’t mentioned here yet. This time, I got three from three though – one broken neck, two accidental decapitations… and a lot of blood spatter! Ah well. Dad had a go at snapping the one rooster’s neck with his hands, not as easy as it looks! Chicken necks are super bendy, and though we did eventually hear the pop of vertebra separating, it probably wasn’t the cleanest of deaths.

Because the Araucanas are only bantams, there’s not really enough meat to warrant butchering them to eat. So I contacted a local chap who rescues and rehabilitates injured birds of prey, who said he would gratefully take the carcasses, feathers and gizzards and all, to feed his raptors. So now we have four decibels less, and he has four square meals for his deserving birds. Smiles all round!

And Sir lives to see another day… for now.

Sir

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Rooster Survivor – farmers prefer gentlemen

This is the only chicken we have named. By virtue of his polite and gentle demeanor, our blue Australorp rooster Sir has won his name and his place as flock protector. Despite being quite the gentleman, he does sometimes act … Continue reading

Muddy beasts and bile

muddy neck

The horses really enjoyed the storm last week. Caked in mud from hip to hoof, they were happy to spend most of the day under cover, the rain strumming on the corrugated iron roof. Horses and humans are not so different. I stood with them in the stables, watching the welcome weather roll in.

hens in the rain

The chickens stayed out in their coop in the rain, wet and bedraggled, rather than keeping under cover in their den. I decided I may as well let them out to roam. They ran down the hill to scratch in the horses’ hay pile – their new favourite spot.

Chickens scratching in the hay

Once the “big chickens” had evacuated the coop, the Araucana bantams beat their wings and hooned around, happy to have the space to themselves. The little Araucanas do get picked on a bit by the Australorps, but they are becoming more confident in the flock and I hope to let them out to day range with the others soon.

Muddy flank

It looks like a gross skin disease but it’s actually just water and mud!

We got 24mL of rain in 24 hours. I’d forgotten how quickly heavy rain can wash away our gutless sandy topsoil, revealing the gravel and rock underneath. Luckily we’ve established a lot more groundcover since this time last year. Run-off from the driveway and the bare dirt run collected downhill in the pasture, slowed down by ryegrass stubble and strongholds of kikuyu. Not much we can do about losing dirt from the run, unfortunately. The run is our sacrifice area for the horses while the pasture grows. We’re getting there, slowly.

Muddy socks

White socks no more!

Our dam has only been about a foot deep all summer, and it was a relief to see it fill to the brim, if only briefly. The landlord routinely drains it to top up his own enormous reservoir and keep his vast lawns green – just a few hundred metres further down the valley from our struggling pasture. He’s a businessman, not a farmer. I find it frustrating facing someone who has all that we so badly want, and more, yet he doesn’t take an interest in caring for and improving the land he has. Especially given he has the money, the staff and the equipment to do what we do in a fraction of the time and with far less effort.

Just one of many reasons I can’t wait until we have our own property. What I could do with a few more acres, and free rein!

mini-Mrs Moth & stormy day 278

It is hard living in such a beautiful place, yet in less than ideal circumstances. I find myself constantly stamping down my Scottish temper.

Johnny's muddy face

I try to remember that the things that are holding us back here are forcing us to become more resourceful and self-reliant, which will serve us in the long run. Until then, the rain does a good job keeping my temper in check. I can’t stay angry on a proper kilt-wearing day.

The lone Rogue ranger

chicken eye

Our Rhode Island Red chickens – Rogues, as we call them – are pretty adventurous foragers but I never expected to find one alone in the house garden. I am known to charge, rake in hand, at the sight of chickens in the vegie patch. Scratching up seedlings, eating lettuce and having a good ol’ time… It’s one of the things that sees me live up to the “fiery redhead” cliche, with gusto.

They tend to keep well away from the gardens after many a run-in with the rake – I only biff them gently, but they resent even the softest punt! Bloody chickens, easily offended even when they are in the wrong!

But this time, there was just the one girl, free ranging solo. I was so surprised I just stood and watched to see what she would do.

chicken jump

She jumped right off the three metre high retaining wall and landed rather gracefully, for a chicken (THUNK!), in the house paddock. Our chickens’ wings aren’t clipped and it’s impressive to see how far the fat biddies can fly!

chicken in the paddock

We used to call her the scraggledy hen because she was bottom of the peck order and definitely looked it. Not anymore! The little Rogue seems to be enjoying a new chickeny confidence. I saw her browsing in the house paddock alone last week, far away from the rest of the flock and not in the least bit worried. She enjoys bossing around our home-hatched chicks – they’re around three months old now – and we have a new contender for the scraggledy title…

the new scraggledy hen

Our blue Australorp is moulting, and looks like only half a chicken. Despite being healthy, she has looked generally unkempt for months, kind of feral, like the chicken version of a crazy cat lady. Maybe her new feathers will give her a boost when they come through? The poor girl does look silly, bustling around with no bum.