Saturday, April 23, 2011

Born to be Wild

This one's for Hoosier Sue, with my apologies.

Chickens are domestic animals, we're quite certain, but that turns out to cover a range of possible behaviors. To pervert George Orwell a bit, some are more domestic than others.

Araucanas are "others" in that classification. I like them because they represent a breed that is closer somehow to the original species of chicken, and I admire their hardiness, fearless personalities, and attractive coloring (bird and egg). They are not pure white nor bred to be egg-laying machines with feathers, as Leghorns are. They are themselves, and they go about their business in their own ways.

Here I should digress a minute to explain that there's some controversy over the use of "Araucana." Araucanas are like yams, apparently, in that they do not truly occur in the U.S. and what we simplistically call Araucanas are more properly known as Ameraucanas, or "Easter-eggers." Also spelled Americanas, so we've recently settled on the nickname A'cana to cover all our bases.

In any case, when HS asked for a recommendation on chicken breeds, I heartily endorsed A'canas out of my fondness for them. Perhaps she should have asked the Husband, who remembers (though he didn't mention it last year when I brought home eight A'cana chicks) that this breed also offers difficulties.

Trusting me, HS acquired a mixed flock of Barred Plymouth Rocks (a wonderful, and highly domestic bird) and A'canas. Her chicks are lovely... and one of them, a Barred Rock, soon showed that he would not be contributing to her supply of fresh eggs. The chicks are 7 weeks old now, and a few days ago she reported this story:

I'm in the kitchen and hear this "Errr Err" and think, "What the %^&*(?"

And then it dawns on me.

And then another one. Better. Louder. Errrrrrr Errrr

At least he waited until 7:30 a.m.

"Lt. Worf" as she calls him, the name revealing how early the effects of testosterone show up, is hand-tamed and sweet... so far. We are hoping for the best.

But back to our story.

Where the Grass is Greener

The difficulties with A'canas became apparent this spring. Fully feathered and full-grown now, these chickens began to appear in places we're not used to seeing them. Dangerous places: In the backyard, where the dogs hang out; on rooftop of the coop; and in the front yard. Daily now, we can expect them to 'fly the coop.' What was initially cause for panic has now become routine: clear the backyard of chickens before letting Dog #1 out the door. Dog #2 seems to be congenial to the escapee.

Last week, we discovered WHY she's developed such fondness for the backyard. The Husband found a clutch of 7 beautiful green eggs under the big juniper. Now we understand—a safe place (out of reach of skunks who have been enjoying 'hen fruit' in the coop daily of late) where, she clearly hoped, we wouldn't keep stealing the results of her labor. She was wrong about the latter, but she still finds her way over the fence every time she gets the urge to lay an egg. At least now we know where to look for them!

Before I let the chicken-killer dog loose, I check the back fence. If I find an A'cana pacing back and forth, waiting to be allowed back into the chicken yard, I open the gate, and she happily rushes home to the food dish. Her self-powered escapades are one-way only.

Not so our front yard bird. She has now perfected the art of escaping and returning as often as she likes.

No comments: