Friday, October 7, 2011

Farm Story for October 8, 2011

Deb Potter, Merciful Hearts Farm ,

Pavl, our white crested black Polish rooster, is getting in trouble again. He seems to have a death wish. In the past I’ve told you about his near drowning and other run-ins with most everything on the farm including me. This week he has been at it again. He has his own little harem in the stable. We had to move him into the stable because the other chickens pull the feathers out of his crest which leaves him with a bloody bare head. We’ve given him an entire stall which is quite large and has a lovely window. He has the company of a few hens and three ducks that have been injured or also get picked on. They are a ragged little bunch but are safe and well tended now. Pavl does not always stay in his stall as he loves to fly up into the stable rafters and then jump down into other stalls or into the main section of the stable. He is ordinarily a happy little man in his own world.

I am accustomed to seeing Pavl sitting up on his windowsill and crowing in the morning or just watching the outside world in the afternoon. He usually peeks for a while and then jumps back into his stall but this week I realized that he has decided to start exploring. I don’t know how long this has been going on but in the past whenever Pavl has gone on an adventure it has resulted in a fight with another rooster, a near escape from a dog or some other episode that has ended in a rescue.

On Monday I went into his stall to feed and water everyone. I always glance to see where Pavl is before I step into the stall as there have been plenty of times when he has been in a foul mood and has flogged me with his huge spurs as I’ve stepped in. This time I did not see him so I glanced up at the rafters to see if he was hanging out overhead. He was not there. He was also not in any of the adjoining stalls. I had not seen him as I walked back to the stable. The dogs walked with me and they did not look either startled to notice him or guilty for perhaps having attacked him.

I walked outside to start my hunt. The first thing I came across was a long gently curved shiny black rooster tail feather. Since there was only one feather I knew it was not necessary to panic. When a dog does grab a chicken there is a big pile of various-sized feathers left behind as the bird pulled away. I continued to search. I found no more feathers but I also did not find Pavl. Sadie, one of the Anatolian Shepherds, was walking with me. She was a few feet ahead of me when she looked up and began to trot in the silly not-quite-a-puppy-anymore lope that indicates silly enthusiasm. Sadie trotted over to Pavl who was huddled tightly in a corner where two sets of pasture fencing came together. He was in a little bit of a dip so I had not noticed him. Sadie distracted him while I swooped in to grab him up. He slipped past both of us. Sadie now realized that we had a chase and became even more excited. I did not need her help anymore so grabbed her by the color and led her to the tractor shed where I could lock her up. She whined as I walked away to track down Pavl once again.

He was in the middle of the barnyard. I tried to calmly walk him into a corner again but he refused to play, weaving back and forth but staying out in the open. I have said before that a chicken has a brain about the size of my thumbnail but it is still enough brain to make a successful chicken. This successful chicken would not be caught if he couldn’t be cornered. And I’ve got plenty of proof that it is not easy to corner any creature when I am working alone. It was obvious that I did not need to waste any more time trying to corner Pavl. I did realize that he was no longer happy outside and was looking for a place to go that was not a corner. I was able to walk toward him and gently guide him back toward his window. He would not jump in let alone look up toward it. He was too busy keeping an eye on me. I realized he did want to go back in but was in too big of a panic to figure out how.

The stable has a large door on each end. One of the doors had a few goats sleeping in front of it so I decided to walk Pavl around toward the other door. When I had him almost there I ran ahead of him and flung the door wide open. It took a few more loops around the barnyard before I was able to maneuver him toward the open door. Just as I realized that the goats were up and heading our way, Pavl made a run for the door. I ran up and slammed the door behind him just barely beating the herd of goats who were hoping to force their way in for a quick rampage through the things they aren’t supposed to climb on in the stable. I ran around to the other door, slid in the stable and opened the door to Pavl’s stall. He took his time strutting in to rejoin his harem. I have no idea how many more times Pavl has gone off on a toot this week. I did notice that he is down to a single long tail feather so it is a pretty good bet that while outside one of the dogs has at least given him a good chase or he has tangled with another rooster.

I probably only lost fifteen minutes or so chasing Pavl around the barnyard but it is amazing how many of these little episodes in a week add up. It is rare that I walk out to gather eggs, simply gather eggs and then return to the house without stopping to do something else.

Little Joey, the stray cat that the children brought home from Apple Island about eight years ago, has decided that he wants to live in the stable. Last winter he had taken to following me out there as I made my late afternoon trip to gather eggs and to feed the dogs. A few days a week he would follow me almost all the way to the door than take a quick turn, jump through Pavl’s open window and meet me at the stable door as I opened it. I often add a bit of canned dog food to the dogs’ dry food and Joey discovered that if he was there as I opened the can I would let him lick at it as I scooped out the dry food. I then got soft hearted and began bringing an occasional can of cat food along. I would lock him in the stall where I do my dyeing and let him have his can there so that the dogs or chickens would not bother him. Now he has moved into the stable almost full time and I feed him a can of cat food there every afternoon. He has found lots of nice places to snuggle up and nap and seems to enjoy stalking the chickens but never risking a chase. Unfortunately, Joey has started walking on my table as I paint my dyes on the wool. He has overturned a few dye jars and tangled plenty of cellophane. I had to lock him in the tack room to do this week’s dyeing after trying just to push him out of my way. Just another little bit of time that I’ll never recapture but all our animal friends are just so amusing. I am beginning to think it is time to put a sturdy screen in Pavl’s window though!

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