The Fall Flock

Fall has been a touch on the warm side this late into October, but autumn also arrived early. The temperatures in August and September were nowhere near as oppressively hot as they normally are even if October has been unseasonably warm. Our garden is still producing more tomatoes than we can eat (though fewer than we can can). Better yet, the baby chickens are all grown up and laying teeny eggs in the nest boxes.

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The Fall Flock (in the big coop)

Of all my baby chickens, Ianigena is still the friendliest and deserving of being dubbed a pet chicken. She enjoys being picked up in the coop and is always first in line to greet me at the door. She’s a little less friendly if we allow her to wander in the backyard, but she’s generally amenable to being picked up there as well. My Silvery Grey Dorking is still a nice chicken. She’s lovely to look at and reasonably friendly. The Buff Cochin is chill and not very flappable (unless you try to pick her up – she doesn’t like that). As for my White-Laced Red Cornish, I will be flabbergasted if she lives longer than a year. The hen is nigh well crazy and screeches in despair and sprints away if I so much as glance or step in her direction. I don’t do crazy.

Of course, my other pet chicken, Fortunata, is still as friendly and submissive as ever; she’s invariably the easiest the catch and the most docile. She loves being able to strut around the coop and outdoor run without fear of an imminent assault from the homicidal group of bullies that I had to separate earlier this year.

Unfortunately, even after removing two of the bully chickens from the main coop, the remaining hen became too enamored of her new position as head of the pecking order and still attacked Fortunata with such relentless fury that Fortunata could never leave the coop. Fortunata was nigh well bald on the back of her head from the attacks. After one too many heinous attacks where Fortunata came sprinting out of the coop to greet me and the other hen attacked, I chucked the third bully hen into the little coop. Big problem. That little coop is just too small for three chickens in it. One of them was going to have to go to the giant crock-pot in the sky six months earlier than we had planned.

Of the three chickens in the little coop, the choice was clear. Scissor Beak, our mutant, deformed chicken, needed to be the one to go. She rarely laid eggs whereas the Black Sex Links are still laying large eggs quite regularly. Our chickens do not have names as a rule unless they are pets, but we never considered Scissor Beak to be a name so much as a description of her deformity (much like we still call the baby chickens by their breeds). Her beak became more and more crossed as she grew older, and now it’s a gnarled mess of a thing. She’s been able to eat and drink well, but she’s still a small chicken and rarely lays. She’s been a reasonably happy (albeit flighty) chicken in our flock, but we keep (most of) our flock for their eggs. If she’s the weak link, it’s time for her to meet that crock-pot.

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Scissor Beak  (Rainbow Layer – clearly a Silver Laced Wyandotte Cross)

As I write this, she’s boiling on the stove about to make an excellent soup on one of the first really cold days of fall. It was a little hard to say goodbye to her, but she had a good life and an easy death. The other bully chickens will have more space, and so their lives will be better for her death too. On a small suburban homestead, space is at a premium, and (most) chickens aren’t pets.

We still have a few things to do to winterize the coop completely, including setting up the water heaters and the light bulb to encourage laying during the shorter winter days. On the whole, though, we’re settling into this lovely, long fall season well. We’re just getting to be cool enough to bust out the sweaters, but we still have just enough warmth to expect some more tomatoes to ripen up yet on the vines.

Hope your fall is just as wondrous!

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