Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Chicken Rescue

At this time of year my hearing becomes finely tuned, enabling me to pinpoint individual sounds wherever they occur all over the farm – well at least my four acres of it.
With uncanny accuracy I can home in the faintest cheep in the furthest reaches of the dusty barn attic, I can seek out the peeping of any individual even at night.
For at this time of year the chicks start to hatch and from now until September I will be on my guard night and day to save them from themselves and in some cases from the negligence of their mothers.
I don’t know why it is but as soon as I hear that first high pitched peep I can never rest until I know all are safe. I believe I can now differentiate between peepings and cheepings and know which are distress calls and which just exuberance.
Usually the first cheep I will hear will be from a hatchling stuck down the side of a bale or perhaps a pile of wood and after locating it I will endeavour to get it back with the rightful parent and the rest of its siblings.
My chickens, you see, have a tendency to lay in a variety of hidey-holes and some have an exceedingly idiotic survival mechanism, which forces them to lay in the most dangerous of places. Stupid lays her eggs in the barn attic necessitating a 12ft drop for her hatchlings and not all of them have that kamikaze-like attitude to life, which she obviously takes for granted. When you’re only 4 inches high 12ft is an incredibly long way to fall…
Others have been known to lay at the bottom of the grain pit, which is 6ft deep with smooth concrete walls - if you can’t fly your time on this earth is going to be severely limited.
As much as I try to locate my broodies, I inevitably miss a few. However, once a brood is found to be in trouble or requiring help, the machine, which is Chicken Rescue, swings into action.
This means I locate the problem, assess it and then scout around for suitable assistance depending on the severity of the mission. If it requires climbing then I haul J or any of the builders usually to be found lurking in the vicinity. Wise builders know that as soon as they hear the chicks it is evacuation time but some just can’t help themselves and allow curiosity to get the better of them. I am merciless and no matter how much they plead a fear of heights or feathers there is no escape.
If I know it is an aggressive hen then I normally huff and puff and do the job myself while bitterly complaining about how wimpish men are…
I know each hen and I know how good or bad they are as mothers. The best need only the occasional hand - for instance when a chick gets separated on the wrong side of the fence - while the new ones or those I know that are quite hopeless are given more support in the form of the Nursery coop.
Here I can keep a very beady eye on everyone until I feel it’s time to enjoy the big wide world.
Despite all my efforts, which have had me running around in the dark in only my nightie and a pair of gumboots in an effort to track down a solitary cheeper and reunite with its family, I will lose far too many to count. I will have to kill some that are too weak to survive or that have injured themselves and I hate that: but to see the ones I rescue scampering about in the sunshine fighting over bits of worm almost as long as themselves and to watch them grow warms my heart and makes all the effort worthwhile.

18 comments:

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Oh a girl after my own heart. I would do and have done the same. very stressful though, but as you say worth it in the end - although in my case all the ones I rescued seemed to be of the male persuasion and eventually I did have to have some put down as they were outnumbering the hens and making the 'girls' life a misery.

Have a wonderful picture of your poor builders trembling every time they hear a peep . . .

Casdok said...

Sounds very rewarding as well as hard at times.

Elizabethd said...

This made me think of that wonderful film, Chicken Run!

mountainear said...

You would never sleep if you went to bed thinking 'someone' was missing.

Love the idea of you guarding the Nursery coop like some old school Matron!

snailbeachshepherdess said...

Have done the nightie and welly wobble more times than I care to remember ...chickens eh? who'd have 'em?

Exmoorjane said...

Eeek, I don't get chickens (ducks - now I do get ducks! - and hides away from flying eggs). but you do write it beautifully and sure they're lovely girls, each and every one (how convincing is that? er, will try harder next time, promise). jxxxx

Potty Mummy said...

Wow. Maybe I should get chickens to combat the broody (geddit) impulses my ageing hormones subject me to whenever I see a small baby. It would certainly be cheaper - if a little tricky in a central London basement flat with a terrace the size of a knotted handkerchief.

Cait O'Connor said...

I love chicks but they are so vulnerable aren't they?

Expatmum said...

Gawd, and I thought running around after kids was a lot of work!

bodran... said...

Gawd i'm as bad but mines the wild birds!! They come shouting for help when the magpies are to close!! and a distressed robin flew in to the kitchen last year then straight out Shrieking if thats possible!! bless... Fat blumin sasha the Lab had found its Nest and had eaten the contents, i was to late that time but i am tuned in, weird isnt it...xx

lampworkbeader said...

How could you leave them, the poor defenceless little dears?

ChrisH said...

Oh how sweet! I mean, I know it's not really and you are working berludy hard but I have this image of you on full alert, listening out for faint cheeps and Kamikaze chicks!

Frog in the Field said...

My husband is the same...ahem!
He was in the barn working on his tractor and could hear his mother calling him.
"WHAT??" he shouted.
More calling.
"WHAT???" he yelled.

This went on for a while, Darlin ghusband getting more wild by the second.
He clambered out from his tractor and marched round the other side to see not his mother, but a hen scratching and clucking around in the corn! Ha Ha!

Pondside said...

The dedication! I haven't let me hens get a clutch together because of fears of situations just as you describe. Perhaps I should have a little more confidence in the hens' (and my) ability to take care of the chicks.

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

And there was me considering getting a few chickens! Not any more I'm not......

elizabethm said...

mm, sounds like hard work but worth it. I am considering letting some of my eggs hatch if any of my birds go broody (only have three hens so not a lot of choice of mother). I will pm you about it as I am a bit at sea here!

Hannah Velten said...

Very late commenting - but how are your chicks doing? Hopefully, enjoying the bit of sun we're having...

KittyB said...

Excellent blog, I can just picture you in your wellies!
I feel slightly panicked every time I read a chicken blog now, my ladies are coming later this week. First time I've kept them, 6 ex-battery layers, I'm sure they're all going to die. Oh help! At least we won't have any chicks for a while.

Go on you know you want to...

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