Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Loyal Pets

I'm not sure if I am describing the loyalty of this little hen and rooster, or that of my husband.  I'll let you decide.  When we first started getting involved with the chickens back in 2014, I ordered two trios of Serama from a well known breeder in Florida.  This man was very friendly and kind, and with my order sent us two Cochin Bantams ( a hen and a rooster) for our son to have.  These little birds quickly won our heart.  My husband immediately grew fond of them and named them Kong and Annie.  Kong was a feisty little guy.  He was blue in color and Annie is black.  They were both very small Cochin bantams.  We fed them meal worms daily.  Annie quickly reached a point that when we whistled, she came and jumped in our lap for her treats.  Kong was always somewhat cautious.  She loved Kong, and stayed right with him when they free ranged.  Kong developed some sort of irritation on his neck and the feathers came out.  We tried and tried to find ways to help him heal, but nothing helped.  Soon we lost Kong.  Annie was our only Cochin Bantam then.  She was visibly lonely but still very fond of us.  Before long, we were given a  Mille Fleur Cochin Bantam that had been rescued and needed a home.  We jumped at the chance to have a friend for Annie.  During all her time with Kong, her eggs were never fertile.  We tried and tried to hatch chicks and it just wasn't happening.  The new rooster was named Willy (just like my husband).  This was his name when we got him.   Willy and Annie became fast friends.  Annie still loved to jump in our laps and eat treats.  Willy has always been somewhat more cautious.  He likes his treats dropped on the ground.  Annie's eggs remained infertile.  She finally went broody a couple of times and we gave her Serama eggs to hatch so she would have babies.  She is an excellent mama.  Soon she just stopped laying altogether.  She didn't go broody anymore and just hung out with Willy.  They are faithful friends.  Annie is nearing 3 years old and hasn't laid an egg in probably a year or longer.  She and Willy became just pets.  My husband became extremely attached to this little pair. Now my two year old grand daughter likes to go to the secret garden and feed Annie meal worms one at a time.  Annie loves meal worms and she loves Emmylou too.  She comes right to her and takes the meal worms.

A while back we noticed that Willy was slowing down.  (we have no idea how old he might be as he was a rescue).  Nothing in particular seems wrong with him, not respiratory, not mites, not any of the normal culprits.  We think he is just getting older.  He will still get up and walk a little and he eats and drinks.  He just seems to be tired.  This breaks my husband's heart.  Annie is still active and likes to free range and Willy has gotten to the point he will just go out and find a cool spot to sleep after he eats.  One day when Willy seemed to tired to go out, we left them in their cage.  Annie is very attentive and tries to coax him to get up on the roost, or just get up.  You can hear her almost "talking" to him at times.  This particular day,  I went over to check on them and much to my amazement, there was an egg.  Annie had laid an egg.  A few days later there was another.  She has been laying occasionally since that day.  After much deliberation, my husband decided that while she is laying, we need to get her one of our other Cochin bantam roosters so that possibly we can get some chicks from her (that was always our wish).  For a few days we put a new young rooster in with her and she wanted no part of that.  She stayed at one end of the secret garden area and he was scared to death of her and stayed at the other end.  Each night we put her back in her cage with Willy (who now stays in a lot more).  She goes into the Secret Garden during the day to free range and get exercise.  Each evening she meets us at the gate to go "home".  We decided to try another rooster to see if we could get some fertile eggs from her.  Willy has been out less and less with her because he is just tired.  Finally and much to our surprise, she likes the latest rooster.  Hopefully we will finally get some "Annie" chicks to raise.  We still occasionally take Willy out there as well. Some days he will walk around and others he just rests.  He is a cherished pet and is well taken care of and will be until he is gone.

As I said in the beginning, I'm not sure if this story is about my husband's loyalty to these two little birds, or their loyalty to each other.  Maybe it's a little of both.  I have learned in these years of raising chickens, that they do in fact make wonderful pets.  They have individual personalities and habits and are easily trained  to come to you.  Hopefully I will soon be able to tell a story of Annie's chicks!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Stop and Smell the Roses

At times day to day life blocks the view of our many blessings.  We tend to get bogged down in what we are doing, and forget what we have already done.  Our goal began, and remains, to create a family friendly farm that we can share with others who come just to see the birds, and with those who wish to purchase some of our rare breed chickens and other birds.  To clear our view, we need only grab a cup of coffee or glass of tea and head to our big cedar rocking chairs on the front porch.  This is the perfect place to gain back our perspective.  From such a vantage point, we can often catch a glimpse of our resident deer making their way across the yard and the field that is between the house and the barn and into the pine thicket where they disappear for the day.  As the roosters begin crowing to signal the beginning of another day on our beautiful little farm, we can hear the peacock calling and being answered by the neighbor's peacocks.  The guineas begin making their distinctive noises as well.  Our cool morning breeze is filled with these and other pleasant and familiar sounds as we start our day.

We will often enjoy coffee breaks periodically in what I call my "Secret Garden" between the barn and my quaint little chicken house.  We can actually see most of the birds from there and watch them as they free range in the large fenced corral area that joins it.  The farm is still very much a work in progress.  There is a beautiful picnic area already in the works under my favorite huge oak tree.  It's a beautiful shaded area with two rustic picnic tables built by my husband with cedar from my grandparent's old homestead.  He also builds picnic tables to sell, for those folks that like the beauty of rustic cedar.  There are also two old tractors that sit in that area and provide a backdrop for pictures.

Since we raise and sell some rare chicken breeds, turkeys, guineas etc, we have already started having some visitors.  Their reaction to our effort is priceless and serves to remind us of what we are surrounded by daily.  Our friends and family also enjoy feeding the birds and interacting with them.  We spend a lot of time with our various birds to ensure that they are calm and docile in temperament.  Our two year old grand daughter is able to walk among the largest of the birds without fear.  She has her own feed bucket and feeds the birds regularly.  They know when she gets here, the gravy train begins.  Normally they rush to her and the little blue bucket to see what she has for them.  She enjoys feeding some of our largest roosters one sunflower seed at a time from her fingers.  They take it very carefully and wait patiently for the next.  Both she and the birds are thrilled with the visit.  We recently added a pair of beautiful rabbits that we also try to spend time with and tame.

We hope that at some point, you too can come and enjoy some time on the farm with us.  We are richly blessed and would love to share that with you and your family.