I spent some time with the yard birds today (not Eric Clapton, the feathery ones) and you know what? They're dang strange little critters.
I had some time off this afternoon and thought I'd go ahead and bird-net the second half of the chicken yard. If you recall I built it as a rectangle and divided it in half, giving the birds two equal squares to go roam around in. I attached bird netting over one half to keep out hawks and possums and whatever else might desire to eat chickens, and promised myself that I'd cover over the other half as soon as Irrelephantly possible.
Now, a brief aside--if you're not a poultry fancier, bird netting is just this plastic net stuff, very strong and so thin it's almost invisible at more than a few feet away. People who raise fruit use it to cover trees and such to keep birds from eating their produce on the vine, and some stores cover their huge building signs with it to keep sparrows and wrens from nesting up in the structure. It's little squares are about the size of the tip of my index finger and it's sort of like trying to handle a hair net that's thirty feet long and twenty wide. Not impossible, just...queasy.
Well? A month has passed since I first promised myself I'd finish the other half. Perhaps more.
But, I got to it today! Honest! Carefully uncoiled the huge mass of netting from around the sapling tree it had blown into from last storm, fiercely shook it until the bits of ant nest that had been made over one corner was nothing but a mass of flying dirt and very confused ants, and I carefully laid it out in the back backyard and fiddled with it until I could get all the edges straight and flat and neat again.
This took about four hours. See the hairnet thing. Queasy. And nearly invisible.
So. I took the mass of stuff, zip-tied it to one length of fence and tossed the lot into the 'fresh' yard. Now envision this: the chickens not only have been scrutinizing me the entire time but they've been making that soft purring cluck that mature chickens make when they're busy kibbutzing. And they'd all crowd up against the fence closest to where I was, so as not to miss a single bit of the action.
They watched me while I unwound the old netting.
They watched me lie it all out on the ground to measure it.
They watched me secure it to the fence.
I swear, had they watched any more closely I was going to offer them a pile of zip ties and tell them to come do it themselves if it interested them so much!
So after my tirade and as I finished it got more peculiar yet. I got three sides secure--the three OUTsides. The last side I had to secure to the dividing fence between the two yards, and that meant I'd have to operate with fifteen chickens watching me from around my feet. Not a fun thought.
So, knuckling up, I waded in and was immediately drumstick deep in chickens, all eager and anxious to see if I was edible or, in Vin's case, to see if I was female. I carefully worked my way down the divider tying off the loose ends, and all the while Vin cackled and gobbled and tried to crow. I finally made the mistake of stopping and squatting down to see what was the matter. He immediately presented himself directly up front and wanted to taste 1) my unlit cigar in my pocket, 2) the wad of zip-ties sticking out of same pocket, 3) my ring, 4) my knuckle skin and 5) the hem of my pants.
Then, kids, it got fun. When I went to shove him away he went into his Three Stooges routine. If you haven't seen this before I highly suggest you go bother a rooster. I put my hand out to push him away and he started circling it ala' Curly about to get in a fight with Moe, all the while gurgling and chuckling. I knew this wasn't going to do so I grabbed him around his middle, hoisted him up in front of all his ladies and held him upside down.
Yeah, I know that sounds strange and is probably just a little unsettling to younger viewers but I'm told by Chicken Experts that it's the most expeditious way to subdue an eager cock.
(*snort* Can't WAIT to see how many hits THAT brings in.)
So, having subdued my cock (*and subduing gales of snickers*) I went back to the work at hand, and realised that since I already had 99% of the netting up it'd be a lot easier just to let them all into THAT side and close the gate so I could work in peace. And it worked! I finished up, they were happily chewing grass and digging up pecans and doing whatever it is chickens do when they're in fresh grass, and I finished up the netting.
Having wrapped up the netting I decided to do a little more socializing with the chickens so I squatted down again and sort of 'tuck tuck tuck'ed to them to bring them around. Again, my mistake. Everyone came crowding and Vin decided he had to make a German spectacle of himself. He started in with the Stooges schtick again, I tried to settle him down by a few rubs on his breast (heh! again with the hits) and he retaliated by trying to climb my hand, and by this age he's wearing his spurs so it left a few marks.
So, I had no choice. I had to take my cock in my hands again. (Oh gods I kill myself!) I turned him upside down, stared him right in his beady, crazy little black eye and we had a man to cock talk. I explained that his behaviour was way out of line, that he had done physical harm to me, and that if he kept it up I'd snap his scrawny neck, toss him over the fence, pluck his ass bald and have him in a frying pan before sunset. This seemed to reach him pretty clearly, because he settled right down after that.
Ah, the joys of chicken ranching. Never let it be said there's no fun to be had in a hen yard. All it take is...wait for it...an angry young cock.*
* Honestly, I really am sympathetic to Vin's plight. I mean, if I were a foot tall, black, and had all my sexual organs on the inside I'd be easily agitated myself.