“You’d better remove all these tires before the campers come,” Sister Kathy instructed us. “They create a poisonous snake habitat!”
Ian and I listened with an almost patronizing level of bemusement, knowing that neither one of us had much intention of following through on her commands.
Looking back, I regret our thoughts at this time and how little notice we were taking of Sr. Kathy’s advice and 40 years of experience living on this mountain ridge. Our youth was showing itself. And it caused us to not head her thoughtful advice, to tragic results for our livestock.
Memorial Day weekend started with a nasty surprise this year when Ian discovered our favorite chicken was well on her way to making herself the featured dinner dish. Our mother hen, Mrs. Silkie, had a severe laceration under her wing where her skin and feathers had been pulled away from her body, leaving a three-inch long expanse of exposed, bloody muscle.
She was fine the night before when we put the chickens in the coop, so we can’t imagine what did so much damage to her beyond some overzealous mating behaviors from Big Daddy Rooster. Because Mrs. Silkie has been tending her flock of chicks for the past few months, it’s possible he has avoided mating with her, and his first reattempt startled them both enough to cause him to dig deeply into her side with his spurs.
Craigslist can be a dangerous thing. It’s the main reason we got our rescue dog Wendell, and it’s the only reason that Ian and I drove four hours round trip today to become owners of a three month old Silkie hen and rooster.
Bored in school again today, I checked out the farm section of Craiglist for our region and perused the motley assortment of livestock available. 17 year old horse? Pass. Pygmy goats? Ummm yes…but that can wait till spring. TWO FREE CHICKENS?! Heck yes- how could I possibly say no? It’s not like we don’t have room for them in our chicken mansion. And if anyone needs proof that Ian truly loves me, just know that he was either as excited about this prospect as I was or he hid it exceptionally well, because he eagerly agreed to make the trip with me. Equally excited was the owner of said birds, who desperately needed to rehome them before an upcoming move and happily sent me pictures of them on Facebook for much of the afternoon. There’s no better bonding than chicken bonding.
And these are special chickens. Unlike the semi wild birds we have now, these babies have lived a pampered life. Their former home was an apartment, and they have been hand fed, and they wore diapers. Yes. Chicken diapers. I only wish I could have seen one of these babies in action, but here is an internet approximation instead.
Sadly (or not!) for these guys, there will be no more diapers in their future. As soon as we can we will release them into the coop with the other poultry and hope that they don’t get decimated in the pecking order. But considering their hand-reared status and friendliness with people, I’m guessing these two are going to stand out.
And Silkies are pretty special birds. Known to some as the cuddly teddy bears of the poultry world, these birds are Chinese in origin and were raved about by Marco Polo. Their furry appearance comes from a lack of tiny cartilage hooks on the individual feather hairs on their shaft, which means that their feathers have a looser appearance. Though not renowned for their egg laying abilities, Silkies actually make great mothers due to their love of brooding. In fact, they are pretty happy sitting on any egg at all, no matter the parent. Beyond their obvious physical appeal, Ian and I thought a Silkie hen might be a fun way to try to get some chicks the natural way this spring.
In any case, the chickens are ours and they are sleeping over with us. Because they are so little we aren’t comfortable throwing them in with the bigger chickens yet, so for the near future they will be sleeping in our room with the dog and the cats. Visit us soon, because after a few more animals we’ll start charging admission for this petting zoo.
And now for the real question- what do we name them? I’m definitely open to some suggestions. 🙂