The order has been disturbed in the chicken yard. First I introduced the bummer lambs and their new playmate ram lamb. Next I introduced 11 turkey poults. The chickens took most of this in stride as they have been dealing with three roosters ever since we house-raised two supposed hens that turned out not to be. But now things are getting a bit out of hand. Who would have thought to blame the lambs!
Instead of the proverbial fox in the hen house, we now have Piper, Eli, Dusty and Duke barging in at feeding time. The hens go squawking out the door in alarm as the four lambs crowd around the hanging feeder, making it swing wildly from the rafters as they shove their little noses into 2-grain scratch and oyster shell. And, it’s not as if there is lots of room for them and me in there in the first place. There are feed bins and hen boxes and roosts that take up half the room, and the dust stirred up by four sets of sheep hooves is making me choke.
I have a method for feeding that is supposed to keep all the different animals separated into their requisite species groups, but the lambs broke ranks and now all the animals think someone else’s food must be better than theirs.
I start with the turkey poults. While they don’t actually ‘think’ about anything as far as I can tell, they do jump at me when I have food in the scoop. If I am not careful I get my fingers pinched, which is pretty irritating. And I yell. As much as I try to keep the screen door pulled-to, there is always a chicken or lamb attempting to barge in for turkey food and the poults, in their frenzy to feed, don’t even notice.
Next I feed the lambs their bottles because this is a total distraction for them. 30 seconds later (!) I march off to the grain bin and try to convince the little darlings, with their milk mustaches, that rolled corn and molasses covered pellets is the way to get off the powdered milk …sooner than later (weaning is right around the corner). The chickens come over for a look-see.
Back in the chicken house, I fill my scoop full of scratch and some whole corn and exit out to spread breakfast for our 13 chickens and one goose. There is a pecking order so I make sure to spread some of the grain out of sight, otherwise Peeps, one of our pets, has to rely on bugs and grass for the day. I make a quick dash into the enclosure with the tom turkey and his girlfriend, trying to dump their food before the tom has time to fly off the roost at me. We are definitely not getting along, and he is closer to becoming Thanksgiving dinner than he knows…although I do wonder what a 2-year-old bird tastes like.
I finish up with a handful of whole corn for the peacock, Fred, pacing back and forth on the outside of the yard, the only ‘free’ bird in the flock. Sometimes he has to fight off our senile dog, Patches, and the neighbor dog, Louis, but at least the pushy lambs are on the other side of the fence.
Which leads me back to the lambs. At this point they have hit everyone’s food choice in the yard and are back in the chicken house looking for scraps. I stopped chasing them out the human door once I discovered they had a method for squeezing through the miniature chicken door. Dusty barely fits, but Piper and Eli know how to get down on their knees and wiggle through, scattering chickens as they go. Their only challenge, the goose lying in wait to bite them on the nose when they exit, which he does from time to time. Some might say they deserve it.
Photo: Piper and Eli peek out the door of the chicken coop as if to say, “Who us?” and/or, “Where’s that darned goose?”
All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2009 Scottie Jones