Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The chickens fly the coop

When you work in the city and live in the country you are never quite sure what you are going to come home to. Sometimes it's quite different to what you expect. Friday night was a case of 'different'.

Back in January we bought some fertilised Araucana eggs, the ones that lay the pretty green-coloured eggs.  We hatched 10 chickens by putting a broody hen on top of them. We lost one along the way somewhere but still ended up with 9 cute pullets - 4 boys and 5 girls. We already worked out that having more than one adult rooster in the same flock is not a good idea. We needed to get rid of the roosters before they got big and nasty.

So we sold some of them on online auction site TradeMe. We sold a rooster to one family, another rooster to another family, and a double hen-rooster combo to another family. The thing about selling stuff on TradeMe is that you actually have to produce the goods. This might be fine if you are talking about a lounge suite or a kitchen appliance. They are pretty easy to catch. Hens are not.

Mrs PatentBuff had the advantage that these chickens grew up associating her with being fed. They would peck happily around her feet as she scattered grain each morning. That is, until she threw a blanket over a rooster.

Chickens are not known for being very smart. But even our flock worked out that something was wrong after two of their flock went missing. They started getting harder to catch. Trouble is, we still needed to catch the double hen-rooster combo.

Suddenly it was crunch time. The new owners were coming to pick up their three chickens the next morning. We had to get this over and done with on Friday night. It wasn't that nice out. It was dark, wet and cold.

We have some magnificent mature totara (Podocarpus totara) trees on our property. Which is great. Our prey were roosting in the top of one of them. Which is not so great. We have a 4m long pole we use for opening and closing the skylights in our house. We took it in turns to poke the hens to try and dislodge them from the trees. We weren't having much luck. Mrs PatentBuff climbed the tree (in unstable designer footwear) which meant she could get a little closer to them and approach from a different angle.

It worked. She managed to knock one of the roosters off first. Hens don't fly at night for some reason. We all know the party trick of blowing up a balloon and letting it go rather than tying it. It whooshes around the room at strange trajectories making funny noises before landing in a deflated heap on the ground. Imagine a balloon covered with feathers and you have a pretty accurate mental picture of a rooster falling out of a tree at night.

Well they might not be able to fly at night but the little blighters can still run. Once our rooster landed on the ground I had a quite a time chasing it around in the dark. The headlamp I was using showed me where I was going but helped my little friend more. After a few laps around the hen house I finally managed to grab him by the tail feathers then the feet. He really started fussing at that. Pretty soon we had him secured in a cardboard box.

Then it was time to catch the two hens. The first of them landed right in my arms as it was falling out of the tree. Straight in the box for that one. Then I was chasing the second one around just like the rooster. It ran right into a fence when it was out of the headlamp beam and bounced back looking a bit looking stunned. Straight in the box for that one too.

The contrast is quite startling. One minute I am having a drink with my work buddies celebrating a client-related success. Nek minnit I'm chasing roosters around in a dark muddy paddock. I would like to say it was an unusual Friday night. But I'm not so sure.

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