A ChookeNZ general news update

September 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

Ok, a bit of a whirlwind recap of news that we haven’t covered yet.

Poppy and Frida.

We had a brief period – about six weeks – where Poppy and Frida were getting on again and we were able to let the flock run as one … and then beak hit wattle, and it was back to blue murder again. Sigh! Very glad we hadn’t got around to taking down the divider between the two halves of the Winter Garden run. But it’s a bugger all the same.

We do have a slight idea as to what might have triggered this surge of aggression. Which brings me to our next news item:

The Demotion of Boo.

Yes, Madame Bessie has been toppled from her position as Prime Hen. I suspect there may have been some underlying tension in the air that sparked the most recent fight between Poppy and Frida. Because literally two minutes after I separated Poppy and Frida, (as I was sponging blood off faces and doing a bit of smurfing) there was another almighty kerfuffle in the chook run. I looked over, and there were Bessie and Claire locked in battle.

I couldn’t do anything. I still had Poppy and Frida to separate, and the horrible truth is that this sort of fight is often best dealt with by letting things run their course and then clean up and bandage any injuries after. Assuming that there’s no actual injury being done other than superficial – but spectacular – wattle and comb laceration.

Claire – the Flocking Boss

I stashed my original combatants safely and kept an eye on Bessie and Claire. It looked as though Claire was going to get her fluff handed to her – Bessie was essentially swinging her around by the wattles (and Claire has plenty of wattle and comb to grab hold of!). Eyes were being left alone, and although there was a bit of leaping-on-top, neither hen was either so heavy or so fragile as to be a serious danger to the other. So I let it run. The other hens – especially Ella and Venus, who really hate this sort of thing – had initially been vocalising their disapproval and trying to physically come between the two fighters. But it wasn’t long before they retired to a safe distance to wait it out.

Hard to say how long it went for. Probably ten minutes, with a lot of time locked together panting. Very like wrestling really (the athletic version, not the WWF one) with most of the actual combat taking place in tiny movements over the course of only seconds, with a lot of regrouping and bracing and waiting the other one out. But eventually Bessie ducked her head and scuttled away behind Ella.

Claire had won.

And that’s how things have stayed – Claire on top, Bessie next, then Venus, Ella, Neroli, Frida, Lily, and last of all, Poppy. (With the circular triad with Lily over Poppy, Poppy over Neroli, and Neroli over Lily still very much in effect. Sigh!)

The Earthquake.

In case you’ve been living in a bubble, in the wee small hours of Saturday September 4th, Christchurch was hit by a massive earthquake, measuring 7.1 on the richter scale. (The GeoNet website has info on earthquakes all over New Zealand – check their Recent Quakes page for a regularly updated list of the thirty most recent shakes and prepare to be gobsmacked.)

The shaking didn’t really let up until around dawn, and the first thing we went to check was how our girls were. We had been straining our ears for any sounds at all from the chooks, but they’d been completely silent. No cackles – nothing. I think we both expected to go out and see the run pulled apart, or the houses toppled, or trees down. But everything looked completely normal. Peaceful even.

When we opened things up, the girls made their way out looking a bit bug-eyed, but otherwise absolutely fine. They tucked in to their breakfast, had a drink, scritched, preened. Normal. When an aftershock hit they looked up, but that was all. No panic, not even any sign of fear. Caution, yes. But that’s all.

We were incredibly lucky. In every possible way. There was damage to the chimney which meant we had to move out of the master bedroom (right underneath, and first port of call if the thing came down in an aftershock), but that’s all. And the girls were fine.

They didn’t even stop laying – Bessie and Venus laid their first eggs of the new season that afternoon. But there were horror stories all over the district. One battery farm lost 3,000 hens, and dozens of people have talked about injuries and weird eggs. (Our vet said that they’ve been treating huge numbers of broken wings from cage birds that panicked when it hit.) To be able to walk away with nothing worse than a cracked chimney feels almost indecently fortunate. Something was looking out for us.

(Or possibly looking out for the girls, and we were collateral?)
(We’ll take it, however it comes!)

Bessie, sneaking a peek

What do you mean, no mealworms?

Neroli, pushing her luck

Claire, checking for damage (and opportunities …)

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