posted 31 May 2005

The incident of the little lost chick made me curious about the poultry. I'd looked around behind the shed earlier, but I'd seen only a little screened enclosure with a couple of hens in it (and of course we knew there were at least a couple of roosters back there because they start sounding off about 5 a.m., just on the other side of our wall).

So in an odd moment, I went back there and had a better look. The flock includes quite a variety. I saw a large speckled black and white rooster (a Plymouth rock, if childhood memory serves), a couple of entirely black hens, a couple of standard red hens, a pair of bantams (parents of the lost chick, I would bet; the rooster is magnificent and apparently rules the roost, even though he's barely half the size of the speckled guy), and several rather disheveled white silkies. In addition there are a few pouter pigeons. Their parents or grandparents were probably entirely white. I saw only one chick, rather older than the stray, so there must be other chicken somewhere back there (I didn't actually open the gate and explore thoroughly).

In addition to the screened coop, an old travel trailer is being used as a henhouse. The pigeons come and go through an opening that's been cut in one window, and the larger fowl use the open door. The whole thing is shaded by a rambling kiwi vine, now bearing many small, unripe kiwi fruit.

At my approach, a female merle (European blackbird) who was in the coop cadging a meal panicked and fluttered frantically for a while before finding the back way out (she had intended to come through the opening where I was standing), and several of the pigeons and chickens gathered round, hoping I was going to feed them. Among them was what looked like an ordinary city pigeon, wearing a leg band. He seemed fearless, so he must have been domesticated. I reached up to see whether he would sit on my hand, but he only pecked at my fingers and then looked at me reproachfully because they didn't seem edible.

As in my childhood, the chickens are fed table scraps of all sorts, and Patrick and Patricia tell me that theirs get so many crab shells at this time of year that the eggshells are very thick and sturdy, that the yolks are almost red from all the crab pigments, and that sometimes the eggs even smell faintly of crab (tasty for omelets!).

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