Poultry Vignettes


The chicks think I'm out to poison them.  Every new food is a death threat.  

One of the first "treats" I tried to give them was green beans.  I placed the beans in a neat pile in the center of the coop.  The chicks immediately dog-piled into a corner to escape the evil vegetables.

Gradually, little Tori tentatively ventured towards the pile, pecked a wayward green bean, then leapt back like she'd been shocked.  Slowly, she approached the bean again, this time pecking it hard several times, as if to kill it.  

Emboldened, the other girls approached the pile too, each picking out their own green bean and pecking it within an inch of its life.  I don't know if they ever got the idea that green beans are food, but surely some of it must have made it into their stomachs, right?

In general, the chicks are suspicious of everything.  Sweet Husband joked the other night that they were not the smartest birds (really what he meant was they're not as smart as his darling ducklings), but I shot back that, what they lack in intelligence, they make up for in instinct.  

And they do.  Those green beans could have been snakes, explosives...anything really.  As the chicks only weigh a pound and have no real defensive weapons yet, my ladies are wise to be cautious.


The ducks, on the other hand, are dirty, stinky, drunks.  Their liquor of choice? Water.  

If I take the water away even for a second--just to, I don't know, clean it and refill it--they freak out.  It's like a frat party when the keg is empty.  

They're only content when they're drinking, and they drink a lot!  The little waterer that could have easily lasted the chicks more than 24 hours, was barely lasting the ducks 8 hours.  For their 1 week birthday, I got them a new, bigger waterer.  I question whether the gift is really for them or for me.  Now I can take away time from bartending to go to work and take a shower.

The ducks second favorite activity is eating.  Really, the only thoughts in their little heads are, "Water, water, water, water, food, food, food....Water, water, water, water, food, food, food...."  I'm not even all that sure they sleep.  And between the drinking and eating, they make a hell of a mess.  I find myself repeating a line from Moe's puppy years--they're lucky they're cute.

But they are that!  Even with their limited motivation, the ducks are much more adventurous than the chicks.  When I pick up a chick to hold, they want to be put down so that they can scamper off and hide (except for Tori, who thinks humans were created for her to perch on).  The ducks don't like to be held much either, but only because it prevents them from exploring the world.  Picture a toddler trying to wriggle out of its mother's arms to go make mud-pies and you'll have the right idea.


And speaking of Mr. Moses....although strict separation has been the major means of keeping everyone alive, we've been mildly successful with what I call the "freak-the-fruck-out" method of training.  

For ordinary badness Moe gets a stern "eh-eh".  For playing with the ball or sitting at the door or generally being a good dog, we praise him to the skies.  (And that's been amped up since the chicks arrived.)  For even looking at the chickens the wrong way, he gets a full-on, hands waiving, foot stomping, loud yelling, throwing things (not at him, just in general) freak-out.  

It has to be used fairly sparingly so that it doesn't lose it's surprise effect--and, indeed, I wouldn't want to be yelling at him all the time, 'cause that's just not cool.  It also would not work if he and a chicken were both lose at the same time--in which case, I'm under no illusions, we would shortly be cleaning a dead chicken.  But it has kept him out of the shed (where the chickens currently reside) and convinced him that perhaps there are better uses for his time--like his tennis ball--than trying to get to the chicks.