Sunday, February 20, 2011

Eyes Watching

Eyes waiting,
     Eyes wanting,
          Swirls whorling,
Worms squiggling,
     Chickens flapping,
          Spring is springing!

     I wake to the sound of birds in my head,
            am I dead?
     The music is so sweet,
             as I linger, half asleep.
     My body is warm under the covers,
             though my mind often wanders.

     It wanders through the Universe,
                       touching here,
                              touching there.

     Do I have to come back?
     This feeling is pure bliss,
              am I dead?
     And then I wake,
               fully to the sound of birds in my ears,
                   and aware.
     World, I am here!
- Inkoze

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Doing the Chicken Pass!

Hi all,
Brad here with today's news from the Hen House!

In today's blog, I want to explore the invasive behavior of these humans.  I mean, I'm grateful for all the easy food, water and shelter during the cold winter here but once the weather gets nice, I'm a hands-off kinda guy.  You know, look but don't touch the beautiful feathers.  Those humans smell funny and I like my personal cologne, Eau de un Coq, and the girls do too!

So why a blog on "doing the chicken pass"?  Well, that's what the smaller humans were doing.  You know those crazy white chicks I talked about in an earlier blog, yea, the ones I can't stand but the humans seem drawn to them.  They run around laughing and flapping their arms in their attempts to catch the chicks.  Then, once in a while, a chick gets caught!  That's when the "chicken pass" occurs.  The medium sized human, Arianna, is the quickest!  Sometimes she even catches me - the nerve!  Then, she "passes" the captured chicken to the smallest human.  The wonder of it all is that no chicks were harmed and even seemed pleased to receive the love and attention.

I just don't know what to think.  Ok, I admit, when that middle sized human holds me, initially my feathers get all ruffled but within minutes, she has worked her magic on me and I am at peace.  I feel no fear and know she loves me just as much as I love myself.  Once I'm released though, I'm back to not wanting human contact.  I'm so confused.  I think the chicken pass is odd yet when the humans are holding me, I don't seem to mind.  Ugh, what to do!?

Yours truly,
Alpha Rooster
Prize Winning Mediterranean Cock

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bliz-aster 2011!!! (narrowly averted)

Baby lamb, Max.
Greetings Humans,
I am Max, a yearling Shetland ram at R&B Acres farm in lovely Oregon, Wisconsin.  I know you have been reading stories from "The Hen House" that Brad has written, so I thought I should give you one from the sheep perspective once in a while.

You see, while I'm not an automatic "Alpha" like Brad, I am second in line to inherit the harem of beautiful ladies that my now late father, Parth, called his flock.  He was getting pretty old for a ram when he passed away unexpectedly earlier this week.  Parth must have been about eight years old and was really starting to show his age even before winter started.

Just prior to the "bliz-aster 2011", we've had a rather prolonged bout of cold weather that seems to have made my father a bit slow.  Then he caught a bit of a cold about a month ago and Renee, our human, put him up in the warm barn to recover.  He did and she brought him back out by us the night before the blizzard hit.

The main barn covered with snow.

As Shetland sheep,we are known for our hardiness and resistance to parasites.  Our lady friends love their lambs and rarely have difficulties giving birth.  They provide yummy milk for the human family to use for making cheese and wool for weaving.  Twice a year, a nice man comes to relieve us of our heavy, high quality wool coats and check our hooves for any trimming that needs to be done.  We are pretty low maintenance as animals go.  All we really need is fresh water and pasture or hay.  Renee has two shelters for us if we want to get out of the elements and even gives us treats of cracked corn if we come when called.  (I always respond to food :)

Bertha faces off for the use of our dome with former companion, Ellie. Winter 2010.

So that brings me back to this blizzard last week.  Since we had lots of hay put out for us inside the dome and our woolly coats kept us so warm, we didn't pay attention to the snow piling up outside.  I did notice our equine companions, Callie and Johnny started inching further inside as the night wore on but as the sun rose, our problem became apparent - we were snowed in!!!

Normally, when it snows, no biggie, we sheep wait for our long-legged pals to cut a path to fresh hay and water but this snowstorm left a drift higher than the Shetland pony's back and nearly as tall as the Saddlebred's back.  We were stuck until the humans could dig us out.  I was a bit worried when after five hours, Renee had not quite finished digging a trail to the water, left our paddock in her skid steer, covered in hydraulic fluid and swearing up a storm!

Lucky for us, she had cut most of the 50 foot path to the water and only had about six feet of the 4+ foot deep drift left to clear.  She came back from the main barn with a shovel and about an hour later, we once again could get to our water.  Crazy!  Even our heated water tank had become covered with the drift.  She had to dig that out too but we are good now.  As long as we don't get another storm like that one and she keeps bringing us hay until spring, I think we'll be fine. 

As for Parth, he weathered the storm with the rest of us and then Renee brought us all into the main barn for a few days because of the cold.  (I wasn't cold but I think she was.)  Renee did notice that Parth's wool was breaking off and that he really seemed slow but was eating and drinking.  When she came out to do morning chores the other day, she found him prone and unresponsive.  The rest of us were fine and waiting for breakfast.  She shooed us back out to the paddock with the lure of cracked corn and fresh hay and then went back in to check on Parth.  I knew his time was near and had already said my goodbye's to him but Renee didn't know how long he was like this.  She called a friend and together, they decided to help end Parth's pain and suffering.  It was quick and quiet and I know he is in a better place where the spring grasses are always fresh and the ladies are too ;)

Rest in peace Parth.  You were and excellent father and role model for me to follow.
New Alpha Shetland Ram
Heir to Parth, former Alpha Shetland Ram

Friday, February 11, 2011

An Ode to Parth

Actually it is an "Ode on Intimations of Immortality" excerpt dedicated to our former ram, Parth, Shetland Sheep.  Rest in peace sweat natured boy.  May your next incarnation be free from pain and suffering and filled with green pastures.

Parth, Shetland Ram

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight
                 To me did seem
            Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;--
             Turn wheresoever I may,
              By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.
- William Wordsworth
Arianna with one of Parth's lambs.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Hannibal the Cannibal!!!

Brad, front and center!

Hi all,
Brad, Alpha Rooster, here with today’s blog about Hannibal the Cannibal, our Rhode Island Hen!

I’m sure many of you have heard about Hannibal the Cannibal, well you are right in drawing the link between this repulsive behavior and this hen!!!  I know she looks pretty innocent and blends in with the other hens quite well, BUT she has a horrible secret...she EATS EGGS!

She plays it straight 95% of the time, scratching around for food like the rest of us but when she thinks the coast is clear, she makes her move.   She jumps up to the nesting boxes and acts like she’s just looking for a good place to roost for a while but in reality, she is meticulously picking through the fresh shredded paper looking for eggs.  She then moves the eggs to the back corner where she can hide behind her beautifully full tail and promptly begins to peck like crazy at the egg until it breaks and she can feed in unabashed abandon.

It makes me crazy to see her destroy the wonderful work of all my lovely ladies.  Those could’ve been chicks, though I’m not sure since our human collects them twice daily, taking them someplace mysterious.  Our human, Renee, takes very good care of us, providing fresh bedding every  day, food twice a day, a fenced yard to keep the varmints out at night and a big pasture to roam in during the day.  She even sits with us in the coop, practicing being a chicken.  Strange human!
"The Hen House"

She’s pretty cool, as far as humans go but boy, was she mad at Hannibal yesterday when she caught the cannibal pecking at the eggs!  Renee grabbed Hannibal roughly around the body, yanking her out of the nesting box.  Hannibal is lucky she didn’t get a wing broken!  Once Renee got her out of the box and tucked under her arm, she gave that hen a piece of her mind!!!  Those eggs bring in money to buy us food for the winter when the weather doesn’t permit us to scratch outside for it.  Apparently, the cost of corn and soybeans has been going up and electricity is expensive, as she keeps a wonderful heat lamp on to keep us comfortable and keep our water unfrozen.  Luckily, she doesn’t have to buy us bedding due to the recycled, shredded paper she uses for our nests and floor, but still - those eggs Hannibal ate was like burning money to Renee and that’s not good!

After Hannibal got her lecture, Renee put her down and shushed her out of the coop and went on to finish cleaning, feeding and watering all of us animals before heading off to teach kids all day.  As Renee was leaving the coop, I realized that she forgot to grab the eggs that she had saved from that naughty hen!  Oh, no!
Sure enough, as soon as Renee left our yard, Hannibal hopped back into the nesting box and went right to work pecking at those eggs.  There must have been at least 14 in the box but by the time she finished, there were only three!  When Renee came back to do evening chores and realized what had happened, she was angry!  Hannibal’s a clever fox though, and made sure she was hanging out with the other Rhode Island Red hens so Renee couldn’t be sure which one was the “real” cannibal.  I’m sure Renee will figure this out and then Hannibal might discover a new path in life.

That’s all for today.  Those of you who have hens, watch out for the “cannibals” in the flock.  They are sneaky and if the other hens discover this trick, you’ll never find any eggs.

Best of luck to all you humans.  Until next time,
Alpha Male of “The Hen House”
Prize winning Mediterranean Rooster