The six, over four month old Auracana chickens have continued to grow in size and beauty as their plumage varies day to day through a spectrum of from never-quite-black deep russet red through a palomino butt (or psilocybin button) golden orange to the palest of cadmium yellow, all flecked with graceful long dark ovals on each thin, otherwise pale neck and back feathers running down and draping over the sides of the rump at the base of the tail. They remind me of the spots Dax’s hosts wore. They grace Erica as well. The colors catch fire when first ignited by the direct beams of the lighter that smokes us all. They will look like plump old hens someday, but for now they resemble nothing more than wild game birds, slim and quick and flapping four feet into the air doing the chest bump. No sexual determinations here in their 18th week, but Nameless One has sprouted some extra long tail feathers!
She/he has also developed a milder case of the cross beak mismatch that devastates Fucluck’s ability to grasp leaves, or seeds on hard surfaces. Although slight at first, use has forced the lower half further out of contact with the upper tip, which itself seems to becoming hooked like Fucluck’s or a predator from lack of mutual support during the incessant pecking at everything. In the long run I think the hook may come to serve as a scoop as they all learn to deal with their environment.
Although I have moved the coop four times since the run was completed ten weeks ago, I have yet to let them leave the run, they have great excitement in keeping up by running with the run as it rolls to new grass and bugs. I don’t plan to let them out to free range until they have gotten used to using the laying boxes for a couple of months so they’ll know where to take that urge, and then let them out only a few hours before roostlight when I can be sure Donna’s dogs are locked up and I can know they’re all aroost when I lock them up before the dogs again are free.
If the title of this post were literal I'd spend it talking about the wonderful addition to the compost the poop laden alfalfa hay I add when I clean up the leavings at the old spot and the floor of the hen's pent house, but I am so discouraged with the garden devastation in the drought this summer there's nothing more good I can say about that. But … how 'bout them chickens!
Although daily contact has made us familiar with one another such that they will all now, in their new maturity, let me pet them, Black Jack remains the most gregarious one by far. Nameless One likes to jump up behind me and peck at the back pocket button. It reminds me of an old cartoon, Smilin' Jack, whose fat friend was always accompanied by a hen that ate the buttons he popped off his shirts. The familiarity has spread to their constant companion and keeper-away-of-all-dogs-but-Ella, Priest, who now, instead of reaching an entire arm in through the chicken wire holes to reach the naive younger, peeping, cuddly chicks to … ahem … pet them, now is greeted at the wire by several who peck gently at the paw he raises for them, careful to keep it on his side. It’s affection on both sides. They are further beyond being predator/prey than one of my neighbor is with rest of the world, fer sher!