The chickens are approaching the age of 16 weeks old. That means that the long-awaited EGGS are practically right around the corner…or not…I’m told that they typically start laying at around the age of 20 weeks…which means I still have a month to go. That doesn’t stop me from hanging around the chicken coop with a catcher’s mitt waiting for that first egg to shoot out of a pullet though!
I’ve noticed some…um…maturing happening with the chickens. When I went out to the coop last night, Vinnie’s comb was six times the size it had been that morning…well, maybe not six times, but it was definitely bigger. In the half awake state that I see the chickens in when I go to let them out in the morning, I couldn’t even tell you if they even HAVE combs. Cluck and Vinnie both, have MUCH larger combs though. Vinnie’s wattles have gotten very large and long and are very red. He thinks he’s a pretty big deal. Cluck doesn’t really have wattles, but his comb has grown to this weird-looking wad of red flesh on his head. Not very attractive, but then I’m not a female chicken, so what do I know? At any rate, the boys are looking pretty darn “manly” these days.
The pullets are changing too. The Wyandottes look like they’ve taken make-up lessons from a drag queen. WAY too much blush. Their faces are bright red and their rose combs are growing quickly too. Same with the black sex links. Suddenly, all of the girls have wattles except for Roseanna (the crazy one) and Gloria. Both of them are Ameraucanas. I’m assuming they mature later than the others. Sweet Opal, a Buff Orpington), previously had a very pale face and comb…it’s now bright pink with touches of red that seem to darken daily.
My babies are growing up.
Remember in grade school when they separated the boys and the girls and gave us “THE TALK”? I think I was in fifth grade and they gave us a little book called “Growing Up and Liking It”. I read that thing cover to cover. I recently found a copy online and read the darn thing again. Dumbest thing I’ve ever read. I was going to try to find a hard copy to leave in the chicken coop, but it looks like I’ll just have to do “The Talk” myself.
Because I’d totally make Tom do it.
Last night, I was hanging out by the chicken run and the flock was snarfing down a pile of fresh chickweed that I’d picked for them. They eat that stuff faster than it grows, by the way. Anyway, Cluckzilla glided over to Opal and her freshly pink face and comb and stood next to her for a moment. She kept pecking the ground for invisible scratch and didn’t seem to notice him. He leaned over and softly pecked her back. No response. So, Cluck must have thought he was being too subtle and he pecked her on the back and then on the head and then he just stood there. Opal, who I’ve noticed doesn’t put up with much nonsense, squealed and pecked him in the throat. Cluck, of course, panicked and ran for the hills…which means he only ran to the end of the run and went to hide in the coop to nurse his hurt feelings. At this point, I had no idea what was going on. Opal resumed her scratching for scratch and pretty soon, Cluck returned.
Cluck stood a little distance away from Opal. He just watched her and sort of inched himself closer and closer. He delivered a peck to her back and this time Opal FREAKED OUT and went after him.
You lose a lot of your rooster machismo when you run like a fraidy-chicken.
Since it had happened twice, and I’m fascinated by chicken behavior and I had my phone with me as usual, I looked up what this behavior might mean. The article that I read from some learned poultry person said that often, just prior to mating the rooster signals the hen that she should squat down for some “lovin'” by pecking her on the back and head. They usually only do this if they can sense that the female has reached a point where she’s fertile and about to lay an egg. Hmmm….Cluck only did this to Opal. Was that because he’s just horny and she’s cute (because, you know, she’s the Cutest Chicken in the LAND), or was her new pink face and possibly chicken pheromones the answer? They’re JUST sixteen weeks old, but I suppose the teenage chicken hormones could be raging as they rocket along through chicken puberty.
I think I might install the nest boxes this week and stand next to them with my catcher’s mitt and egg basket.
Vinnie, by the way, other than having that crazy red comb, face and wattles, has not made any overtures to any of the females. He’d rather search for snacks and push other chickens off of perches or disrupt everyone’s dust bathing by stampeding through The Dust Bowl. I’d say that he’s the subordinate rooster, but Cluck is SUCH a cream puff!
One evening I was sitting next to the run…with my phone…you never know when you might need to take a photo. I pulled up a rooster crowing on Youtube. As usual, everyone froze and just listened. Vinnie chicken footed it over to where I was sitting and I turned the screen so that he could watch the rooster crow. He shoved one eye up against the fencing so that he could see and I watched his pupils dilate and contract, dilate and contract while the rooster crowed on the screen. I finally just stopped letting him watch because his eye was freaking me out. He has these weird yellow eyes anyway. He stood there and clucked and made a weird “RAAAAWRRRRRR” noise under his breath. I told him he’d had enough computer time and to get lost. Because he has the attention span of a gnat, he wandered away to watch for leaves falling from the hackberry tree next to the run. He’s currently obsessed with eating the fallen leaves…which keeps him busy. Occasionally I’ll hold a leaf about three feet above his head and he’ll jump for it like a dolphin. Endlessly amusing.
So, if you need me this weekend, I’ll be sprucing up nesting boxes, oiling my catcher’s mitt and hanging out in the chicken coop. I’m endlessly optimistic…and totally naïve…and possibly a fool.
I just want to make sure I order that “WELCOME EGG” cake and get the party decorations up. I’m sure you’ll hear me screeching from wherever you are if an egg happens to make its appearance. If it doesn’t happen to show up and you don’t hear from me, you might want to get a hold of Tom and send him out to the coop. I’ll be the one face-down in the shavings, sound asleep from my egg vigil and wearing a catcher’s mitt.
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