Descent Into Madness

 

“But his soul was mad…it had looked within itself, and by heavens!  I tell you, it had gone mad.”         – Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

“’The tyrant grinds down his slaves and they don’t turn against him; they crush those beneath them.’”    – Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights

“If for one instant I had thought what might be the hellish intention of my fiendish adversary, I would rather have banished myself forever from my native country and wandered a friendless outcast over the earth…But, as if possessed of magic powers, the monster had blinded me to his real intentions.”    – Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

You get the idea.

Clucky is tormented by Yo-Yo’s extreme cuteness.

Warning:  We now enter a dark chapter of The Chicken Chronicles.  (Hopefully the darkest.)  What started as the sweet springtime addition of two new chicks to our flock all too soon went terribly and horribly wrong.  It quickly became apparent that new chick Yo-Yo was not going to be nearly as big as the other chickens.  While that does make her extra adorable in our eyes, it unfortunately painted a target on her back (specifically her neck feathers) for Gigi and Clucky, our two established hens.  They jumped on her, pecked at her, it was awful.  Short of outfitting Yo-Yo in a tiny suit of armor—which we did discuss, but just couldn’t quite figure out the specifics on—nothing seemed to keep the older chickens away from her.

Fellow new chick Amy was spared similar harsh treatment, being roughly the size and build of the other two, but the stress got to her nonetheless–in very bizarre and disturbing ways.  Amy started eating eggs, including her own.  We had read about “egg eaters” in various chicken books, but had failed to truly grasp the horror. (“She’s a cannibal?!?!”)

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Amy too started acting aggressively, although not towards any of the other chickens.

Instead she targeted our 2-year-old grandson, Darian (aka Mr. Bubby).

Not cool, Amy.

No, we didn’t put a helmet-cam on Bubby.  But if we had, it probably would have looked a lot like this.

We tried a number of different tactics to deter this behavior, none of which were especially succesful.  One particularly spectacular fail was when we armed Bubby with a vuvuzela (it was the summer of the World Cup in South Africa, after all) and gave him the green light to blow it at Amy if she started to look threatening.  For the record, this did work to keep Amy away, but it also scared Yo-Yo so badly that she ended up on the roof of the chicken coop and was only able to be coaxed down after an intervention involving the removal of aforementioned vuvuzela.

All Doughty family attempts at chicken behavior modification having thus far proved fruitless, perhaps it was time to go back to the drawing board.


Chicks 2.0

Yo-Yo (on the floor) and Amy (being held) with our friend Natalie

After a long hiatus, The Chicken Chronicles resumes!  But first, a recap:

Marlena was in a coma while two different men claimed to be her long-lost husband…no wait, that was Days Of Our Lives!  Only slightly less drama with our Gals in the backyard…

First there were Clucky, Gigi, and Babraham.  Babraham was revealed to be a rooster (while Clucky was revealed to be the Death Star and Gigi just one heck of a cool chicken).  Sadly, Jasmine’s beloved Babraham Lincoln was forced to relocate–to a sweet setup on Vashon Island, it should be noted–and we were down to two chickens.  And two grandsons. 

Over the next fall and winter, there was much talk about a replacement chicken for Jasmine and perhaps even a chicken for Tristan (nine years old and an animal lover through and through).  Everything we read advised against introducing a single new chick to a flock (even just a two-chicken flock like ours), strongly suggesting bringing in two or more at a time instead. 

So in Spring 2010, Rick brought home two more chicks—a Delaware for Tristan and another Auracana for Jasmine. 

Tristan holds Amy

Tristan, a big Sonic the Hedgehog fan, named his chick Amy, after the “pink girl hedgehog who believes herself to be Sonic’s girlfriend” (thank you, Wikipedia*).  Jasmine christened her adorable little chick Yo-Yo. 

Amy and Yo-Yo lived in the house–just as Clucky, Gigi, and Babraham had during their chickhood.  Clucky and Gigi still had full run of the back yard and for the most part remained blissfully unaware of the new additions.  Could Clucky sense a distrubance in the force?  It was hard to tell.  But soon enough it would be time for the new chicks to join the flock.

Talk about drama. 

 

*Wikipedia also notes that “Amy’s skills with her ‘Piko Piko Hammer’ are second to none”.  This may be significant, except that I have no idea what it means.

 


Hours, Days, Seasons, Chickens

Autumn 2008 saw us settling into an agreeable, albeit chaotic, routine around the Doughty homestead. 

Jasmine was now 17 and a high school junior, busy with friends, school, friends, band, and friends.  Tristan was settling into the second grade at our neighborhood school, having found several good buddies of his own and even a girlfriend.  Mr. Bubby was branching out, too.  We had found a daycare right across the street from Jasmine’s high school, itself only about a quarter mile down the road from my work.  Jaz would walk over after school and hang out with Bubby and his “wife” Lucy (I swear sometimes they looked just like Archie Bunker and Edith) and the other kids at daycare until I got off work, picked up Tristan, and then swung by the daycare before we all headed home.  

The boys’ mom had set us up on Skype before she left for Afghanistan, so we were able to talk to her that way, as well as via telephone and, of all things, Facebook.  Our middle daughter, Misty, had recently set up a Facebook account for me (thank you, Misty!) and I used it to post countless pictures of the boys so their mom could see what we were doing each day.

We did not watch or listen to the news during that time; rather, we attempted to stay in the moment as best we could.  The anxiety we all felt knowing our daughter/mother/sister was in Afghanistan was offset by daily adventures and milestones. 

One particular celebration I remember was when Gig and Clucky, now around six months old and chicks no longer, started to lay eggs.  Gigi was first, with her smallish, brown speckled eggs.  It took Clucky a while longer to figure things out, but she finally got the hang of it.  Her eggs were pinkish – easily distinguished from Gigi’s, so we could always  tell who was laying where or if one of them skipped a day.

We marked the occasion by baking a special “Chicken Cake” with those first few eggs.

Another memorable occasion was the clear fall day when we carved jack-o-lanterns on the patio, with Gigi and Clucky wandering through our legs, pecking the pumpkin seeds out of the pulp being slung everywhere.

 

That year, Tristan dressed up as Harry Potter for Halloween and Bubby was Yoda.  The next year, in 2009, we would go with an entirely Star Wars theme, per Tristan’s request — Clucky made a cameo appearance as the Death Star, Tristan was Boba Fett, Bubby was Yoda again (hey, the costume still fit), and their mom, having just returned safely from Afghanistan, was Princess Leia.

When a U.S. Marine goes out in public dressed up as Princess Leia, you know she’s happy to be home.


Move over, chickens…

Summer 2008 -- Clucky, Tristan, and Gigi at the back door

The dynamics of the Doughty homestead changed dramatically in the summer of 2008, when our two grandsons, Tristan and Darian (a/k/a Mr. Bubby) came to live with us for a year while their mom—our oldest daughter Amanda, a single mom and U.S. Marine—was deployed in Afghanistan.

Tristan, seven years old at the time, had to leave his dog, Aspen, and cat, Ginger, behind in North Carolina (although he did bring Spike, a sweet little white mouse).  He was eager to make friends with Clucky and Gigi.  Busy by nature (aren’t all boys that age?), Tristan was patient and gentle with The Gals as they got to know him.

One of Tristan’s favorite activities that summer was to collect leaves, flowers, and seeds from the backyard and concoct elaborate potions, which he would leave as offerings for Gigi.

Gigi seemed pleased.

Mr. Bubby, then only one year old, shared some similar interests with the chickens — primarily a love of crackers.  Clucky and Gigi were often spied trying to sneak in the back door while Bubby was occupied in his high chair, manufactuaring and dispersing copious amounts of cracker crumbs.

Bubby would also have involved and animated conversations with the chickens.

Sure would like to know what they were talking about…


A Disturbance in the Force

Clucky (left) and The Death Star (right) — compare and contrast

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When I was a kid, my parents always referred to last place as “the behind leader.”  Among our chicks, Clucky had been the unequivocal behind leader from day one.  It was actually pretty endearing. 

However, the unexpected departure of Babraham set in motion a profound change in the dynamics of our backyard flock.

Gigi, always Babraham’s faithful second in command, momentarily lost her bearings in the absence of the alpha chicken.  Though it took only a short time for Gigi to recover herself, by then it was too late.  Somehow, incredibly, Clucky had seized control of the coop.

The amount of time required for absolute power to corrupt Clucky’s tiny brain and questionable soul was truly staggering. 

It soon became increasingly difficult to ignore a striking similarity between Clukcy and the Death Star. 

A new era had begun.    


Farewell to Babraham

Soon there was no denying the fact that our beloved Babraham Lincoln was a rooster—which meant we could not keep him in our suburban neighborhood.  Heartbroken, we began the search for a new home for Babraham.

Rick posted a notice on an on-line backyard chicken forum and we were soon contacted by a family on Vashon Island seeking a rooster for their five hens.  Their young son had been chased by a rooster, so they were looking for just the right one to help him get past that bad experience.

After numerous e-mails back and forth, followed by additional phone conversations, we decided this sounded like it could be a good fit. 

Rick and Jasmine took the ferry to Vashon with Babraham and met the family.  They were lovely; Babraham had his new home.

We received a number of updates on Babraham over the next few months.  Some excerpts:

Just wanted to give you the one-week update on Babraham, and was inspired to do so last night by Babe himself. This week he has been fine, but still very shy around the other chickens…Thursday I was standing in the chicken house feeding him and he just jumped onto my arm. He missed being held! I held him in my arms and fed him, and pet him and let the kids feed him and pet him.

Last evening around dinner time, I thought Babe had already retired to the chicken house, but learned differently. I took [their daughter] into her room to get a fresh diaper before supper. And there was Babraham, just standing there on the carpet, for all the world looking as if he wanted to blend in as one of her stuffed animals…Babe had obviously been in there quite awhile, long enough to poop in two places. It was hysterical. I think he really likes human company!

Thanks so much for letting us be Babraham’s new people. I think he’s a great addition to our menagerie, and certainly he’s the best, most friendly rooster I could possibly imagine having.

That last one is pretty great, but our favorite came with the picture below and the subject line “Only problem with Babraham is he won’t quit coming in the house!”

Fare thee well, Babraham.  We love you.


The Truth About Babraham

Babraham, Gigi and Clucky lived in our kitchen for quite a while after we first brought them home.  They had a nice roomy cage with wood chips and a great view.  We also took them out often — Babraham, in particular, liked to sit on Jasmine’s lap and watch “Family Guy.”

 As they grew, we would take them outside and let them explore the back yard.  They stuck pretty close together on these outings, always following Babraham’s lead.

 Our intention had always been to have three hens.  Early on, we had joked about hoping we didn’t accidentally get a rooster. 

 More and more, it seemed like the rooster comments were made with all eyes on Babraham — who definitely seemed to be growing bigger, and more quickly than the other two.

And then came that fateful afternoon. 

Jaz and I were in the kitchen, fixing something to eat after school and work, when we heard a distinctive crowing noise.  You didn’t have to grow up on a farm to know what that noise was. 

Your basic “cock-a-doodle-doo” had just come from Babraham.

Jasmine and I looked at each other for a moment, then she wailed:

“My chicken’s a dude!!!”