The holidays are long here, especially when they are punctuated by the sound of fireworks about every ten seconds, a condition that begins right around the first of December and has yet to end. I am told that some time next week is the official end of the holiday season but I'm not keeping my fingers crossed. Our dear friends, Jan and Sheila, left yesterday afternoon to go back to the States after spending a month with us. We will miss them; Bump and Wheedle will miss them.
Bump, as you my recall, or maybe I haven't blogged about him, is the female chick who miraculously turned out to be a male after all but one of his chick-mates succumbed to a strange Ecuadorian malady called gape worm. The other survivor, Wheedle, is a Transylvanian naked neck chicken, a breed not known for its good looks, but are excellent layers I am told. Gape worm disease occurs when free-range chickens pick up the eggs of the gape worm in their daily rounds, and these eggs eventually hatch and turn into worms that crawl up the esophagus and attach themselves right near the windpipe, where they tend to block respiration and make the chicken sound like it has pneumonia. The chickens walk around gasping for breath and thus the name; they open their beaks wide and look to be belching or something very near to that. Anyway, five of the seven chicks met their feathery maker during the siege and only Bump and Wheedle survived.
As a result of their survival and my sentimental nature, Bump and Wheedle have had the run of the place during their development, the run of the place meaning, free access to the lettuce patch, their own special Narnia of a field of very tall cosmos, and the right, apparently, to poop wherever they please, which usually turns out to be somewhere very close to each of the doors of our house. This can cause quite a commotion with the humans who live on the property, namely Mary the woman who claims that we've been married for 40+ years, but still has been unable to locate the actual certificate to prove this allegation. Mary does not appreciate chicken poop on her sidewalks and in her doorways and for some time has brought up the issue of whether Bump and Wheedle are now old enough to make the leap from free-range to the Big House, where the three other chickens live, or might I say, lie in wait for the inevitable arrival of what they like to call "fresh meat".
My stance has been that B and W are still mourning the loss of their cage-mates and need time to work through the process of growing up, while Mary subscribes to the notion that if you're old enough to poop, you're old enough to integrate. I suggested that the trauma B suffered from being thought to be the opposite gender for the early critical weeks of his life absolutely demanded his freedom from incarceration for an additional one to two month period. Mary compromised and said we could leave it up to Jan and Sheila, which was a boon for my team because Jan and Sheila are easily bribed and so Bump and Wheedle maintained their freedom during the entire month of J and S's month long stay.
But, as I mentioned, they are now winging their way back to America, and Bump and Wheedle are facing the Mary Tribunal, meaning they are doomed because one Mary makes up an entire tribunal, and she gets the only vote.
"They must want to be with their own species," she says. "I think it's natural. Even I dream of one day being placed back with a husband who is actually a homo sapiens." Funny.
"The older chickens will attack them because they're not fully grown yet," I counter.
"And just where do you think the phrase, Pecking Order, comes from?"
I don't dare tell her where I really think it comes from and I relent. When it comes down to the soles of my shoes, I'm not the greatest fan of poop either. Bump is easy to capture. I just throw down a few grains of cracked corn and he is mine. Wheedle, on the other hand, who apparently has been taking lessons from Mary, is suspicious of my generosity in the middle of the day, and decides to engage in free ranging for an additional period of time.
I could show you pictures, but I try to keep depictions of violence at a minimum in this blog, so suffice it to say, the addition of Bump to the seasoned "lifers" in the Big House, did not produce positive results. Bump, forgetting he was a cock, ran from them like a little baby girl chick, making all sorts of non-cock noises as he found a safe hiding place on top of the woodpile, where he shook so hard, his feathers started floating to the ground.
"See?" I said to Mary. "See what you've done to that innocent little cock?"
She nodded and said, "It wouldn't be the first time." Funny again. A humorist in my own midst.
Meanwhile, Wheedle found a spot where she could talk to Bump through the electrified razor chicken wire (not really, but the image is kind of funny), and he was able to unload his emotional baggage and ask her to ask the powers that be to re-think the decision and perhaps allow her to bring a corn cake into the pen, and would she be so kind and clever to hide some kind of wire cutters in it and spring him from the vicious trap he'd been placed in.
But, unbeknownst to the trusting Wheedle, I was able to sneak up from behind and grab her and introduce her to the new digs, which served to take the immediate heat off Bump, and allow his escape to the far end of the pen.
So much squawking and cursing ensued; the chickens cursed, I squawked, that I finally had to leave these animals and let them sort out the so-called pecking order. Which they have done nicely. The latest news from the Big House is that Bump and Wheedle have established themselves as the new chicks on the block and they have kindly agreed to let the old hens eat their fill before they try to edge in and nourish themselves. Things have calmed down considerably.
Meanwhile, back inside the human house, having seen the orderly way in which the chickens solved their problem, Mary has now instituted some rules and established a new pecking order. I no longer am a free-range husband. I must preen myself in a fashion that pleases my wife. I have to present myself for inspection on a regular basis. But I drew the line on one requirement that Mary eventually caved on.
I am not required to lay any eggs. Except, it seems, for this blog post.