If you haven't read any "Chicken Scratch" yet, start here with Part 1
These new, adorable chicks needed names, of course.
After suggesting "Hennrietta" or "Gertrude", which I thought were perfectly appropriate for lady chickens, Emilia took charge by saying that they needed "pretty, fancy names". So, I gave her the reigns and for the Araucanas she choose "Grace" and "Alicia" (say "Uh-lee-see-uh" because that's WAY more fancy). As she was trying to come up with a name for the Barred Rock chick, it kept cheeping and cheeping, so I suggested that we name her "Cheepers". Even though it wasn't very creative, the kids loved it!
With the naming of the chickens completed, we were now able to enjoy watching them grow. Once they got too big (a.k.a. STINKY) for the basement they went into the garage until it was warm enough for them to be outside in the chicken tractor. While they were in our garage, I noticed that Grace and Cheepers were picking on Anastasia. They had pecked so hard at her neck that it was bleeding.
My first thought was, "YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING!!!" Not another bloody chicken saga!
I was determined not to lose this chicken!
I had this great idea to protect her neck from the others and herself. Using a tiny paper cup, I made Anastasia a chicken-sized cone for her head. You know the kind that dogs wear when they can't stop biting at a red, swollen wound?
I considered patenting the idea before I tried it out. However, after I put the cone on Anastasia, I realized why no one had ever done such a stupid thing.
Once the cone was fastened (with duct tape no less) on Anastasia, her neck immediately flopped to the side and she lay there very still. I thought I killed her. Then in a wild frenzy, with her head still laying on the ground, she thrashed around the box.
It was at once, the saddest, most hilarious thing I had ever seen! I worked quickly to get the cone off her neck before she broke something. I then contemplated my next course of action.
Off to the internet I went to read all I could on how to get the other chickens to stop eating their friend.
And I found out that I needed...drum roll please...
Axle Grease. Who knew?!
I found a blob of black grease on the axle of our riding mower that I thought would work just fine. I smeared that grease all over the neck of the poor bird and watched as she pecked at herself trying ever so diligently, and frantically, to get her feathers cleaned. I was pretty sure she'd eat so much that she would die of grease poisoning.
Turned out that she never died from eating it and the other birds didn't peck her after she was covered with the sticky blackness. In awhile she was completely cured. She didn't even need counseling for her time spent wearing "the cone".
Weeks went by and these girls were growing rather nicely. Their feathers were coming in full and colorful. They stopped picking on each other once they were able to be outside free ranging during the day, sleeping in the tractor at night.
The kids and I really enjoyed watching our pets. We "played" with them daily. We handled them frequently so that they (and we!) would be used to it. We longingly anticipated the day when we would eat our first golden yolk. It was so close now. They were nearing that 20 week mark when they would begin their laying careers.
And then, one morning, I went outside to feed them and let them out of the tractor to enjoy their daily freedom. I remember looking out at their coop where I usually saw them anxiously waiting, thrusting their heads in and out of the fencing in anticipation of my arrival. But this time, I didn't see them. I wondered if I had accidentally left the tractor propped up overnight like I had done once before and they had already started eating their breakfast. But no. The coop was down.
I picked up my pace. Remember how I mentioned before that staples used to fasten fencing on a coop is a bad idea? Well, it is. A really bad idea. The fencing had been ripped open, pulling all the staples out, rather easily, exposing our precious birds.
I gathered my wits as I surveyed the damage. I saw the scene in my mind. Cage ripped open. Our birds startled awake and filled with terror as some ferocious animal(s) dragged each squawking bird to their demise in the woods.
There were three piles of feathers around the tractor. One white, one brown, and one speckled black and white.
Emilia came out then and looked at the piles in shock as tears filled her pretty blue eyes.
I was so mad at that animal! I was so mad at myself! I knew that the staples wouldn't hold and I had been meaning to fasten it more securely with nails, but hadn't gotten around to it. Procrastination is not a good thing.
I felt so responsible and so sick.
Emilia sadly walked to the piles and took one feather from each. She kept the three feathers in her room for about a year, every now and then running her fingers across the softness. Remembering.