Everything Wants to Eat Everything

With every plunge of the shovel I feel some relief.  I’m digging out strawberries, and monitoring the dog-bit hen Sweet Tart, who is happily dustbathing in her newly partitioned end of the hoophouse.

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After three days and three nights in here with Sweet Tart, our newest hen Maybelline tore off Sweet Tart’s scab and drilled deep into her thigh.  The Bearded One saved the day, but he had to throw a glove at Maybelline to do it.  She was in a crazed feeding frenzy, eating raw meat like a ravenous carnivore.  That I subjected Sweet Tart to this torture is weighing on me.  Everything on a farm is life and death, I think.  Everything wants to eat everything!  I can’t get my mind around it, so I’m spending the day digging.  Shovel therapy.

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I’m removing the strawberries that I transplanted from one of the circle gardens last summer.  We’ll give a bucket of starts to Momma Goose and a bucket to the neighbor who gave us Maybelline.  Then I’ll plant broccoli, cabbage and kale seeds.  But first I shovel in well-done chicken manure compost from last year’s meat bird pen.

I’ve read that birds evolved from dinosaurs.  It makes sense.  All chickens will attack an open wound on another chicken.

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It’s just one of those chicken things.  The way it is.  Dig.  Pick out rocks.  Dig some more.  Rake.

The Bearded One finally got Maybelline off of Sweet Tart, who laid there passively accepting her fate, after having been chased around furiously for goodness knows how long.  We re-doctored the bloody wound and moved her back to the house for the afternoon.

Maybelline spent the afternoon in the hoophouse, and then we put her on the roost up in the coop with the rest of our hens that night.  It worked.  They accepted her the next day with hardly any hassles partly because she is enormous.

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Sweet Tart will stay by herself in the hoophouse until she is completely and totally healed.

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I stop working and check her wound again.  It’s a lovely yellowish brown crust of gunk.  I can even make out a little face in the dried skin.  Nothing looks gross to me anymore.

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Since Maybelline has been in with the other hens, we’ve had two pecked eggs in the nests.

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Chickens will eat their own eggs if given a taste.  We’ve had this problem before, but not for many months.  Last time we used plastic Easter eggs to fool and discourage them, and it worked.

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We don’t know for sure which hen is doing the pecking, and I don’t want to blame Maybelline for everything.  The Bearded One says he is fine with blaming her.

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I am actually sweating now, and have to take off my hat.  It’s 55 degrees in here.  40 degrees outside.

I put Sweet Tart down and she flaps wildly then limps out into the sun to peck under the blueberry bushes.  Garfield crouches on the deck, and both Ruby, who is beside the deck, and I monitor him as he acts like he’s not monitoring Sweet Tart, which he most certainly is.

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And then the Bearded One comes out of the house with a plate and a glass.  Bless him, he is bringing me lunch.  He sets a tall glass of water on the railing as he unlatches the gate at the top of the deck stairs, then walks down past the cat, the dog, and the chicken.

Sweet Tart’s partitioned area in the hoophouse has an old picnic table with her nest box at one end.  I brush off the dried chicken poop and then take off my dirty gloves.  My hands are not clean and I don’t care. The Bearded One lays out napkins and the beautiful plate — a chicken sandwich, chips, and orange slices.

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“I don’t hold anything against Maybelline,” I say, crunching a chip.  “It was just too long with a hurt chicken and she snapped.”

“She snacked,” says the Bearded One.

I roll my eyes and take a big bite of my home-grown chicken sandwich.  Everything wants to eat everything — I guess that includes me.

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12 responses to “Everything Wants to Eat Everything

  1. We are all trying to become one, some faster than others.

  2. Oh,Christi, I follow along, working out the trauma with you. Yes, it’s a dog eat dog world; is that what my parents used to say? So good to hear the stories of your days on the farmlet. Hoping that Maybelline shapes up (keep thinking of the makeup).

    • Happy Birthday to you today, Sheila! And may you have excellent eats as you celebrate your beautiful 65 years. I always think of Long-Lash Black Mascara when I see Maybelline. 🙂

  3. Hens can be such bitches can’t they? The “pecking order” is literal as much as metaphorical and we see it every day in our hen house. Maybelline is proving why she was the only chook left… she probably tormented her old coop-mate so much she left home! How funny that we are planting the same seeds! I will be adding Brussels Sprouts and broad beans to my list along with more spinach, silverbeet and beetroot (to which I am now heartily addicted 😉 ).
    Ruminating about life and its intricacies as you work…a girl after my own heart! I had my own henhouse attack moment from my own sister yesterday on FB. When you open old scabs and start picking at fresh meat you can really wound something and whether you are aiming to be top dog or not, you have to be so careful about launching into the fray and I spent my own time ruminating about wounds as I watered the veggie garden after walking the dogs yesterday…I seethe…I seethe silently while things form new scabs and heal over and I can release it into the ether. Thanks for wading into the debate by the way…you are my hero! 🙂
    When you stop gagging and protesting about gunge and gunk and scabs and poop and slime you can truly call yourself a farmgirl! You have made it Christi! ;). I am still at the gagging stage I am afraid and have a ways to go 😉
    THat shot of Garfield, Ruby and Sweet Tart is like a shot from The Ok Corral! Garfield is most CERTAINLY monitoring Sweet Tart and in her weakened state she probably wouldn’t be able to do much against a sneak attack. Methinks it would be more a teritorial thing with Garfield as it was with Maybelline. Everything wants to be “Top Dog!” It’s a constant struggle here with 2 male dogs and Earl aims to win every battle no matter how small. Bezial won’t give up and sometimes it is just a seething mass of sulking dogs and frustrated humans but one day it will settle down (I can feel a month of sundays spent seething as I water over THIS one! 😉 )

    • I’m going to plant Fava Beans, too, Fran. Are those a broad bean? LOL about Earl aiming to win every battle “no matter how small.” So true, not only about some dogs but also some humans. And I completely and totally understand about family and picking at old scabs, then at the raw flesh….oooo, a great analogy there, my dear. Here’s to staying out of the fray, or at least to getting out of it before there’s blood. Hugs with love to my sister farmlet in Tasmania http://www.theroadtoserendipity.wordpress.com 🙂

  4. Dear Christi,

    I’m quite taken with the photograph of dog, cat, chicken. Somehow quite “Zen” to me. I’m watching the finches & chickadees going at the feeders in my back yard. I’ve deliberately stocked them with seeds excluding sunflower to discourage the jays squirrels and rats. This plan is only partially successful. Plus I have a hunter cat too. She’s bound to catch something to activate my guilt complex. I’m cheering for Sweet Tart, hope Maybelline is innocent lest she receive an invitation to dinner…

    • I love that photo, too, Terri, and was shocked that it turned out. I was on my hands and knees in the sweetpea teepee and the camera was thinking long and hard about every picture before it agreed, adjusting light and focus. Every good picture I take is a complete accident, especially of chickens. Thanks for checking in, my friend, and may you feed all the beautiful birds in Olympia. 🙂

  5. Christine Widman

    Yes, Being on the planet is all about calorie intake. Pecking order. Survival of the fittest.
    I am sure that is why every culture had some kind of Ten Commandments. Created by an individual of the tribe who for whatever unknown reason had a form of higher thought – some hope of setting up a plan to elevate our thinking and our action.
    As you know, I’m not much of a food-on-the-brain person…and I so appreciate when my love brings me nourishment on a pretty plate. A kind of body/soul restorative. Tell the Bearded One I loved his drawing of this for you.
    lolololol…”The Bearded One says he is fine with blaming her”…lololol
    I felt the say way!!!!!
    Hugs, hugs, hugs for your tenderness toward all creatures great and small.
    C

    • Christine, your anthropological interpretation is profound and I’ve been thinking about it all day. And in the meantime, my friend Brian Rush read the blog and emailed to me this perfect companion comment to yours…

      “It’s a great picture of the cruelty of nature at its deep levels. Compassion is an emergent property and requires a minimum of intelligence which chickens don’t have. Dogs do, and so do humans, but even in humans it’s precarious and can be overridden by hunting instincts, fear, anger, greed, ambition, and a thousand other things.”

      Chickens don’t have compassion, this I have observed first hand. They are fascinating group-oriented creatures, and have varied personalities, but I have yet to see one stick up for another one.

      The Bearded One says, “Thank yew, Christine.”

  6. Absolutely got me thinking about the way nature works. Survival of the fittest I guess also means survival of the most cruel and the least empathetic….now this crazy, upside down culture we live in makes a little more sense. The culture where people are used and things are loved seems inherently wrong to me. I guess one of my ancestors must have been a commandment writer in His/her society. Great post Christi and Great drawings too! ❤

    • So good to hear from you, Kathie :)….and the most cruel and least empathetic may survive in the short term, but not in the long. Unfortunately, there is no long-term in our human psyches yet, seems like. At least American ones! Yes, you come from the commandment writers, I feel sure of it.

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