Winter kill or survival of the fittest

A brief respite from the cold allowed for the chickens to stretch their legs and strut around the pen pecking freely at apples, cracked corn and the flock block. The pressed block of grains is great in helping in alleviating boredom as well as supplying protein to the hens. The reprieve also emboldened some of the ladies to attempt flight and make a run for greener pastures. Where they thought the greener pastures might be is certainly a mystery to the farmer as all that is visible is a sea of continuous unbroken white. Who said chickens were very bright anyhow?

Well as anybody who lives locally knows the warming pattern was oh so brief. So much so in fact that less then 12 hours later the snow and cold had retrenched itself.  School was delayed and canceled due to the conditions and the young farmers had another winter day to play. While sipping a cup of tea the farmer casually surveyed the landscape while keeping an eye on the young snow covered youngsters.

A strange shadow caught the eye immediately adjacent to the snow blanketed garden. It was not a child or a dog, but it was size able. More serious scrutiny determined it was a bird of flight, a rather big one. After reading about the Cooper Hawk recently spotted at Lockwood Farms across the lake could a similar bird be at Schoolhouse Farms? Armed with a digital camera the farmer hastily went to investigate.

The farmer quickly cut across the drive and headed in the direction of the bird. Whoosh the large dark shaped bird wheeled away. As the farmer attempted to utilize the camera whoosh a second formally unseen bird took flight as well. Rattled and mildly spooked the farmer beat a hasty retreat to the safety of the homestead not sure if the large birds were about to attack.

Enough dramatics the real question was what were the birds doing? The answer did not reveal itself until later in the day when it came time to refresh the water for the flock. While carrying the water containers down from the pens it was noted that one of the hens seemed to have lost feathers as evidence by a few scattered in the snow.  As the farmer took a couple steps further the true scope of what had transpired earlier at the hands of those large birds was revealed. A fully eviscerated carcass in a circle of lost plumage lay before the farmer! This was the first time in the farmer’s history of chicken keeping that such carnage had occurred. Amazing how a little warm weather and a chicken with a pea size brain can change the landscape literally and figuratively!

We thought of posting an image of the feather pattern but chose instead an image of activity taking place simultaneously at an unadulterated location far away from the fray! Bad hair day seemed a better fit!


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