"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority ... the Constitution was made to guard against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." - Noah Webster

"There is no worse tyranny than forcing a man to pay for what he does not want just because you think it would be good for him."
-- Robert A. Heinlein

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ebony and Ivory and Golden Comets

"Did I say you could lay down there?"
This hasn't happened often, but that's not to say that it won't happen a lot more often in the future.  Caught the four-legged critters almost cozying up to the wood stove on a cold morning.  Typically, they ignore each other.  Moxie would love to play, but CassPurr will have none of it, and I've trained Moxie that she can't chase CassPurr.  The cat just continuing to lay there and tolerate the dog being that close was a real first. Maybe when it starts getting really cold, we might catch them actually touching.

On Sunday evening, I experimented with letting the chickens from Ark I out.  Grass and other greenery is getting scarcer by the day, and the places where it is still growing are not places you would want to try to roll one of the arks.

If you are a flatlander, it is pretty hard to get a feel for what our yard is like just from looking at our pictures.  I know, because I'm a Florida boy and spent most of my life there. But I've been in North Georgia for over 10 years now.  But actually living nestled on the side of a mountain is challenging. We are blessed to be on a south facing slope, even though Twyla wasn't even contemplating that when she bought this place.  This is just one of the many examples of how God directs our steps even though we are not aware of it.

Anyway, yesterday afternoon, I took a bigger step in letting both arks open.  While the golden comets didn't seem shy at all about getting out and seeing the world, the black sexlinks seemed completely baffled or unsure about my offer of some freedom.  I had to lure them out with some dandelion leaves and even then only two of them got out immediately.  Even Brewster wouldn't come out until I had walked about 50 yards away.

At first, the situation drove Moxie nuts.  "Who do I herd first?" seemed to be the question as she paced back and forth between them.  Brewster was ready to fight.  All the hens seemed to care not at all.  Moxie would walk up behind a hen and sniff it's butt and the chicken would act like she wasn't there.

Because the chickens have been separated for so long, they see the other flock as competition to be driven off if they get too close.  That is, among the hens.  Brewster on the other hand, sees the five hens from Ark I as potential additions to his harem in Ark II.  So I had to intervene a couple of times to drive them to their respective sides of the yard.  Brewster tried to herd one of the goldens over to his side, but a hen from Ark II immediately attacked the golden and a fight ensued that I had to break up.  It was only one little incident in a 90 minute period.  I would alternate between cutting wood and looking out every few minutes to see where they were.  For the most part, they stayed in their respective areas of the yard.

"Do these feathers make me look fat?"
 They seemed to like areas where the leaves and debris had remained mostly undisturbed, such as under the azaleas or crepe myrtles, since there seemed to be more grubs or insects.  Which reminds me, I actually had a dragonfly buzz my head in the back yard yesterday.  The day before that there were some butterflies feeding from the tiny blue flowers on the back slope.

Twyla helped me herd the chickens back into their arks.  That was some fun. Because we were trying to get them in before dark was settling in, I knew I would have to lure them back in with food.  They probably would have made their way back to their roosts naturally, but I was impatient. I got Twyla to bring out a can of pellets, and as soon as they saw her walking down the hill with the can, they all came running from both directions.  Territorial rivalries were forgotten at that moment, and as we got all of the Ark I team inside, we now had to get Ark II away from there and moving toward home. During the confusion around Ark I with both groups of hens, Twyla asked how I knew which ones to shove away.  "Look at their backs."  The ones from Brewster's brood have bare spots on the rearward part of their backs where he mounts them.

"Hyaahhh!  Get along little dohggies!"
As I get more comfortable with their behavior and the safety of both the chickens and my garden, I'll see how often I can let them out.  I'll try to give them an hour before roost time when possible.

Maybe by next year I'll have enough experience to drive the herd across the range to the south and down to the market in Atlanta.  Maybe not.

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