October 3, 2006

Got Chickens?

El Jefe picked up our little chickens today from a very nice lady, grandmother to a friend of his. A hen and a rooster. They are bantams, which is a miniature of whatever breed they are. I have no idea but the mom and pop are really pretty birds. The parents are the chickens in the picture in the millipede article. Maybe someone will give me a guess about the breed. And I still need to know about those toxic millipedes.

We put them in a dog crate today because the dogs went crazy when El Jefe brought them home. I think the dogs just wanted to play with them but they were scaring the birds half to death. I spent half the day rescuing the chickens anyway.

Zoe, the Chihuahua, got a hold of the hen's tail and was trying to pull her out of the pen. I was screaming. The dogs were all barking. The birds were squawking. Feathers were flying everywhere.

A little later I opened the crate to put some food in and the hen flew out. She flew all the way down to the bottom of the hill where we have the 'banana plantation.' Wow! I didn't know chickens could fly like that. She was hiding among the plants on the hill but we found her.

Then we decided that we would put the dogs inside and let the chickens check out the place and do whatever it is that chickens do. (Eat and poop?) The hen flew up in a low tree and I was able to catch her. The rooster hid under the Rhoeo spathacea which is quite thick. We looked and looked for him and began to think that he had waddled off somewhere else when we weren't looking.

We brought out Chloe, the Rottweiller/Doberman − on a very short and tight leash − to help us find the rooster. She did right away. Not only did she find him but she decided to pick him up by his head. His whole head and neck and part of his body were in the dogs mouth! I was screaming again. I think Chloe was just trying to show off (I hope). She does this with the Chihuahuas, too − puts their whole head in her mouth, just to show them what she could do if she wanted to. Anyway, the bird was all slobbery, but fine. Back to the crate for them.

Later on I was giving them some more food. They were outside on the terraza in their crate (coop for now) and the dogs were inside. Zoe snuck outside without me knowing it and a little while later I heard barking and squawking and ran outside to find the hen on top of a 7' (2.1 m.)
andamio (scaffold). The pen was closed; she had flown through the 2" (5 cm.) space in the wires of the pen.

I was I afraid I would scare her and she would fly off again, so I just kept talking softly and gave her some food. She was so funny. She would crane her neck and turn her head from side to side looking at me, as if to say, "What the heck are you talking about?" I could just barely reach by standing on the stairs but luckily she let me pick her up and put her away again.

You may have noticed that I didn't mention Joey, the Chihuahua. Joey was a good boy. Actually he was a little scaredy-cat. Whenever he was around the chickens, he would hide behind me.

Tonight we have the dog pen inside because I don't trust Chloe to be outside with them yet. I put a towel over the pen, hoping that would discourage them from flying around. They have already lost so many feathers from banging around that pen. I think you can see in the photos that they look a little bald around the head, poor guys.

I remembered reading that chickens like to roost so I put a broom handle through the wires of the pen. When I checked a little later, sure enough they were both roosting. I let Chloe back inside for a while and she just laid down by the pen watching them. That's a good sign.

My plan is that they will be my gardening assistants, eating bugs and weeds and providing manure, and hopefully one day, providing little teeny-tiny eggs, too. My friend in Iowa has warned me that they eat everything, including the plants you don't want them to eat, so I'll have to figure out how to handle that.

Here in Honduras, people are very nonchalant about their chickens and other animals. The chickens free range in the yard, the street, the neighbors' yards, and I guess drop eggs wherever. I've never even seen a chicken coop here.

El Jefe also is very pragmatic, saying they have to get used to the dogs. That's not how I am. I'm already worried sick that something will happen to them or I'll do something to k*** them. I've been doing some reading about keeping chickens but I don't feel at all comfortable yet. I've never been around chickens before. Hopefully, I'll be a fast learner or they will be the tough, independent Honduran chickens.

Oh, I forgot to say: Their names are Ramón and Ramona. They seem to like to have their pictures taken.
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