yes yes, all you've heard is true, reports just in, I'm a grand-chicken! or maybe a mid-chickenwife, or hen-doula (hula!). I'm terrible at making puns.
Anyway, the hen that's been sitting finally hatched out her babies yesterday and today! Yesterday, both Rob and Diane were at work all day and I discovered there was a baby that had popped out of the nest (and when I say discovered, I mean that I heard a gigantic ruckus going on over by the chick and the hen). I freaked out, not knowing what to do, and helped the little thing back up. I discovered there was another sitting under the hen (who was still distrustful of me at this point and scolded me for helping). Later in the day I found there were at least 5 that I could see, sticking their adorable little heads out from under her wings. soo cute. Today I counted 9 and I moved them all (by myself, yes, Diane was sick all day) to a little hutch outside and hooked them up with hay, water, and some food-processed corn (yes, I used the food-processor to chop some already-cracked-corn so their little beaks could handle it). I took some pictures I'll add to my flickr page later. precious.
Since I'm on the topic and since they take up so much of my time, I'd like to talk a little more about chickens. I've been compiling thoughts and things I've learned about chickens since I got here. So there's that previous little story about hatching chicks. Then there are the roosters, with whom I have this sort of (totally) vengeful relationship. They're really cocky (pun intended), loud, and aggressive. They chase the hens around, grab their back/head feathers with their beaks and roughly mount them. I always chase them away when I see them starting to harass a hen, and sometimes even when they've mounted. Don't tell Diane, it's probably not the best thing to do for the propagation of the species, but it's really hard for me to stand by and watch the non-consenting, well, rape of any species. And yes, I would call it rape, because it is abundantly evident from their awful squawking that the hens do not consent. Chickens do not seem to court, like other birds and animals. The roosters here, of which there are too many (it's no-kill and Diane has a hard time unloading roosters to places she knows will not kill them, thus, overpopulation of roosters) can stroll over to whomever and force themselves upon her. When I first got here, I watched in horror as 2 or 3 roosters ganged up and chased a hen around together. It made me wonder about the animalistic urge/justification of gang rape, and rape in general.
Yes, this is the first of my Feminism and Farming series of thoughts. I wonder if rape/gang rape something that other species do, or is it solely the action of sick and twisted humans? If human men were put on an island with one woman and no socialization or learned culture, would they violently take turns with her just because they outnumber her? If there were more than one "Adam" back in the (questionable) day, would they have shared the one "Eve"?
I should mention, however, that occasionally hens will aggressively chase other hens, or hens will gang up and chase a rooster, or a female llama will mount another (apparently unwilling) female llama. Is there a difference in gender perceptions among nonhuman animals? Is everything just learned by watching and experiencing things (ie roosters learning aggression, llamas learning to mount)? Is there a common animalistic craving in all humans and animals alike? Are we driven only by the need to procreate? To protect our space? To fulfill sexual pleasure/urges? To eat? To be the most powerful? When animals (humans included) become violent, what are we fighting for? Shelter, food, oxygen, procreation, basic biological needs? I just don't know, and these are thoughts to which I will definitely return.
On a much more lighthearted chicken note, I shall discuss "The Bacaw Phenomenon". You know when you're doing chicken noises, you'll bawk bawk bawk and occasionally let out a hearty, Bacaw! when you're feeling frisky? Well, most of the time, the hens around here make your typical bawk noises, while they're eating, roosting, etc. The Bacaw is reserved for an alarm noise, for use while being raped, or, as I've encountered, when you catch them doing something surreptitious. When a hen is sneaking around, she knows it. She knows that the feed room isn't really where she's supposed to be, so if you catch her poking around in there, she will let out a series of loud Bacaw's to let everyone know that you are doing something wrong. Somehow the Bacaw turns the blame from her, sneaking into the feed room looking for scattered chicken scratch (yes, it's actually called that), to you: Human, endangering livelihood! You turn around and the hens and roosters are all eyeing you up. You. That Evil Human trying to hurt the innocent little brown hen. They cluck, disapprovingly, in unison.