Here is Candy, in her zen, “I am a calm and immovable bunny” pose. Doesn’t she look peaceful and content? Do not be fooled. By settling down in the coop’s little doorway, she is causing quite a flap among the chickens – and I believe that she is fully aware of that! The hens just don’t know what to do about this animal in their way. Do they squeeze past? Act like she doesn’t exist? Fly over? The chickens have tried all of these options. All the while, Candy sits there, as if none of this ado is going on around her.
Snowball, brash little hen that she is, has the only effective solution. I’ve seen her go right up to Candy and peck her on the butt. Candy responds to that! She kicks out and hops off, her face as implacable as ever.
Last night, when I went to tuck Candy safely in, I noticed that there was chicken poop on the ramp going up to her hutch. The hens and rabbit have lived together for a year and I’ve never seen that. I thought that perhaps she stepped in some and her paws were dirty? Thanks to an observant Hencam viewer I now know the real story! Snowball (of course, it was Snowball, the little, independent, adventurous hen) was seen marching right up the bunny ramp to visit Candy’s hutch. Poor bunny, her home is no longer a sanctuary from the hens. Then again, if you’ve seen that rabbit tease the girls, eat their food, and gallop through peacefully sunbathing hens, then perhaps Snowball’s foray to the hutch is long overdue!
A regular hencam viewer emailed me a funny story. Her 2 year old son likes watching the girls, but he really loves the rabbit. Well, right before lunch time, he starts asking for “more Candy.” Being a good mom, this viewer said no, they don’t eat candy before lunch. Being a typical 2 year old, the little boy quickly went into meltdown stage. Luckily, the mom finally realized that “more Candy” meant “more hencam” and so a full-out tantrum was avoided.
I sympathize with that child. There are times when I feel like a grumpy mood is going to overwhelm me, too, and that no one understands what I need. When that happens, I go out to the coop. The wonderful thing about the hens and the rabbit is that it doesn’t matter that they don’t know what I’m bummed out about – they cheer me right up, anyway.
On January 14 a silkie hen was stolen. The crime occurred in the morning at the NEPC show in West Springfield, Ma. If you’ve never been to a poultry show, let me describe the scene: there are rows and rows of airy metal coops, stacked two high, and in each is a bird that someone has bred, trained, bathed, fluffed, and has high hopes for. Poultry fanciers walk the aisles, checking out the birds. A judge in a white lab coat reaches in and takes out a bird, looks it over, and puts it back in it’s cage. People are eating chili and drinking coffee and chatting. Think dog show but with feathers.
And what are chickens like these worth on the open market? A golden retriever puppy goes for $1,500. A prize hen for $35. So why the huge reward? Because it turns out that this wasn’t the only chicken to ever be stolen at a poultry show. Those offering the reward want to put the few bad apples on notice that thievery won’t be tolerated. They want to make the poultry fancy aware that this is a problem. And they want their silkie back. Someone, recently, has bought a gorgeous full-grown silkie. If you have, please contact HatTrick Silkies and make sure that it’s not theirs.
People who breed and show poultry are in the fancy. Most of these folks have one or two breeds that they’ve fallen in love with. They start out by buying a trio (one rooster and two hens) and start raising their own birds. They try to breed the most beautiful and true-to-type chickens that they can. Then they take them to shows. Their flocks get bigger. They find their weekends taken up by traveling to poultry shows. It’s fun and a good community to be part of.
I’m not in the fancy. I can’t keep roosters here, so I’m not a breeder. I just like having my few hens to provide eggs and humor to my day. But those poultry shows are more important to all of us all than just as a hobby for some folks. Without backyard breeder flocks, the chickens that we love – the silkies and cochins and houdans – wouldn’t be around today. Industrial poultry producers rely on a very, very limited genetic pool for their birds. They are uninterested in broodiness, personality, color and feather type. All they care about is feed conversion, growth rate and egg production. Snowball (that little hen pictured at the top of this page) wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the fancy.
These days, sustainability, diversity, buying local, and small-scale agriculture are all buzz words. Well, if you’re talking about local eggs and pastured chickens, it starts with the smaller hatcheries, 4-H, and the poultry fancy. There are organizations who work to keep the old breeds around. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy is one.