Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Memories of Young Jack

We've been living here for just about two years. Slowly we are becoming country folk. In keeping with that theme we decided to raise a few chickens. First we bought six chicks of varying breeds that were to grow into laying hens. The laying hens will mature in September and start laying eggs of their own accord. I understand one chicken is capable of producing an egg, without the aid of a rooster, every twenty six hours on average.

Then, getting into the spirit of things we bought twenty meat chickens. Unlike the laying hens the meat chickens are white. They grow incredibly fast and are ready for their destiny in the freezer in less than two months.

When Jean came home with the twenty little yellow fluff balls there was an extra, chicken number twenty one. She was almost black, an "Americanna", and would be our seventh laying hen. She would lay blue eggs eventually.

We didn't name the meat birds because of the temporary nature of their stay with us, but each hen has a name. The dark colored number twenty one we named "Jack".

From day one I have been nervous about predators. We have coons and coyotes and many other wild things creeping about here in the dark. I built a "chicken tractor" for the hens which is a small moveable coop. The chickens run free on some days, when dusk approaches they find their way back to the safety of the tractor and we close them in for the night.
Each chicken has it's own nature, a personality. Jack had the colors of a hawk, she was the first one out of the coop when it was opened, she was fast and would run circles around the others. As she approached maturity she grew fluffy black feathers around her face that looked like a beard. We joked that she looked like she should have signed the decleration of independance.
We had grown to really like Jack.

It was a little late last night when I closed up the chicken tractor. Since it was dark I didn't see that Jack had decided to stay out for the night. It wasn't until the middle of the night when we woke to hear the sound, under our open bedroom window, of Jack being killed that I realized she wasn't in the coop.

We both got up and ran outside to look for the source of the noise. I saw movement in the long grass under our bedroom window and pointed my flashlight there. I was suprised to see a small cat, the size of a big kitten, trying to drag Jack's body, which was larger than the cat, through the grass. The cat let go and ran away into the night. It is likely this feral cat will become the prey of coyotes by fall. And we will have only brown and white eggs.

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