They Followed Me Home, I Swear
How many times do you go to the store for a couple of items and come back with a bag full? Too often for me. Yet, I persist in shopping. I went to the feed store for chicken scratch, and came back with new friends.
These are two Rhode Island Red hens, about a year old, who had been victimized to the point of injury by sister hens. Too many birds in a small holding pen will do that, plus the whole pecking order thing. Most of us are familiar with that from living through middle school.
The larger bird is blind in the right eye. Her name is Madge (she looks like a Madge!). The smaller girl has a limpy leg, and her name is Viola (Twelfth Night). (Have you ever really looked at the word twelfth? I spelled it phonetically as twelph, and knew it was wrong but then had a hard time figuring the real spelling out after seeing it. Sorry… digression). Both are missing a lot of feathers in various places. These two were in a cage by themselves, and get along famously. The poor dears each laid an egg in the cardboard box in which they were transported.
I’ve put them in Emerson’s old run (oh, and his price has gone down to $15 and the warning sign is off his pen) until I can build the Hen House of my Dreams.
My other three girls, Lark, Chickpea and Miss Amelia are a happy trio and I don’t want to upset the apple cart, nor have the newbies subjected to pecking order again.
I bought this fantastic chicken house some months ago, thinking it would be a warm spot for my three hens (wasn’t that a TV show? It should be one!) but they rejected it wholeheartedly. My girls are used to more space. I figured this pen would be good for some smaller breed. I’ve been looking for frizzle hens, but no one seems to have them. If I order from a hatchery it is straight run, which means unsexed chicks, and I don’t want to do the rooster thing again.
I’d like to establish California quail on the property, but since they are the state bird it is illegal to farm them here. Hatcheries in other states will send eggs, but at this moment I don’t have the time to care for eggs (and I’m too heavy to sit on them, although I do get broody a lot). I contacted Project Wildlife for rehabilitated quail for release, but they release within three miles of where the animals were found, which is an excellent policy. I’ve posted on Craigslist for both frizzle hens and Ca. quail, but no responses yet.
The quail that is commonly sold is the coturnix. These are Japanese quail. Because of their looks they are also called Egyptian quail, Pharaoh quail, and other names. They are less nervous than Bobwhite or button quail, they don’t fly up a lot so they don’t bang their heads on the top of the cage. They lay delightful brown speckled eggs. The feed store had a new shipment in, and they weren’t just selling pairs, so I bought three beautiful little girls, about six months old.
My daughter did a quick and imaginative search for names and came up with a lot of really good ones. With a nod to the breed’s origin and alternative names, the dark brown one is called Saki, short for sakura which is Japanese cherry, rice wine, or also short for the Sakkara, which is an Egyptian city of temples. Covers all bases there. The mostly white one is called Benu, which is an Egyptian bird god you can read about here: http://www.thewhitegoddess.co.uk/articles/ancient_egypt/the_benu_bird.asp . The light brown one, incongruously, is named after Agatha Christie’s character Miss Felicity Lemon, most notably played by Pauline Moran in the Poirot television series. It was too good a name not to use, although rather long for such a handful of a bird.
The quail don’t have much personality as yet. Of course, they had been raised crammed in cages with many other birds, shipped through the mail service, then moved to another cage with many other birds. They had arrived at the store on Sunday. These three are settling in slowly, enjoying the personal space and the tall weeds that have grown inside the coop (it is bottomless). After all the strange sounds and smells become commonplace, they’re personalities will emerge. They don’t scare or fly when approached, but hunker down in a fatalistic “this is my last moment on earth” kind of way. Already they are showing more hope in small ways as they react to my voice. I put them upstairs in the coop last night, but they were down again this morning. Their cage has handles so it can be moved when they’ve thoroughly manured that area. (There, I’ve said the ‘m’ word again!).
So more beaks to feed. At least I’m staying away from the Fallbrook Animal Sanctuary, at least for awhile. General Mischief and Sophie are too old for a new dog, and I certainly don’t need any more cats.
Of course, the llamas at the feeds store, and those really cute guinea pigs, could really use a home….