Monday, April 18, 2011

Who will be the next flock leader?

I found Delaware, left, dead on the floor of the coop yesterday morning. She had been acting funny. I checked her to see if she had a clogged vent, but felt nothing. 

Delaware was a Delaware breed. Because I'm from that small state that's famous for poultry, I named her Delaware, then re-named her Susannah, Del-Sue for short. I chose her because Delawares are a cross-breed of New Hampshire Reds and Barred Plymouth Rocks known for prolific egg production and being meaty, too. A heavy breed, she laid about four eggs a week.

More importantly, Del-Sue was known as the self-appointed flock leader. At left, she is the only bird with enough pluck to stick her neck out [there are SO MANY chicken-related sayings in our language] on a snowy day to investigate one their favorite treats -- a cantaloupe rind.

That was typical of Del-Sue -- to take risks, investigate, state an opinion by loud clucking, insisting on first dibs on everything, and taking lead in bullying hens lower on the pecking order.

I'm waiting to see who takes over Del-Sue's position at the top of the pecking order.

Her death will  inspire me to obtain two more pullets -- hens who are six months old and ready to lay -- to replace her and some of the other aging hens. After 18 to 24 months, hens are not as productive and cost more in feed than they produce in eggs. So they must be humanely disposed of, i.e., butchered and stewed.Old layers are a bit tough but make excellent stock.

Some people say not to name your food. I disagree. I can have a good relationship with my pets who produce eggs so willingly, and appreciate the nourishment they give us, even in death.

I laid Del-Sue to rest in the woods, covered by leaves and dirt, where nature will re-absorb her. Thanks for your life, spunk and eggs, Del/Sue.

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