Monday, July 1, 2013

Meet the girls! (Or 5 reasons why I don't name chickens anymore)

I name things. Well, to be more specific, I name animals... even if they're not mine. There was a steer across the street when we first moved in, and he quickly became Fred. If nothing else, it's for brevity- I mean, really, what's easier in conversation: "Fred" or "That steer across the street, you know, the one who sits under the tree..."? Right.

So anyway, when I got the first batch of chicks, I did what most new owners do- I promptly named them all. After all, how are you supposed to tell those adorable mini-dinosaurs apart? Meet Florence, George, Sylvia and Nugget. (Thank my sister for that last one...) Florence and Sylvia are Silver Laced Wyandottes, whereas George and Nugget are Barred Rocks. They were 10 weeks old, give or take, when I brought them home:

Poultry in Motion

Since we have quite a bit of room, and we're a good ways back from the road, it seemed like a good idea to let the chickens free range during the day once they were big enough. Well, it was, up until we came home one day and discovered that George was missing... all that was left was a pile of feathers down by the pond. Boo. 

Not wanting an odd number of chickens, I picked up three new Americauna chicks from a gal down the road. The naming thing hadn't occurred to me yet, so before I even got home they had names: Flora, Fauna and Merriweather, named after the Fairy Godmothers in Sleeping Beauty. 

Time passed, and eggs started coming. That's an exciting time for chicken keepers... nothing quite like finding that first egg in the nest box. Or under a fern, where one of them decided to start laying. That's a whole other story, though.

In August, Merriweather started coughing. Within a week she died, and I was starting to think that that if I'm going to keep getting chickens, I'd really have to toughen up. Crying over a dead chicken is somewhat embarrassing, and really hard to explain to people who don't have pets, let alone chickens.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving last year; our neighbor dogs got out of their yard, and came over to our house for some dinner. So long, Nugget and Sylvia. Lesson learned here: sometimes, it's better when they just disappear. (There was also a lesson learned about not putting freshly collected eggs into one's coat pocket. Nothing quite like having a conversation with said neighbor about his killer dogs, with a goopy pocket to add insult to injury. Ick.)

Where are we? Oh, three. There's Florence, Fauna and Flora. (Try saying that three times fast!) So this spring, I bought 4 chicks from the feed store: 2 Barred Rocks and 2 Americaunas. Collectively, they're the Muppets. They were not given individual names, and I don't regret that one bit. Sometimes, it's a challenge having a conversation about a specific one, but it was just *that* much easier the day the coyote came and ate one of them. Particularly so in context, when compared to the day last month when I had to put Flora down... that was not at all easy.

Maybe I'm just getting used to the fact that chickens aren't generally long-term companion animals. As fond as I am of them, if naming (or not naming) is the thing that gets me through the losses, then so be it.

One last shot of the Fab Five, enjoying their dust baths: 

Chicken keepers, what do you do? Names or No?

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