The Assistant Manager of the Backyard, the rooster named Alvin, passed away today. He was a great representative of the Ancona breed, and, above all he had personality and presence. He was like a friend and kept me company as I toiled in the yard. I tried everything I could to save him – regular worming, the best food, fresh water, warm house, company and ……free range access to the garden during the day. The last part is what did him in, I think. Alvin loved picking up every little thing he saw on the ground, working over the garden from end to end. In my efforts to establish a vegetable garden, turning over the soil to work in compost and lime as well as manure and I keep finding rubbish – bottles with dubious contents still in them, plastic, strange substances and whatnot. I cart everything away on discovery but that has not helped.
I have a lovely ngaia tree in the garden and know that the leaves are poisonous – that probably means that the berries and flowers are, too. I have not observed Alvin eating those, though. Some weeds are a worry and I shall have to check with neighbours to see which are poisonous. I still want to free range my chickens but fear for their safety.
When I started my small flock of Anconas I knew that the genetic material for breeding would be limited. In the struggle to find additions to the happy family is ongoing, with long road trips to collect chickens not related to Alvin the rooster and consistent lobbying on the internet has become a way of life. Sometimes I celebrate a new arrival. The 4 year old grandson went up to the coop to inspect the new girl, and to give her a name. To our delight he announced: ‘she IS Sparkelspot!”. Great name for such a spotty chicken.
The fireworks started before dark and when I went to close the chickens at dusk I found they were sitting high up in the Ngaio tree. I tried to entice them down but when darkness fell I gave up. To protect my animals from stoats, hedgehogs, cats, dogs and all the wild things, real or imaginary, that roam the back yard at night I make sure that everyone is in and closed up properly. After a final check around the yard, with the racket of the fireworks still going on all around, I went to bed, hoping that nothing would get at my chickens.
At 1 am Alvin, the rooster, perched high in the tree, bathed in bright moonlight as well as the light of a new street lamp and fireworks still going, looked out over ‘his’ valley and registered his joy by crowing. The rejoicing went on and on. Every crow louder and clearer than the preceding one and probably heard by neighbours kilometers away. Mrs Back Yard Farmer, a light sleeper, started muttering at the initial crow, the mutterings grew louder and transformed into threats regarding wrung necks and then degenerated into some impressive swearing in at least two languages. By 4 am Mrs BYF had enough. It was when she rose from her bed like the proverbial phoenix, incandescent with rage, I realised that I did not take into account the most dangerous wild thing that could roam the back yard – an angry Mrs BYF. Armed with a few brooms and the flashlight on her phone she braved the dark, wet steps at the back door, located the rooster in the tree and threw brooms at him until he fluttered to the ground and took refuge under the coop. Mrs BYF, thinking her job was done, started the perilous journey back to the house only to hear a loud crow behind her. This time she tried to find the rooster, intending to murder him if she got her hands on him, throwing stuff at him as she went.
By daybreak Mrs BYF had returned to her bed and I pretended to be dead. Should there ever be a repeat of this Guy Fawkes night I am certain that the only thing that will save my neck is the lack of a big enough pot. The rooster will be cooked.
Treat them well and they would reward you for your efforts !
Give your birds :
1. A balanced and specie specific correctly formulated diet
2. Clean water and fresh feed at all times
3. Optimal environmental conditions with correct temperatures, dry and drafts free with correct lighting patterns and intensity
4. Enough space with clean dry bedding in well designed cages providing proper ventilation
5. Well bred animals housed in the correct male to female ratio
6. An owner that enjoys keeping and attending to poultry
It is easy and enjoyable to breed and keep poultry
6. Free of insects and other vermin
I don’t know much about the beautiful rooster but the magnificent bull is a photograph of a wonderful painting by the South African artist Leigh Voigt from a book about the Zulu Nguni cattle, called The Abundant Herds . The book is the result of the collaboration of scholars, researchers and writers over an extended period of time. The many paintings reproduced in the book are accurate depictions of the colour patterns of the cattle. I once saw a similar bull in a herd of cattle in the green hills of Zululand. Would love to go back for another look!