Saturday, April 5, 2008

Ha! Did you see those chickens run?

Ralphie and I drove out this morning to visit Bob and the chickens at the farm. Ralphie loves places like the farm because there are so many smells that he never sniffs in town. Bob's gigantic chocolate Labs were interested to have company so short and were very polite.

The chickens are all fully-grown now, and the hens have been cranking out an amazing supply of delicious eggs. White eggs, brown eggs, even green eggs, all delicious. There are currently two roosters, but the Alpha rooster has gotten himself in trouble, attacking Bob and his wife, Pattie, and a threat to the grandkids, who love to visit the chickens. The rooster is headed for the stove, which ought to teach somebody something about the perils of aggression. Should be good eating, too.

Meanwhile, the hens are being productive (yes, I know, that's a golf ball). Here are two of the Leghorns in their boxes. The hen on the right startled and took off, and left an egg behind. Bob reports that they're all regularly producing about an egg a day, which is apparently pretty good for beginners. (More chicken photos here.)

Ralphie thought the chickens were worth running after, and the chickens thought the idea sucked. Ha ha, Ralphie. Now you're on the wrong side of the gate. Obviously, lessons about aggression are lost on a dog.

Later, we wandered down to the pasture to get a look at the new calf, born just yesterday. Unfortunately, the mom and calf were well out in the field, too far away for good viewing, but the distance suited Ralphie just fine, because cattle are BIG. The last time Ralphie visited the farm, he was just a tiny puppy, but the cattle are just as big as ever. On this occasion, having a gate there was welcome.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

I like crows

I've been observing crows around town for a few years, in part because they seem to be taking over and crowding out other birds, and in part because they're intriguing creatures. They're much smarter than most birds, and clearly adapt well to an urban environment. I was pleased to learn that some of my "observations" had turned out to be accurate. From what I'd seen, for instance, crows spend most of the day foraging alone or with one or two other crows. Then as dusk approaches, they gather in much larger flocks high in the trees. It's not always the same trees, although they do seem to show preferences for areas where there enough trees to accommodate the whole crowd. When they get together in the evening, it looks (and sounds) as if they're each broadcasting all the details of their entire day, all at once and at top volume.

At times, I've seen these gatherings reach into scores of crows. One time last summer, there was a gathering in the trees outside my home and the volume of noise was so great that I had to go outside to look, and discovered at least one of my neighbors had also been drawn to the front door. Incredible. The group, incidentally, is known as a "murder" and reportedly can include crows in their thousands.

Crows apparently have a very tightly-knit family, in which some members serve as "helpers" to breeding pairs. What I've also noticed about them is an enormous number of calls; it's not unusual to observe what sounds like an actual conversation among several of them. According to one of my bird books, they can live as long as 20 years.