Sunday, March 1, 2015

Terms of Endearment

   Is winter over yet?! One can only think and wish and hope and pray that this last little blast of snow we had this morning will be IT until next year. It feels as if Old Man Winter just cannot release his icy grip on us this year. Thankfully, we have been relieved several times of the cold and snow with teaser days of warmer temperatures, but sometimes I think breaking it up like that makes it even worse. (Kind of like when I was running track; in some workouts we were allowed to walk in between our running for breaks. Those days were always harder than the straight running workouts.)
  Anyhoo, even if the thermometer outside was reading ZERO, I was witness to the heat rising  in Kennel Bar yesterday...
  As it was a Saturday morning on the Shawhan farm yesterday, I was up and at em' long before dawn taking my shift at the in-law's dairy farm. I got back home around seven a.m. and then proceeded to take care of our own critters before going inside to warmth and food. (I'm usually starving by this point!) I dump Jimmy and Charlie's grain outside, then let them out - as they are starving by this time too and like to tell me by kicking at the gates - so while they are stuffing their faces, I take them out some hay too. Next, I climb the ladder to the loft and throw some hay down for the Beefy Boys (we have 8 now), then I let the chickens out.
  Since I was already bundled up and everything up mu nose had already disintegrated into nothing, I take the opportunity to get the days barn work done. This mainly consists of cleaning out the stalls, banging the water buckets on the ground to get all the ice out and restock the hay racks.
  As I was scooping frozen fecal balls from Jimmy's stall, I was surprised when I looked over and saw that some of the chickens had voluntarily left the coop and ventured out into the cold morning air. As my eyes took in the entire kennel area, I noticed one of our roosters, Goliath, standing by the bars with a Comet hen. It was the just the two of them. They were clearly having "a moment". The hen was preening the feathers around Goliath's neck and he was just standing there enjoying himself. Goliath is a huge bird (hence his name) and the difference in the sexes this picture painted was a clear as day. Goliath stood a good two or three inches above the hen's head and his body made hers look like a drop in a bucket. As I stood there watching, the hen kept at him and he kept standing there allowing her to continue her menstruations. During this whole time, no other bird approached them.
  It was a sweet scene...I felt like an intruder watching it and it went on for quite some time. Of course coming from the dairy I didn't have my camera ready to whip out and get all paparazzi on them. Their clear affection for one other during this time made me wonder if chickens have a mating where the male courts the female, or maybe even vice versa. Do hens come into heat? Sure they lay eggs whether there is a rooster in the flock or not, but does that happen during their cycle? Honestly, from what I've seen over the past few years, I'd be surprised if hens with a rooster are allowed to come into heat....usually the roosters are pretty "on top" of that situation (pun indented. They also make 50 Shades of Grey look G-Rated, though I couldn't tell you for 100% sure since I haven't read the book.) Or is all the preening and sweet nothings in the ear just a poultry social custom? Was I so starved by this point that I was hallucinating?
  Perhaps I have some research to do if a certain little boy would ever allow me the time.
  I finished the chores and left the chickens to be themselves touched by the gentle scene that warmed my heart on a cold winter's morning. 

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