backyardchickenfail


The CHICKPOCALYPSE!

So its turns out these chickens attract more predators than Chris Hansen.  Unbeknownst to me multiple critters were waiting outside my backyard gate bearing flowers and wine coolers hoping for an easy score.

“Mr. Fox, what were your intentions showing up here today?”

“What? Whoa, we were just going to play Xbox and talk about Twillight.”

“So you didn’t instant message ‘I want to wear your insides like a mask and dance around like that guy in Silence of the Lambs while my friends watch.’?”

“What? No! And I swear she said she was egg laying age!”

The chickens were in the backyard picking out dough, when I heard frantic squawking and yelled “No child no!”  I slammed on my office window trying to scare away whatever was attacking them and sprinted outside. A single poof of feathers drifted in the air as the screech of a departing bird of prey faded away.  Barbie #2 stood alone in the yard. Rizzo was nowhere to be found.

Did a bird really just carry off one of my chickens? I knew there were Ospreys in the area, but they eat fish. I recalled a tiny  hawk I saw months ago eating a finch in my
front yard.  Could that have done it? A real life chicken hawk? You have got to be f’ing kidding me. That’s something only loud mouth schnooks have to worry about. Ya know, I said, ya know what I’m talking about, son??

As I stood there shaking my head I heard a low cackle. From behind the doghouse coop emerged Rizzo. She had survived! I ushered them back into their coop and chuckled at how they freaked out whenever a bluejay  flew by.

A few days later there was a false alarm. Again I heard a commotion and rushed out to the rescue. Instead of finding an attacker, I found an attackee. Rizzo was trying to take on a large lizard that had been crawling on the fence. They battled in an epic fashion, Cluckzilla vs. Reptillrha. She stabbed as him with her beak and he lashed out with his tail. Eventually she grew bored and left the stunned and most likely internally bleeding lizard alone. Seconds after the battle ended, a large black snake slithered out of the grass towards the birds. I chased it off cursing the damn circle of life that was taking place in my dirt patch of a back yard.

chicken punched

In the end it wasn’t an arial attack, feisty feline, or alliterative alligator that brought the chickens demise. Instead it was a four legged, low riding, badger burrowing, nazi piece of shit that got them. I am of course talking about the confrontational wiener dog from my first post.

I had just returned from a 4 day scuba trip to the keys and was happy to find both my chickens and cat alive. The multiple bowls of food and water had done the trick. If only kids were that easy. Leave a few happy meals and a litter box, then off to Vegas for the week.

When I came home from work one day my neighbor and his daughter greeted me with grim faces as I pulled into my  driveway. The back gate was open and he had garden gloves on.

“A dog got into the chickens.” He said.

“Oh please tell me he didn’t get the black one!” With a shake of his head, I knew Rizzo was gone.

<dramatic movie “Nooooooooooooo!”>

The backyard was a mess of feathers, dirt piles, and footprints. Lying motionless in a box were Barbie #2 and Riz. Of the three Rhode island red replacements, they had only found one. She stood traumatized but safe back in the chicken cube.  Art, my neighbor, had found the dog my yard and had chased it away as it tried to bite him. It made me furious to know that this was the same dog that had rushed at me in my front yard. Back then I dismissed it, because come on, you’re a fucking wiener dog. I’ll field goal your ass. But now…

I couldn’t believe it.  My chickens were gone. The first death was apocalypse meow, but this time an army of barkness had descended upon my birds.

EPIC FAIL!

The dog ended up not belonging to my early morning leaf blowing ass of a neighbor, but rather to a guy behind me  a few houses down. The fences between our yards had a gap between then creating an aboveground underground railroad like system that the fleabag could use to get into any yard he wanted. He just squeezed through a hole in the fence and went chicken killer.

Art got up on his ladder to attempt to talk over the fence to the offending dog owner. He was in his backyard, laughed, and feigned a lack of comprehension of the English language.

Pissed, I yelled “El perro en me yardo againo, yo shooto in la cabesa, comprende?”  That’s a South Tampa dialect in case you were wondering.

Two more holes were dug and the birds were laid to rest. I prayed that I wasn’t near any ancient indian burial grounds that generated Stephen King-ish zombie chickens.

It was a pleasant surprise when we found one of the replacements cowering in Art’s yard. There was no trace of the third.What was I going to do with just two chickens? I already knew the chicken chi would be askew and annoying. Starting over with more chicks just seemed pointless.  With a defeated sigh I wrote a short ad and listed the reds for sale on Craigslist.

My grand backyard chicken experiment was over.

The next post: Or is it???



Yes, I Still have Chickens, and They Still Suck

Oh my god it’s been so long. I know you must have such burning
questions, like is silver a safe investment in an uncertain economy? Will Chaz
Bono continue to reinforce my desire to never watch Dancing with the Stars? And
why in God’s name would I pay $60 for a crappy seat to sit in the Tampa sun for
3 hours paying $10 a beer to watch the Bucs lose to Detroit? Why???

And chickens. Won’t somebody think about the chickens? Sorry I
haven’t been writing. I’ve been doing other things, like visiting 9 MLB
ballparks, driving cross country, scuba diving, transporting lobsters across
state lines, mountain climbing, pretending to be a through hiker on the Appalachian
Trail, and vehemently arguing that John Rich is still a douche even if his
celebrity apprentice charity was St Jude’s Children hospital. Hopefully by this
time you’ve adjusted and found other ways to fill the time that used to be
spent reading this blog. Perhaps you’ve taken up knitting, interpretive
dancing, or knife throwing. In any case whatever you’ve been doing was most
likely far more interesting than the intricacies of chickenry.

But you should keep reading, if only to find out how they all die.
Yeah, sorry to give away the ending to the Titanic, but these chickens are all
going down!

After the death of Barbie #1 the chi in the chicken universe was
off. Herding three chickens back into their pen was easy as two will always
group together and the third will eventually run to catch up to them. Corral
the buddy birds into the cube and the dipshit bird still running around the
yard would quickly come squawking in to join them. With only two remaining, the
buddy system was abandoned and I now had two dipshit birds running around every
hen for herself style. In an effort to keep me from punting the poultry I
decided I needed a third chicken.

At the feed store I asked about mingling chickens of different
ages. They said it was a 50/50 chance that the other birds would accept the
smaller ones. To me this meant one thing: Chicken Fight Club!

“I want you to peck me as hard as you can.”

“Ba gawk?”

“I want you to peck me as hard as you can!”

Better actors than Keanu

I bought three Rhode Island Red chicks even though I only wanted
one. The theory was that they’d have safety in numbers vs. the older chicks and
that some of them were likely to bite it, leaving me with my desired total of
3. I set up the replacements in their brooder and set to work building outdoor
housing that I could actually get outdoors this time.

Store bought coops cost hundreds of dollars, and home made ones
seemed difficulty considering my carpentry dyslexia. Since most coops ended up
looking like a house, I instead bought a $30 plastic doghouse off of
craigslist. I abandoned the cube look and opted for a triangle design that I
was smart enough to build outside this time. The resulting ghetto coop was
something any chicken would be proud to crap on.

I want to poop on you

I was weary to let the chickens run free with rogue felines
around. Research into cat deterrents lead me to a coyote/fox urine crystals
thing that I bought at the hardware store. If you had no idea urine crystals
were available, you’re not the only one. Judging by online reviews the
effectiveness of piss pellets is questionable at best. I sprinkled my yard
creating a urinary force field and kept a watchful eye on the outdoor birds.

After an uneventful few weeks I added the replacements into the
coop and was disappointed that a feathered Tyler Durden didn’t emerge. The new
chicks mixed with the old and created one big stinky feathered family. All was
going well and the thoughts of lurking danger faded away like the memory of the
BP Oil spill (eat gulf seafood).

And then, all hell broke loose…

The next entry: The Chickpocalypse



That chicken is deader than Willy Loman

A big part part of the backyard chicken experiment was to see if  I could ever kill  a chicken. I read up on the various methods other backyard farmers used and got squeamish at the thought of having to install a “kill cone” and Plexiglas “splatter guard.” Photos of well rounded youngsters holding up dead chickens in a creepy Children of the Corn kind of way taunted my lackluster killing skills.

Nerd

The only things I’ve ever killed, minus a duck I accidentally smoked while driving 70 miles per hour (awesome poof of feathers in the rear view), are lobsters. On a family reunion in New England we picked up 4 lobsters for dinner.  Word of advice: never cook lobsters with a veterinarian. Before I could even get the water boiling my sister the vet was already Googling “humane ways to kill a lobster.” The three tidbits of advice were 1. Put them in the freezer to slow down their vitals 2. Duck it head first in the water for a quicker kill 3. A quick cut down the length of the head for an immediate kill.

I argued against any compassion and said we should just boil them and get it over with.

Nope.

Instead the lobsters were thrown in the freezer for 30 minute. Did nothing except make them sassier.

Then we tried the “head first” method. I felt like I was torturing it for information. Didn’t work either. Just a half face boiled lobster now suited for a role in “Phantom of the Opera”

Next experiment was the knife slice. This would have worked if we had a chef grade tool like the guy in the video had. The dull knife lead to a few half ass stabbing attempts with a hacksaw completion.

So instead of simply boiling the lobsters for a quick death, they were frozen, water boarded, and stabbed in the head.

Remind me not to take my cat to my sister.

As an avid scuba diver, I also have a  jihad against Florida spiny lobsters. Unlike

Kind of like an episode of "Oz"

their Maine cousins, spiny lobsters have no claws so you  don’t take the whole thing home. You “tail” it. This equates to ripping off the tail, breaking off an antenna, shoving the antenna up the pooper, de-veining it,  and throwing the twitching and clicking front half  into the water. Sometimes you can even see the beating heart.

It’s  gruesome and there was no way I could do it.

Gradually it dawned on me that I wouldn’t be able to play the “girl card” forever and have someone do it for me. So I put on my gloves, grabbed the lobster, took a deep sadistic breath, and did it. The creepiest part was when the tail  twitched when I ran it under the water prior to cooking…two hours later. Just eww.

A lobster is basically a giant underwater insect making the guilt of killing a lobster on par with  squishing a bug. But a chicken, with it’s slightly soul full eyes, fluffy feathers, and various vocalizations. Could I kill one?

One month into chickening I learned that I did not possess chicken-killer instinct.

I was sitting in my office when I heard a commotion. The was rustling in the leaves, chickens frantically squawking, and squirrels barking out an alarm. I rushed out to the yard and saw two scattered and flustered hens, but where was the third? A quick survey of the yard and I found it, pinned under a black cat that I had seen in my yard before but never thought of until now. It scrambled over the fence as I ran toward it,  leaving it’s victim writhing in pain.

The chick was flopping on it’s back, a trickle of blood from its beak, obviously mortally wounded. It occurred to me what I was going to have to do and my stomach fell.  A trip to the vet passed briefly through my mind and I knew it was pointless. Not to mention the absurdity of saving an animal I had bought with the intention of killing.

“Shit, shit, shit.” I muttered as I headed to the garage to look for something to get the job done.

Shovel in hand I walked back out to the yard only to find that same fucking cat right back on the chicken! I chased it away a second time, wondering what kind of cat was so stealth and had such balls. He was clearly CIA. The only good thing was the bird was no longer moving. It was dead. Thank god!

I absolutely did not want to kill that chicken. Even to end it’s suffering, I couldn’t have done it. My philosophical question had been answered. If the cat hadn’t come back Plan B was to give it a few minutes and hope it would just die. Some farmer I am. Maybe I should just sign up  FarmVille.

Looking at the motionless bird brought a pang of guilt. It was my job to protect the girls and I had failed. After much debate, I decided to release this picture, even if it causes an uprising in the fundamentalist poultry community.

FAIL

In memory of Barbie #1, Urge to kill: -2.

The next post ” Meet Frankenchicken”



Raptor party

After spending a few days watching over my new chickens I realized something: chickens suck. Owners on the backyard chicken forums (they exist) spoke of birds with personalities, who came when you called, and perched on your lap. Turns out these people are just crazy cat ladies who have chickens instead. These things were pretty stupid and boring.

This is what a chicken does for most of the day: poops, scratches at dirt, pecks the ground, squawks, sits on things, shits on things, flaps its wings, walks in that head bobbing way that makes you want to sing “walk like an Egyptian.”  Occasionally the birds would charge at each other, puffing up fluffy chest to fluffy chest, trying to establish the pecking order. When they were out in the yard and one bird found a bug that the others wanted, the other two would chase it around the yard trying to steal it. That was about the extent of entertainment my poultry provided. I really need to get cable.

While watching the birds roam around the yard I couldn’t help but notice their similarities to dinosaurs. Many of my formative years were spent drawing t-rexs, triceratops, parasaurolophuses, and liopleurodons. At the height of my dino-mania not only had I seen Jurassic Park five times in theaters, I wanted to be a paleontologist. Many scientists accept the theory that certain dinosaurs evolved into birds. Looking at a dino like a struthiomimus versus a modern day ostrich, it’s easy to see the similarities.

It’s an entirely other thing to be able to accept it.

This means that my beloved-ed, fierce some, monsters of my childhood were nothing but giant chickens, literally. Imagine T-rex nancing around doing that jerky chicken walk, clucking as he goes. Now picture him with feathers. Lame.

Not horrifying

This also kills the scariness factor of Jurassic Park, the movie. Now they’re not being attacked by a rampaging beast but a big bird, complete with a bird sized brain. Suddenly out running velociraptors doesn’t seem so hard when you could likely distract them with a mirror or shoo them away with a broom. I mean, really Samual L Jackson, you got killed by a stupid bird? “I’m tired of all of these mother clucking chickens in this mother clucking power facility!” Doesn’t sound badass at all.

Total pussy

So for ruining one of my favorite movies as a kid, and my favorite childhood monsters- Urge to kill: 1 Point.

The next post “That cat was clearly CIA.”



34 inches

Actually I don't recycle

I brought my chicks home in a cat carrier.  For the first 4-6 weeks chicks need to be keep in  brooder which is basically any sort of set up that keeps them contained with heat source to keep them warm. The chicks need the heat since their feathers haven’t developed yet. Living in Florida, I wasn’t  overly concerned about them freezing. Hillsborough county recycling provided my  box. Equiped with an $8 metallic clamp on reflector lamp from Wal-mart (make sure the lamp can use a 100 watt bulb), a feeder, waterer, and a wire mesh shelf I found in the garage, my brooder was complete.

There’s a lot of information on brooders online. Suggestions on directing the light,  lowering the the temperature from week to week, and more.  Being ADD I did no such thing. The chicks were kept out on the warm patio and the light went on during our chilling 80 degree nights. Gauging the birds hot/cold ratio is simple; They’re panting= too hot. Snuggled up in a shivering ball-o-chickens=too cold.  The chicks didn’t die, so my under attentive methods worked.

Chicks in a brooder are pretty boring to watch, except for when they drink.  And since they have watched their friends get plucked out one by horrified one out of the brooder at the feed store, my chicks screamed and scrambled every time I put my hand inside the box. Not a real endearing feature of a “pet.” Urge to kill: 1 point.

Already bored, I decided to start work on building the chicken cube. I purchased six 6′ x 2″ x 1″ wooden boards at Lowes and had them cut in half creating twelve 36″ pieces. For the wire, I passed on the metallic variety and opted for a roll of plastic poultry fencing that was 3′ high and 25′ long. Armed with a nail and hammer, I put the cube together on my patio and wrapped it with the fencing.

Chicken Cube. Not as good as "Cube" and "Cube Zero"

A proud graduate of 8th grade wood shop class, I was impressed with dormant carpentry skills. Until I tried to get the cube off the patio.  The carpentry adage is “measure twice, cut once.” I cut first and measured nunce (new word.) For some reason it never occurred to me to measure the width of my patio door. After failing to squeeze the cube through, I finally measured. Thirty four inches exactly, on a 36″ x 36″ x 36″ design. Shit.

I kicked open the double doors leading inside the house and tried getting the cube through the garage door. Nope. Then I tried the front door. Denied. Apparently every f#$%ing door in America is a standard 34″ wide. I don’t think that will ever be a daily double Jeopardy question, but just in case, now you know.

Defeated, I resigned myself to the fact that my great plan for outdoor housing was stuck on the patio. Guess the chickens are living on the patio now.  I put the chicks in their new coop, plopped down on my patio couch, and as a chicken Caesar of sorts commanded “Entertain me!”

The next post: “How chickens ruined Jurassic Park



Quick before they’re all dead!

On April 11, 2011 I purchased three baby chicks who’s breed I completely forgot to ask about. Two yellow, one black, christened  Rizzo and the Barbies. My motivation behind the purchase was multi-faceted:

  1. I was bored. I tend to do random things when I’m bored, such as fly to Chicago for a baseball game, attempt ocean kayaking, or watch Oprah. It’s a good thing I decided to act before 4/20 or I would have likely purchased a baby pig like some friends in south Florida did.
  2. I was hoping to find a way to piss off my neighbor, with his confrontational wiener dog and annoying habit of leaf blowing his paved over front yard early every Saturday morning (I’m hungover dick!)
  3. So I could make fun of all the assholes clogging my FaceBook with Farmville updates. I’m a real farmer, you social media wanna bes!
  4. I’ve read countless articles and websites about the growing trend of backyard chickens. “Have your own fresh eggs!” they proclaimed.I wanted to try it so I could be hip and chat to other hip people over organic chai tea lattes while cruising farmers markets in my Prius, or something.
  5. Social experiment to see if I could ever actually kill a chicken. Prior to this the only thing I ever intentionally killed  was a lobster. That hobo in the alley…that was accidental.
  6. To learn more about an animal I only knew in plucked, chopped up, plastic wrapped form.
  7. To have something to write about.

Seeing as my first chicken died yesterday, I figured it was time to start writing before all I had to write about was my new compost heap.

My peeps!

The first question people ask is “where did you get them?” Chicks are available from a variety of sources on the web. Just hatched chicks are boxed up and shipped off to customers. The just consumed yolk provides the birds with enough nourishment to make it through the shipment with heat packs to keep them warm. Locally chicks are available from farmers (check Craigslist) or from feed stores.  I found Shell’s feed store selling chicks off of Nebraska Ave in Tampa. Normally you pick up a very different type of chick on Nebraska.

When purchasing chicks make sure to ask if they’ve been sexed. “Straight run” chicks means that they have not had their chicken junk inspected and it’s up to you to find out. Rosters are generally illegal in suburban settings so be sure to get a “pullet,” better known as a young hen. Sexed chicks go for $2-6 (I paid $3) with straight run chicks costing less.

I grabbed a 5lb bag of started feed, a feeder, waterer, and some pine shavings and was off. A stop at Lowes armed me with twelve 36 x 2 x 1 boards and 25 feet of plastic chicken wire. Armed with my chicks and my chicken housing supplies, I stopped off for an ironic lunch at Chick-Fil-A.

The next post: “Learning the universal measurement of every door in America.”




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