King Richard and Little Dickie: a tale of two chickens

It’s that time of year where we pack up the car and drive all day to go on vacation. Part of this involves going to visit my mom, who lives a short drive up a mountain, in a house, in the woods, with trees and a big vegetable garden and flowers and chickens.

My mom likes chickens. We had chickens growing up and she would go out and happily feed them, encourage them to run around, and show them how to scratch for bugs. Yes, I did once find my mom showing a chicken that there was a bug in the grass and her suggesting that the chicken should eat it.  Later we moved away from that house, into town and away from chickens. Now that my mom has retired and has outdoor space, she also has chickens again.

There exist many different kinds and breeds of chickens to chose from when you want to get chickens. They are chosen according to size, breed purpose (layer or meat), productivity, and broodiness, among other factors. Some produce double-yolk eggs, some lay daily for 2 – 5 years, and some lay green-shelled eggs (‘I do not like them Sam I Am! I do not like green eggs and ham!’). There is also a pecking order that gets established within any coop, much like personalities on a playground. Roosters tend to be fond of being “King of the Castle.”

My mom has some Bantams (these are the smaller birds), some English breeds (two of which she refers to as “Henny Penny 1 and 2”), and some Ameraucanas, which lay the green eggs.

This is the Ameraucana breed that lays those green eggs. Her name is Eagle.

Each day can produce a different area of color.

A brood of chickens can only have one rooster. When chicks are born you can’t always be sure if they are hens or roosters. You can distinguish this as they get older by their features: roosters will have a more definite comb, longer tails and act more, well, cocky.  Roosters need to assert dominance and superiority in the coop. They will, literally, peck another rooster to death if there is a dispute. And it’s only a matter of time before a typical dispute happens, especially with a bunch of hens around. My mom ended up with two roosters from her dozen chicks.

The larger rooster liked to crow and strut and act kingly. They called him “King Richard.”

As mentioned: King Richard

The King investigates.

The smaller one, a Bantam, was my mom’s favorite. This rooster was submissive and gentle and careful of his place in the pack. But he turned on my mom’s partner one day with an unprovoked peck and it was commented that this rooster was “a little dickhead.” For the sake of my kids, the younger one was called, “Little Dickie.”

A bird in the hand.

He is a strange and snuggly bird.

Little Dickie on his perch.

Because of his size, Little Dickie was picked on (pecked on?) a lot by King Richard. Something had to give before the situation got unfortunate. Luckily, a neighbour had a brood of Bantam hens in need of a leader, so Little Dickie went to live on their farm.

Now each rooster has their own brood and harem; things are right once again in ChickenLand.

We live in an area that allows urban fowl. Our neighbours are considering getting a small cluck of birds. Given my daughter’s affinity for collecting eggs, and feeding and learning about chickens, she would be a natural chicken-sitter if the need arose. For us, though, we’re staying away from this prospect for now. We can always go and visit my mom to get our fill of chickens, and eggs.

Fragile bird (and a mountain to run up)

English: Female House Sparrow, Bairnsdale Aust...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Week three is done! I’m tired but managing and glad for the sleep-in on Saturday morning. Last week’s Sunday long run went really well. I was nervous about it, as the group I run with are all slightly faster than I am. Sometimes it feels like it’s all I can do just to hang on and keep up. But my fitness is improving; last week’s run was just slightly slower than last fall’s half-marathon’s race pace. So my race pace has almost become my long run pace. Granted, our long run pace has been increasing but should pull back again when we start hitting the longer distances (half-marathon plus). It felt great to run this; even on a hilly route where I had to push on the hills I managed to keep up and even increase my tempo after the hill. (no slower running to recover!)

A few of us idiots keeners even managed to run up Mt. Tolmie after the run. I haven’t gotten photos yet, but when I do I’ll add a bit about Mt. Tolmie in a future post. It’s a little mountain that we run up for hill and strength training. Both sides are steep, one side much steeper and the other side much longer. It was good sign that I had the energy and was able to do Mt. Tolmie after an already hilly long run.

Thursday morning’s swim was also good. I had a rough sleep the night before so felt pretty disoriented and spacey getting into the water. It took me a few laps to remember you don’t breathe under water. Usually I start to flail and fail in the second half of the swim, but I was actually feeling stronger. My legs were still kicking and my breathing got into a good rhythm that helped sustain me for the last laps.

Friday morning I got up with the birds to run. I had to drive my husband to the airport so I needed to run before that, which meant being on the pavement by 5:30 a.m. I ran a slightly different route than I usually do, to incorporate more hills. I figure as I’m running slower on these ‘easy’ runs, getting more hills in might not be a bad idea. It was a beautiful morning, with sunshine and a pleasant temperature; I even spotted a herd of urban deer and a few gangs of raccoons. It was nice to be out when it is so quiet; there are fewer people on the roads, kids are out of school and things feel calm. I just ran in the quiet, even though it’s in the middle of a city. I saw the sun come up and it was a great way to start a day (especially given the rest of my day was completely rushed).

American Robin -- Humber Bay Park (East) (Toro...

My running buddy. (Photo courtesy: Wikipedia.org)

For today’s long run we ran a route with a mountain to summit in it. Our coach likes to remind us when we run hills, “It’s not a hill.” Today he commented, “It’s not a hill. It’s a mountain!” Great motivation. The weather was great, after a rainy Saturday, as we ran on our national version of the 4th of July, known as Canada Day! Running in a group is so good for morale and support and motivation. Four km into the route we ran up (and down, have to come down) a mountain. It was about a mile long and an elevation gain of approximately 160 m (if I can read the map correctly). It was a grind, but another hill to crush. It was so great to see everyone working hard, encouraging each other, and making it up to the top. Strangely, coming down I felt relaxed and energized, which was great because we had more hills yet.

The flattest part of the road. (Photo courtesy of http://hikeeverypark.blogspot.ca/)

It was great to feel strong enough to sustain a good pace up the hills. You know the feeling where you are feeling fatigued, you start hunching over, your legs are screaming, you are slowly going slower and slower and you’re thinking, “Why am I doing this? It hurts, it’s hard and I don’t like this. The hill is getting longer as I try to go up. What possessed me to get out here with all these people and do this? I could be having coffee right now and reading the paper.” In actuality, you are so tired, all your brain can muster is, “Stop. Stop. Stop.” Today was the beast over the mind and all I could think was “These legs are strong. Relax and get up that hill!” I even passed people! Woot! And that, my friends, is a great feeling!

I’ve also noticed that getting out after a long run is key for recovery. I usually don’t stretch enough after a run and then tend to come home, shower and be comatose for the rest of the day. Getting out, even for a walk, or something as simple as doing grocery shopping where you are moving around, helps.

It’s Canada Day so I am heading out for some music, face painting for the kids and general crowd-pleasing activities. Happy Canada Day to everyone!

*Did you run today? Don’t forget your sunscreen!