Tuesday, 31 January 2012

A Saint, for Chickens

On Sunday the village celebrated Saint Anthony. He’s the patron saint of animals, so all the village horses – 200 of them – dogs, cats, rabbits, a parrot and a pair of tortoises, processed past the church to get a sprinkling of holy water.

It’s a beautiful festival. The riders dress up – themselves and their horses – and the kids mill around stroking a dog here or oooooing at a chicken there.

I took a Maran cockerel. I went for him, not for me. I’m an atheist, but it seems at least possible that my chickens have a god, so better to get them blessed than not.

A Blessed Cockerel

It’s like taking a Ferrari to a disco – you can really pull the chicks with a cockerel.

Early, and Late

This one is Early.

Early, 12 hours old

And this one is Late.

Space-age Chicken

Early hatched after 21 days in the incubator. Like he should. Late was very late – almost 2 days later (I was about to switch the incubator off.)

Hatched in January, they are living indoors, cheeping for attention, jumping out of their carefully constructed cardboard home and endangering their lives by fluttering in front of the dogs. I will keep them inside another week at least, until this Siberian cold has passed and they have some insulating feathers.

Cheep cheep!

Angel of Death

I saw it as we were returning home yesterday morning. A black shadow racing away from the bank in the field below me and flitting through the trees into the woods. That characteristic Accipiter Sparrowhawk flight – one of the most exciting on earth – of heading straight for woodland and then barrel-rolling to pass between the trees at the edge of the field.

He had killed a Maran. 

Once, a chicken

The bird lay split open, cleanly killed, gutted and shredded by the Sparrowhawk. Not good news for me, but a good meal for the Sparrowhawk, preparing itself for springtime and fertility. He or she will grow strong on a good feed of chicken.

Life, from the angel of death.