Monday, May 21, 2012

Clipping Wings

Chickens on a hot tin roof. (L's photo)
Spring is full on, with summer crowding behind it like the hens crowd the gate. It has come early this year, and I'm racing to catch up with my gardening. Which means that the hens (and my blog) haven't had as much attention from me as they normally do.

The Littles have integrated with the Bigs, though peace is a bit tenuous. The Bigs are quick to let the Littles know that the line in the sand is wherever they want it to be, all the time. Pip seems most likely to push the limits. She was the first Little to perch on one of the favored roosts, and she hopped up there then looked around like, "What?! I can be here. It's a free country isn't it?"

Thelma was relatively quick to settle that question, pecking at her and sending her to a lower roost. For the most part, though, the Bigs have stopped chasing and pecking them, and all of them scratch and hop and roost together.

The long flight feathers, pre-clipping.
I watch them as I garden, scanning the run to see what they are doing when I hear an indignant cluck or a dust up over some morsel of a worm. For the most part though, things are pretty quiet in the coop right now.

But there are unexpected moments. One afternoon, not long after we put the Littles in with the Bigs, L comes running into the house. "Mom! The Norwegian chickens are on the roof!"

"What roof?" I ask.

"The roof of the garage!" L runs back out with my phone to take a picture.

I look out, and sure enough, Pip has joined her BFFs, and all three of them are wandering around on the roof of the garage like smug explorers in a newly discovered country.

Then they hop from the garage roof over to the coop roof, and fly light as swallows down to the backyard.

The Bigs angle their heads and watch, incredulous, from the confines of the chicken run. The Littles are among the lush lettuce heads and spinach sprouts, and they, the BIG chickens, are not. How can this be?!

Thelma, Louise, Mabel, and Violet crowd the gate and stare in disbelief. They shoulder each other and jockey for a viewing spot.

Lotte, Olga, and Pip strut casually past the gate, pecking at bugs, pulling up weeds, and rubbing it in.

I let them enjoy their moment of triumph, then head back inside for the scissors. I call M and ask if she can help me clip wings.

She and L will round up the high fliers and present them for this painless, but humbling, procedure. I clip just their flying feathers on one wing. Clipping one wing makes it difficult for them to balance and fly. Lotte squawks indignantly as I gently spread one of her wings. She pulls it back in, I pull it back out, and we repeat this until I take a slightly firmer hold. She looks alarmed. I clip, M puts her down, and she hurries off, completely unaware (until she attempts flight) that she's been grounded.

Pearl and Louise are the only hens left with their wings intact. L wants to show them in 4H, and she tells me you can't show a bird with clipped wings. Neither of them seems inclined to go tour the neighborhood. Yet.

With a scattering of discarded gray and buff bird feathers littering the patio, we're finished. We put the three errant birds back in the run, and they are back to being yard birds, instead of roof birds. I think the Bigs eye them with just a little more respect.

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