Friday, 7 May 2010

What do you do with a recidivist and a sociopath?

I finally caught my first crow -

Good news for me and the local fledglings, but the crow seems less than impressed -

It's his turn to go in a trap and catch another.

It went quiet on the crow and magpie trapping front for the past couple of weeks. Whether it's the cold snap we had, or whether there's been enough territory freed up by our trapping efforts to prevent fighting, we're not sure. This crow was number 25 caught this spring.

Underkeeper Pete has had great success trapping grey squirrels, a foreign invader here in the UK that threatens the native red squirrel population. Pete had 6 squirrels in one trap today. I'm pretty far behind Mike's and Pete's trapping skills, but I'm learning.

Looking out the kitchen window this morning while making coffee, I saw Mike walking across the garden carrying Myfanwy, the spectacled chicken. This could only mean that the specs weren't working to prevent egg eating. Mike caught her in the act and sent her to Eggsile again while we decide her fate.

She had a friend join her mid-morning. Our last lone game hen. She's an unspecified breed of a fighting-type chicken (don't ask - it doesn't bear thinking about and thankfully it's illegal). Seven game pullets were just dumped here one day. She's the last of her group.

The game hens go broody but with a vengeance. Their natural maternal instincts combined with their tendency towards aggression turned them into sociopaths. They would fight each other, kill the other game hens' broods and trample their own in the process. Nothing survived their mothering. As soon as a game hen went down on a clutch of eggs, all the other hens in the garden gave her a wide birth.

We felt sorry for the game hens, a victim of their breeding and unwanted by their breeders. We kept them, but never let them hatch another clutch of eggs ever again. Frustrated, some game hens would find quiet spots in the hedgerow to lay a sneaky clutch. Although we could never find them, the fox always did and one by one a game hen would disappear in summer.

Mike has a soft spot for this one hardened survivor. I did too, until I found she's been turfing other chickens off their nests and sitting on their eggs as her own. Not content with just one hen, she's madly defending at least two clutches that aren't hers and preventing them from hatching because she can't sit on both at the same time. She had to be stopped. I risked a good kicking to catch her, take her off the nest and put her in Eggsile. 

Both wayward chickens await a verdict now. Until then, at least they have each other. Unless one of them lays an egg, and then it will be war.


Cynthia said...

Squirrel tastes mighty good -- just sayin'.

Paula said...

Well, you could always count your losses and invite them to dinner....too cruel?

Glad it's you and not me making this decision!

martha in mobile said...

There isn't anything to do with a egg-eater but make stock! I chop up the meat and the stock veg and give it to the dog for a few dinners, so even a destructive bird can end life being harvested and appreciated.

Poppy Cottage said...

I'd err on the home made chicken and veg soup treatment.........

Jennifer Montero said...

Cynthia - I gave last night's squirrel to the crows for dinner. Pete eats some of his but I haven't been daring enough to try it. We haven't got rabies here and the meat is fresh so there's no excuse. Have you got any good recipes for a beginner?

Paula - Not cruel at all, very reasonable and realistic. I just get attached to some of them. I need to be a grown-up about this.

Martha & Colette - They are old and tough, so soup would be the only option.

Martha, I like the idea of feeding them to the dogs. I think I would be too heartbroken to eat Myfanwy at least, but wasting her would be a bigger crime.

Mike thinks I should put the game hen out to wood with the pheasants, as even my rough & tough gamekeeper husband doesn't like the idea of knocking his favorite chicken on the head, sociopath or no.

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

Now that I think of myself as so tough because I managed to put a broody hen in a cage for a couple of days, I say they've gotta go.

But it's so easy to make other people's hard decisions, isn't it?

Martha's idea of turning them into dog food does get around the problem of not wanting to eat your favorite chickens, but I would think it's the killing of them, not the eating of them, that's the hard part.

How 'bout you give them to Pete, who I suspect is unsentimental, in their live form, in trade for a few squirrels, which you use to make your first squirrel stew. Pete eats the hens, you learn about squirrels, nothing is wasted.

Got any other hard decisions I can help you with?

Paula said...

My neighbor across the street in Florida would buy a big bunch of chicken wings and cook them in some water all night in her crock pot out in the garage (she couldn't stand the smell for some reason) and then pot it up in quart freezer containers for dog food.

Cooking it all night like that rendered the bones soft and mushy, so Sweetie got a lot of calcium that way. I just mention it in case you do the dog food thing.....

Jennifer Montero said...

Tamar - I appreciate that you put so much thought into our predicament, especially as it's only a result of my being oversentimental about chickens.

Yours were sensible suggestions but I'm bottling out and putting them both in the pen in the woods. It IS the killing of two birds I've grown fond of that's caught me out.

Since you volunteered,I will be emailng you a long list of all my other equally hard decisions still pending...

Jennifer Montero said...

Paula - Chicken wings used to be cheap and readily available, but whether for economic or culinary reasons they've gone up in price. I supplement our dogs' complete food with any available meat but I've always fed it raw. Boiling down old birds isn't a bad idea, though I'm glad you warned me about the smell!