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Monday, April 30 2018
In Search of Russell Crowe


To loosely quote Robert Burns, "The best-laid schemes of mice and men often go awry."

And so we re-join our continuing saga of the Blue-Laced Red Wyandotte chickens. In the first episode of this drama, I found a breeder in Central Texas with a lovely group of birds and purchased two roosters and six hens. They promptly got sick. One by one all but three of the birds croaked because the breeder failed to vaccinate the chicks for the highly contagious and deadly Marek's Disease Virus. Live and learn. I assumed they were vaccinated because most hatcheries provide vaccinated birds. My mistake. Won't happen again. I had three hens left. Thus began the search for an adult, vaccinated rooster.

In the next episode, I found two adult breeding pairs of Blue-Laced Red Wyandottes which had been purchased as chicks from a local feed store that is known to buy vaccinated chicks.  I put one blue rooster with the two new hens and put the other rooster with my free range flock of Golden-Laced Wyandotte hens where he would remain until the Marek's infected hens began laying eggs. The plan was to acclimate the rooster slowly to the Marek's virus by not placing him in the pen with the infected birds until he was used to the property and his immune system wasn't as stressed. This would be a race against time as it was also possible that the Marek's infected hens could become symptomatic for the disease and die before we placed the rooster in the pen. As it is, with the exception of one hen who has a bit of a limp, they are still clucking along quite well.

And thus begins today's episode.

The two new blue hens started laying eggs. I am still getting only one egg a day from the three infected blue hens. Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady, who takes no shit off anyone, is steadily giving one egg each day. I wanted to have another infected hen laying before I placed the rooster in the run with them. The plan was to wait until at least two hens were laying and then birdnap the blue rooster, Russell Crowe, and dump him into the pen with the Marek's infected hens, keeping my fingers crossed that Russell would not contract the disease because he was vaccinated.

This morning I fed all the chickens and released the Golden Girls and Russell. The Marek's hens made coy eyes at Russell and I considered putting him in with them this morning. The thought crossed my mind but like a dragonfly, it flited away before I could act on it. About mid-day I went outside and noted that Russell was missing. There were six golden hens and no rooster. That's a puzzle. Sometimes a group of girls strays outside the barnyard but never Russell. A casual search of the barnyard did not produce the rooster. I filed a Missing Persons report with the Livestock Guardian Dogs.

They took the report and joined the manhunt for the missing bird. I thought I heard him in the sheep pens behind the barn but a search revealed nothing. As the search area extended, it became apparent that this was not a Search & Rescue mission, but a Recovery mission. Despite an intensive search, Russell Crowe vanished like a fart in the wind.

The search party began to break apart. The Livestock Guardian Dog lost interest and plopped down in the shade, the Other Half got bored and headed to town.  I was left with a quiet barnyard and dashed dreams. Nevertheless I was still thankful that I kept one blue rooster under lock and key. He becomes my only hope that the genes of the Marek's infected birds will survive. Still - I was left wondering. How was there no trace of Russell?

I couldn't let the puzzle die, so I headed back to the sheep pens. The Labrador pushed his way through the gate with me and I was too distracted to toss him out so I let him cruise the pens in his olfactory wonderland. Then I heard it again.

The soft sound of a chicken. Where? I looked around. Still nothing.

Trust your dog.  I stopped searching the pens and watched the Labrador. There! Under an overturned bucket!

I carefully lifted the bucket to reveal a very relieved, half-roasted chicken. Apparently he hopped on the lip of a bucket to drink and it tumped over on top of him. Russell was quite happy to see me. He was even happy to see the dog. The Labrador went about exploring the pens in hopes of something more interesting than a chicken under a bucket. Russell was then captured and dumped into the pen with the Marek's birds. Margaret Thatcher was quite happy to see such a fine specimen of manliness and told him so. Russell answered, "Not now. I have a headache."

And so the saga of the Blue-Laced Red Wyandottes continues. Russell will stay in the pen for a while. We'll order a bottle of the Marek's vaccine and when it arrives we'll collect eggs from both pens of blue birds for incubation. Russell and I dodged the bullet today. It's time to start saving these genes. Living on a farm is a game of catastrophic expectations. Sometimes the drama unfolds into tragedy and sometimes it's just a bucket of chicken.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 03:29 pm   |  Permalink   |  4 Comments  |  Email
He really is a handsome devil.
Posted by Susan on 04/30/2018 - 04:05 PM
ROTFLMAO!! Once again you exquisitely detail life in the fast lane on the funny farm. Thank you!
Posted by Wendy Pinckney on 04/30/2018 - 04:22 PM
ROTFLMAO!! Once again you exquisitely detail life in the fast lane on the funny farm. Thank you!
Posted by Wendy Pinckney on 04/30/2018 - 04:23 PM
And let's crow about that great lab! Each player and an important part to play in this world . He met his job with pride and today won the golden egg. Well , not really but sort of.
Posted by Sue. Sheep mama in Wyoming on 05/01/2018 - 05:51 AM

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