In last week’s column, or as the late Gilliam Lewis, who worked at the Rappahannock Record for over 60 years, would have termed it, last week’s “item”, I described the arrival of Clarence, not in the form of a hurricane, but rather that of a rooster. His presence has made a radical difference in the lives of one of the chickens.
For the past three years, Esmerelda has longed for motherhood, but without a rooster she could not fathom the impossibility of that happening. Each summer she has made a nice compartmental next in one of the boxes, clustering the infertile eggs under her wings, until, that is, I removed them. She is an extremely personable animal, and now, although she might not comprehend the difference, her efforts might lead to success.
I am serving her meals in situ, which she clearly appreciates. Whenever I speak to her, she gently replies, “Cluck, cluck.” She was meant for motherhood, totally dedicated to the welfare of her potential offspring, truly joyous at the thought of their impending hatching. Some of the other hens are laying their eggs with hers, making her all the more jubilant. I have had to teach her nothing.
What a contrast to Gladys, who came to us over a decade ago, abysmally ignorant of the rudiments of motherhood, and unwilling to learn. For years she would lay her eggs all over the lot, with no consciousness of what a nest is, or should be. I would gather them together on a straw bed, but nothing, then after the untimely death of her spouse, Lou, two years ago, she began nesting, but obviously to no avail, resulting in additional versions of my Good Wife’s superb goose egg frittata, and this year augmented by her goose egg cheesecake.
If Charles Dickens were here, he likely would write about them in a work entitled, “A Tale of Two Fowl”, but Charles is not here, leaving the subject to me to document. Esmerelda needs no coaching on my part, and Gladys is impossible to instruct, especially on matters that should come naturally to her. Esmerelda’s box is elevated off the ground, hence Gladys also cannot learn from her.
I have concluded that Clarence is quite happy in our barnyard with his 11-member ladies’ club. All of them, with the exception of Esmerelda, have been busy re-landscaping the pen, clearing unwanted weeds, and giving the entire place a much needed re-do, or perhaps the better term should be “beaklift?”. In the process they have been busy in providing a form of natural bug repellent. I hope they like chiggers.
Esmerelda watches them from her nest, but dares not leave the eggs unattended. Petunia is the vegan of the group. From chickhood forward, she had wanted an all-green diet. She particularly likes wisteria leaves, and as I have been fighting an invasive oriental form of the vine, both she and I are delighted for her to gorge on it. Given her confinement, I am finding difficulty in varying Esmerelda’s meals, therefore she mainly is dining on corn, which I place before her.
Quite typical of her indifference, Gladys will eat anything, but as she has aged, she cannot compete with the younger and quicker hens in getting to the food first. Also, she is enormous in comparison to the dainty little Rhode Island Reds, who swope in under her to get what they want. Occasionally, she will peck at them if she really is determined to eat what they have been served, but, being a goose, her real interest is in the water, which she prefers for bathing to drinking, somewhat annoying to the chickens.
Quite simply, Gladys and Esmerelda constitute a study in contrasts, exactly as many humans do as well.