I have three “generations” of chickens now.
The Originals are from the first batch I ordered from Iowa soon after we moved to the Farm. Like a first date, everything with that batch was new, and therefore a divine thrill. Choosing a feeder and waterer, setting up the bathtub with a heat lamp to keep them cozy and warm. Picking them up from the Post Office at dawn on the day they arrived, and listening to 37 voices of “CHEEP! CHEEP! CHEEP!” coming from the box all the way home. Fun.
The second flock was the Spontaneous Purchase at Eastertime, when chicks are available at feed stores for a few weeks. By then I had become a sage Mother Hen, so I offered knowledgeable advice to other shoppers about the chicks in the store. And just to prove I was the real deal, I cavalierly told the feed store guy, “I’ll take ten Buffs.” referring to the Buff Orpingtons that were hopping around drawing “Ooo”s and “Ahhhh”s from the City Folk. I felt macho and expert and I knew I could handle them. Heck – I was a Chicken Big Shot.
The Originals and the Spontaneous Purchase blended nicely. I introduced the flocks to one another gradually, following the instructions I found on several chicken blogs about such social matters. They co-habitate nicely now. However when they free-range, those teenage “Buffs” do tend to take off on their own while the Originals dominate all the best dust-bath areas near the house. They’re like the senior class, taking the best hangout so the freshmen have to find lesser digs.
Even with two flocks, our numbers have dropped. I turned five over to a friend for whom I agreed to raise them past the heat lamp stage. (Some people are into infants, others prefer toddlers. It was a very good arrangement. One that would probably work well for humans, too.) We suffered three fox attacks in a year, each one costing us about 6 chickens. So I ordered another batch of chicks this summer to pump our numbers up again.
I chose a hatchery “package” that included 15 “Ornamental Exotics”, to fill out the crew. Flock #3 I call “The Little Girls” because they’re all hens, and they’re the youngest. The Little Girls reside in a small coop close to the house, under the old oak tree. They’re getting big enough to venture out during “free range” time, but they tend to scoot in circles around their fenced yard, most rushing in after each round. They’re toddlers. Aware enough of danger to stay close, but feeling that first temptation to do something crazy. Such a cute age.
As attached as I am to these birds, I haven’t named most of them. I do try, but if a name doesn’t fit AND stick, I have to let it go. I know their breeds. I know their temperaments and habits. We have a relationship. But names are a big deal. A good one is worth the wait.
Like Sonny, our big Delaware rooster. After Sonny Corleone. He’s the boss of the whole coop, and no one bothers to question his authority. He protects his own, and acts tough when he has to. Sonny is the only rooster to have the magical blend of protectiveness and gentlemanliness I require for a rooster to be allowed to stay. Nasty roosters are promptly and permanently banished to the B.O.Q. (Bachelor Officers’ Quarters) when they show signs of chicken abuse. We have a Zero Tolerance Policy. If Sonny is a nasty rooster, at least he gets away with it.
Sally, our Delaware hen, is the only chicken with a random name that stuck. She’s not named after anyone, but she is clearly a “Sally” to me. Uppity and independent, she stands by her man – Sonny – and will hop on my head or peck at my teeth and eyes if curiosity moves her. I love her.
But Blue is my very favorite. She’s a Blue Andalusian, elegant and sweet. If I were a chicken, I’d want to be like Blue. I knew a parrot named Blue once, and he almost bit my finger off. Somehow it didn’t spoil the name for me though, so Blue is Blue.
I have a White Silky who’s called “Fifi” because she looks like a poodle. She acts like a “Fifi”, except that she loves a good dust bath as much as the next gal. Miraculously, she transforms from a filthy street urchin to an elegant swan after a few firm shakes, her dust cloud disappearing and leaving her snowy white and fluffy as ever. She’s a wonder.
There’s a Blue Silky we call “Heather” after our friend who’s a crazy party animal and insisted a chicken be named after her. Every time we call that chicken we laugh out loud at the thought of a chicken called “Heather”. And I think of Heather, too. It makes me want to do shots with this chicken.
We have a Red Frizzle Bantam I call “Red”. Not very original, I know. A Frizzle’s feathers curl so they look desperately windblown. She has the look of a rooster, but doesn’t seem to be sensitive about it. She sits on everyone else’s eggs – sometimes 5-6 eggs at a time. I think she’s trying to prove her femininity. The other hens just think she’s a sucker, and they prance away to the dust baths with a clear conscience, knowing Red’s got their eggs covered. Literally. The Silkies sit on other hens’ eggs, too, but I honestly believe they’re just plain lazy. Red does it to prove a point.
The “Little Girls” flock has been easier to name. Because these little snooties are “exotic”, names seem to stick more easily. Two Polish hens have giant Vegas-inspired feather hats, and I call them Zsa Zsa and Eva after the Gabor sisters. It’s worth noting that one of those Gabors played Lisa on Green Acres: my inspiration. Our Lakenvelder looks quite like a nun, so I’ve called her Sister Patrille (remember “The Flying Nun” with Sally Field?). We have a pair of Golden Laced Wyandottes, who’ve been called “The Cheetah Girls” from the beginning. The tiny chicks have cheetah-like patterns in their fluff. And now that they’re older, it still fits because they’re both spastic, giggly types who remind me of pre-teen Cheetah Girls of Disney fame.
Clearly I watch too much TV.
The teenage Buff Orpingtons are all called “Buff”, sadly. Like Dr. Seuss’s story about Mrs. McCave, “…who had 23 sons and she named them all ‘Dave’.” No real individual identity, poor things. And they’re all charming, too. Like a litter of Golden Retrievers. They stand in line to be held, occasionally pushing and shoving to the front when I’m not keeping track of who’s had a turn. They deserve names, but I can’t seem to pull it off. I need to.
I have a friend who got creative with his chickens. “Noodle”. “Nugget”. “Patty”. “Cacciatore”. Maybe he figures those names will make it easier to cook ‘em later.
He forgot “Pox”. Not so appetizing, I guess.
Maybe I should just name them all “Dave”.