Friday, April 5, 2013

Early Spring Surprises

A little madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King.
--Emily Dickinson

Fawn sits . . . and sits . . .
and sits . . .
The week of Spring Equinox and Easter brought with it some lovely surprises to our farm--a couple of which seemed especially appropriate during this season of celebrating new life and new hope. First, one of our Buff Orpington hens "went broody"--that is, she decided she would sit on and care for a clutch of eggs. Of course, my daughters are excited to think they might soon be cuddling baby chicks again. There's a catch, though (as there often seems to be around here). Stripees, the only rooster that remains from the batch we got last spring, seems to be . . . well . . . how can I put this? Less that virile. It's not that he doesn't try to do his job, poor dear; he does--at least a few times a day. It's just that either his small size or his demure temperament (or both) means that after he's danced his flirtatious little jig around the hen he's out to snag and finally ascends those feathery feminine flanks to do his deed, he is more often than not promptly shaken off, and generally with little more than a vigorous shudder on the part of his erstwhile mate.

And so it is that the meek composure that has been key to Stripees' survival in our barnyard (he's the only one of the roosters from last spring's order of chicks that we decided to keep whose aggression didn't eventually land him in a cooking pot), is now leading us to question whether he is capable of passing on his genes to the next generation. If he isn't, then none of Fawn's precious eggs will hatch no matter how long she sits.
Knock, knock--anyone in
To try to figure out whether this was the case, we "candled" a few of her eggs, but while I thought some of them seemed to hold some promise, I wasn't confident enough in my diagnostic expertise to be sure. So we were fortunate to once again be able to turn to a good-hearted neighbor, T. McLeod, at Bradford Farm Stores, who gave us a handful of his own fertilized eggs to set under Fawn just in case her own clutch wasn't going anywhere. So she's now covering a full dozen . . . and waiting . . . and waiting    . . . and waiting. She'll be there for the next three weeks, hardly moving from the spot except for just the briefest of potty breaks and quick bites to eat. And then--if the Spring Fairies are smiling on us--we will have babies on the farm again! Not that we really need more chickens. It's mad, really--wanting more baby chicks. But it's Spring! So come, little ones, and bring us new life.

The most exciting--and perhaps most mad--thing that happened on our little farm last week, though, was the arrival of Segi and Simi's very own Easter Bunny. I had been working on this surprise for quite a while--plotting his arrival with a friend of mine whose family has owned him since he was
Cuddling with Koko
in his stall
a wee bun but now needs to get him off their hands. (Of course, I'm sure it is true that, as my husband helpfully pointed out, we don't need him any more than they do, but it's Spring! And in any case, he needs us.) I hadn't told the girls anything about him until a couple of days before Easter, when I announced that their Easter Surprise would be arriving a little early this year. That afternoon, my friend and her family rolled into our driveway with Kokopelli, his hutch perched on top of her SUV and all his supplies piled inside. The girls were ecstatic! As their father has insisted, we have him only on a trial basis, while the family is away on a two-week vacation. But of course, all of us girls have rapidly fallen in love with his snuggly-soft, twitchy-nosed little self, so we are all doing our best to make sure the trial goes smoothly.

In the meantime, we have used Koko's arrival as a particularly delightful learning opportunity. We have
Feeding Koko hay
in his hutch
acquired a great deal of knowledge in a very short time about the anatomy and behavior patterns of rabbits. Some of facts we have discovered have been particularly surprising. For example, did you know that many bunnies strongly dislike being held by humans? It makes perfect sense, of course. After all, they are relatively defenseless prey animals whose first instinct is to hide whenever a larger mammal is nearby. But I suppose most of us have been brainwashed by storybooks and children's television programming long enough that we just assume bunnies love nothing better than nestling in anthropomorphic arms. (What a funny ego our species our species has!) The girls and I have also accumulated a lot of tips on rabbit care. And we are learning a great deal about Koko's own particular personality traits, too. (I hope to share more of those in a later post.)

Koko has been learning some, too! Here he is at school with us:

Not bad for a first try, huh?
Great story! Can I have another?

Whew! All this studying is exhausting!
Next week, we are going to make part of our school curriculum studying the meanings and origins of Kokopelli's name and the Native American cultures from which it emerged. We think he'll be especially interested in this topic!

Until then, we will continue spending lots of time during these first few weeks of Spring doting on the newest member of our little farm family and looking after our latest mother-to-be. Welcome, Kokopelli, and good luck mother Fawn!

No comments: