Animal Secrets

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

She’s been coming around again. She sneaks away from the flock and takes prolonged dust baths in front of my office window – strictly Ramon the Rooster territory.  And this is not the first time I’ve found Ramon and Florence alone together.

Florence is quite possibly our oldest bird. She’s a white hen with lovely black markings and has a screech so loudly obscene I’m surprised we don’t get cited by the county noise ordinance division. In her earlier days, she was the single most wretched animal to have to catch and give her regular medications – she would careen around the hen house, agitating all of the other chickens, her beak open with simply appalling screams emitting from her little body.  Psycho-hen.

In her egg laying days, now long past, I was afraid to reach under or around her to collect the eggs – it’s not that she would hurt me, but her startling hysteria made ME want to careen around the hen house screaming.  But apparently chickens mellow as they age, and she’s not only found some independence (leaving the chicken flock to venture as far as the front of the house is major news, folks) but it seems she’s being wooed by a younger man.

Ramon — ordinarily a real son of a gun who will rush you from under the bushes with a military-like yell, wings out to the sides, sharp beak ready to land on bare feet — has been courting little Florence.  Or is it the reverse? He’s never shown any particular preference for his own species before, and while he comes on quite strongly to humans with his vile intentions, with Florence he hides under the Elderberry tree and coos, doing his little mating dance but not yet quite approaching her.  Could this be love?

And on other parts of the farm, we have a new couple. Some may remember the violent resentment Jackie Bauer the turkey expressed towards Lurch, the new tom turkey. She pecked him bloody and had to be physically separated from him for more than a week while she calmed her rage at the newcomer and watched him flirt with the two younger turkey hens. I can’t say as I blame her – I’d have done the same, for sure!

Yet yesterday, somewhat inconveniently during a volunteer orientation, she cozied up to him while he displayed all of his feathers like a peacock, his long weird red sneed falling down over his face (a sign of great happiness and excitement)and, had I not intervened, they would have proceeded to do the wild thing in front of young and old.

I think we have a tendency to stereotype and categorize the animals we know – because Rachel the sheep has always been shy, we assume that she will continue to be shy. Sheep are shy, right? Of course, we do the same to each other. I always feel like my underwear is too tight when someone says to me, “Anne, you always do that”.

For clearly, all animals evolve.

To wit, what happened the other morning about 6 am. I looked out the front door, fondly and bleary-eyed at the sheep and goats grazing.  I saw the tan, fat body of Little Boy Goat. And then I saw a second Little Boy Goat. I kept counting, nearsightedly – one – two?  Two tan goats?  Fumbling for my glasses, I realized that a lone deer, a very young buck with small velvet antlers, was keeping peaceful company with my flock.   No one seemed to think anything of it.

In 9 years on the farm, I’ve never seen deer mixing directly with any of the animals here. Then a great fear seized me.  Derry – Maremma, livestock guardian dog – was out.  The mere whiff of a deer ordinarily sends him hurdling towards the fence line snarling, “intruder, intruder!”.   At that moment I saw him ambling up from the lower pasture.  I was poised to rush out, barefoot and in nightgown, to try to prevent a bloodbath. Yet Derry just glanced over at the buck, who looked up casually at him, and then continued on up towards the house for his breakfast.

Often we assume that secrets are bad things – things we must hide from others in order to not be judged.  And yet as the secrets of animal lives are slowly revealed to me, I see nothing but magic.

“Age does not protect you from love. But love, to some extent, protects you from age.”  ~Jeanne Moreau

Till next time,

Farmer Anne

Star Gazing Farm 501(c)3

A haven for retired farm animals and wayward goats


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