Daisy May and Beauregard
Our first chickens where a breed called Araucanas. I’m not sure how we came to get those as our first birds, when Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks were so common. Later I learned that they were South American fighting chickens, but that's a whole other story. We got them as pullets, just barely losing their fuzz for more permanent feathers. We were hoping for a hen and a rooster, but we weren't quite sure what we would get.
After a few weeks there was a dramatic shift in their appearance and we realized that our wish had come true. The little rooster began to get these beautiful black, blue green feathers on his tail. His neck feathers came in as a deep orange that would be irredecent when the sunlight hit it. He was a beautiful rooster. His tail feather height was over 12 inches tall with several blue green streaming feathers that curled and drifting the wind. He was the stark contrast to his wife, Daisy May, who was a petite, yet heavy little hen. Tiny she was, compact almost and looked like a little powder puff. But when you picked her up she was all muscle. In contrast to his dark and striking plumage, Daisy May was a light colored, a dusty white. Each of her light gray feathers was edge in the light brown and a tiny streak of brown thru the center.
We waited in anticipation for her to grow up because the surprise about Araucanas is that they lay colored eggs. You see Araucanas unlike regular chickens that lay either white or brown eggs, they lay soft blue, olive green and pink eggs. I was told even their eggs are lowering cholesterol than regular chickens. As Daisy May reached six months of age, I made a habit of always checking the nests waiting for that first egg. I remember the day where I walked into the chicken coop and the wooden crate box that had been converted into nesting boxes, I saw the smallest of domes peeping up from the center of the hay nest. As I went over to the nesting box they're in the center of the hay swirl was a tiny olive green egg. She was truly magical. Daisy continued to lay her one egg a day for many, many years.
She was about one year old when she started to accumulate eggs in the nest. We decided not take them from her. When chickens try to set to hatch chicks they make a certain sound while sitting on the nest it is very different from the sound that they make when just normally laying their daily egg. When Daisy started to udder that sound, my mother and I allowed her to keep the clutch eggs under her. She was accustomed to people holding her and wasn't afraid. Naturally we lifted her up to see how many eggs were underneath. She didn't seem to mind. She was a tiny chicken and with 10 eggs underneath she was sprawled out as wide as she could possibly make herself. Instinctively every day she would turn the eggs with her beak so that they would lay on the opposite side. This is super important to do for eggs especially if you're doing it artificially in an incubator. You have to reproduce the flipping of the egg everyday. We would marking an “X” on one side of the egg and flip it to its opposite side when incubating. If done improperly, chicks would hatch with deformed feet, unable to walk. So Daisy filled he eggs instinctively. After a couple of weeks eggs became a beautiful shiny olive color, like jade, most likely from the warmth and the oil from her feathers. I waited with great anticipation for the hatching.
Twenty one days later Daisy May got off the nest. I stood in front of the nesting box silently listing. I could hear tiny peeps coming from inside the shells. Within a couple of hours there was much work going on with little egg tooth of a chick cracking away at the shell, and wriggling out, tiny little chicks still wet. They had really interesting markings for chicks. Commonly chicks are solid yellow or solid black. These were yellow but they had stripes of brown down their backs and wings. They almost looks like larger version of quail. The markings kind of looked like the patterns that are seen on baby ostriches but of course in miniature. Perhaps that's the wild chicken in them from South America. Daily May was incredibly attentive mother to each baby, showing it where the food was, showing it where the water was, and quickly responding when one would seem to get separated from the rest. Other hens that I had later did not show the same amount of attention to their babies and were not as successful in raising their full brood. But Daisy rarely lost a chick. In fact, she was so successful and raising almost every chick, our yard was soon overrun with her offspring. Blue and pink eggs were added to our daily collection, along with a bunch of unwanted young roosters. Their fate, is another crazy story. While Daisy May, will always be special in my heart as my first chicken with the magical olive green eggs!
As much as we loved Daisy May, the complete opposite is what's felt for her husband Beauregard. While strikingly beautiful, he was the meanest chicken I've ever met in my entire life. Aggressive wasn't the word. He was fearless. Anything coming into his territory was fair game. This meant my brother and I, my grandma or even the dog was in for a heap of trouble. He’d laid claim on the back part of our pasture and was aggressively defending every square inch. To make matters worse Beauregard grew an unbelievable pair of spurs. These are a long, dater-like toenail mid-way up the rear of the leg. They were easily 2 inches in length and razor sharp on the tips. So big, they each looked like the tooth of an alligator. And just like Daisy had nesting instincts, Beauregard came fully equipped for fighting. He knew just how to fly up in the air, fold his legs inward and punch forward with both spurs. It was truly terrifying. We used to take a broom with us whenever we go out in the pasture, but you still didn't feel safe. It was like playing baseball with a rooster. You would swat him out of the way, but he’d glide to the ground, turn and come at you again. Most of the time we just have to run. The worst was when you caught you off guard. You'd be coming around the corner of the shed in there he’d be. And there you stood, broom-less, and helpless. It was great exercise, always trying to outrun the rooster every time we would go in the back pasture. Most of the time when he did catch you there'll be scrapes and scratches. But eventually, Beauregard’s skills improved even further and that's when the hospital became involved.
My mom was leaving a little shed where we kept the washer and dryer. She was carrying a laundry basket full of clothes to fold. She was inside the fence area, which Beauregard never frequented. Her guard was down. But that day, Beauregard had flown over the gate or maybe he slipped under a hole in the fence. Regardless of how he got in, he was right outside the shed. Mom was turning the corner when Beauregard did one of his acrobatics. With perfect precision he jammed one of his spurs into the heel of her foot. The spur went in so deeply that when she reached down in reflex to pull him free she couldn't even get the spur out.
Beauregard began to flap his wings his body facing the other direction, but his spur with deeply embedded in mom's heel. Finally with some really tough tugging, she pulled the spur from the tough callus. She limped back in the house, bleeding everywhere, as Beauregard crowed, ran and danced around hens. “It's just in his nature,” she said. “He's just defending his territory.” This is what she said on the way to the emergency room. But when she exited the exam room, gray in the face, she wasn't so kind. The tetanus shot and antibiotics and let's just say a less than pleasant cleaning of the hole, was something that you think would be the death knell for this rooster. However, mom’s loving heart allowed the monster to live.
So the broom swinging running and shrieking continued for a number of years. Until one night raccoon got into our chicken coop. It happened from time to time. Sometimes it was even a bobcat. The raccoon had torn away at the chicken wire and got fully inside the coop. He killed one of the hens, luckily not Daisy May, and stayed inside the coop while he ate her. Little did he know the Beauregard flew down from his upper perch. The rooster clucked and squawked a warning to all the hens. He even put himself in between the hens in the raccoon which is an amazing behavior of many roosters. The raccoon decided to have to go after him, but had no idea the chicken that it was facing. We could hear the commotion, but we weren't out at the coop yet. Squawking and slamming and feathers flying and a strange screaming. My mom got the shotgun and a flashlight but the pasture was pretty far back in the corner of our property. By the time she got there Beaurgard was dead. She could see the half eaten hen and Beauregard slim body laying nearby. His neck appeared to be broken. As she shined the flashlight around the rest of the coop, she was shocked to see something furry in the corner. To her surprise sprawled out in the back corner of the coop was a dead raccoon. Multiple holes to the face and chest had been his end. Beauregard may have died but he killed the raccoon too! That was one hell of a rooster!