I don’t know what he’s crowing about, but he’s giving it his all.
I don’t know what he’s crowing about, but he’s giving it his all.
Summer is winding down in our household. Soon, Wyokiddo will start kindergarten and I will face an empty house and open day for the first time in five years. But aside from the stacks of school supplies in the corner of my office, I can also tell summer is coming to an end by how the pheasants look.
It’s been several weeks since I’ve been in the pens and enjoyed the birds. I’ve been busy with my own flock. I’ve had several photo shoots, we spent time with my family in Cheyenne and we participated in our local county fair. So I was a little surprised at how the birds have grown.
The males are starting to color up and act like boys. Several roosters trailed us in the pens. They would ruffle their feathers and bluff charge us to show us their toughness. The red eye patch is quite distinct, and many are getting their “ring-neck.”
The girls, on the other hand, generally hide in the kochia and give us a wide berth. They use the weeds as cover to protect themselves. It’s an important technique that will serve them when they are released. They can use the natural cover to hide from dogs, hunters, owls and coyotes. They’ll also use that cover to protect their clutch of eggs and chicks.
Nobody on the road,
Nobody on the beach.
I feel it in the air,
The summer’s out of reach.
Summer isn’t out of reach yet, but soon my boys of summer will be gone for another season. In the meantime, we’ll enjoy their antics and the gentle thrum of life in rural Wyoming.
Did you know a group of pheasants is called a “bouquet?” This country girl would take a bird bouquet over roses any day! Aren’t those tails just beautiful?
It was a girls’ morning out this morning. But there were no pedicures or lattes. No shopping. No gossiping with friends. Just me and the white dog and 3,000 acres of land in which to find a pheasant. Two hours knowing only the heft of my shotgun, the happy grin on the white dog’s face, the pull of tired muscles not used in a while.
As I walked the tree belts looking for birds, I thought of my dad. He used to hunt this area back in his prime, sometimes coming home with birds, always coming home with stories. The only thing I came home with was three unspent shells, one tired, tired Roxy dog and a memories of my dad. Couldn’t ask for a better hunt.
The Spring Special Pheasant season is underway here at the bird farm. The four weeks of the special hunt and general hunt are tantamount to chaos in our lives. We’ve got folks driving up and down our roads all day, hunters wandering around our house, pheasant seeking refuge in our shrubbery. It is also the busiest time of year for Outdoor Guy, as his days become a blur of feeding, loading and releasing birds.
Occasionally, I take a break from being the chief wrangler of Wyokiddo to ride with my husband as he releases the pheasants in the evenings. It is all pretty routine for him. For me, there is still something poetic and wonderful about it. I love seeing the birds burst from their boxes on the truck and exploding into the great beyond. Sometimes they crow or purr. Other times, they are simply off and away, their wing beats lost to gentle murmurings of a Wyoming wind.
Here’s a quick video produced by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department that talks about the work adventures of Outdoor Guy and what he does as the head of the Downar Bird Farm.
The pheasants are beginning to show their secondary sex characteristics, and it makes for a fun evening walking through the pens. The roosters, like this guy, are getting their red eye and cheek patches and laying down their new colored feathers. His white “ring-neck” is just starting to appear as well. I love watching the transformation from fuzzy yellow chick to sleek, ornate beauties.
The boys are also starting to act like boys – strutting and preening and pushing each other around. But the best part is hearing them try to crow when they really haven’t gotten their big boy voices yet. Er-er-er-er-ARRRAQUSAKSEK!
In Response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Pure.
One of my daughter’s favorite activities in the spring is to visit the pheasant chicks her daddy raises. She would sit in the barns with them for hours, despite the sweltering conditions, if only I would let her.
I love seeing the chicks, but I was more mesmerized by her interactions with them. As soon as she sat down, the day-old chicks were checking out their new friend. They would hop on her and try to crawl in her boots. They would even climb in her outstretched hand when she offered it. Very gently, Wyokiddo would scoop up a tiny chick, hold it in her hands and whisper “I’m glad you made it! Grow big little chick!” before releasing it back to the floor. The innocence and pure love of those moments made my heart swell.
Soon the chicks will grow into adult pheasants and lose their cuteness. And before I know it, my little girl will grow up as well. My hope is that despite the toughness of this world, she will always keep her pure, sweet, beautiful heart.
We welcomed another batch of chicks today at the Downar Bird Farm. It is pretty near impossible to have a bad day when you get to start it with 6,000 fuzzy, cheeping pheasant chicks!
Don’t you just want to snuggle this little guy? My favorite part of this photo is that you can make out the chick’s egg tooth…that’s the tiny hook on the end of the beak. The egg tooth isn’t really a tooth, but is a sharp little extra “cap” on the end of the beak that helps the chick hatch. A chick will first use the egg tooth to puncture the air sac within the egg, giving the chick additional oxygen toward the end of its incubation period. Then the chick will use the egg tooth to break out of the egg shell, known to poultry nerds like Outdoor Guy as pipping.
Some frogs, lizards, crocodiles and spiders also have an egg tooth.
A few days after hatching, the egg tooth falls off, as it is no longer needed.
I wish it worked that way for humans. I have a little extra something on my thighs I’m not needing that could fall off any day now…
Monday marked our one year anniversary of living in Goshen County, Wyoming, and of Outdoor Guy’s switch from raising fish to raising birds. Not that he had any time for reflection, because it was time for this season’s chicks to hatch.
We spent last evening admiring the brand new pheasant chicks and enjoying the sheer tininess of it all. Tiny beaks, tiny wings and tiny little attitudes…one was fascinated with my wedding ring and kept pecking at the shiny band in my hand.
It’s been quite a year. We said goodbye to the place where Wyokiddo was born. Outdoor Guy said goodbye to a job he’d done for almost fifteen years. We’ve put down new roots, made new friends and reconnected with others. We buried my father and our dog. Wyokiddo has grown up so much, transforming from an uncertain toddler into a confident and sunny preschooler. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than surrounding ourselves with life anew. Here’s to another trip around the sun. Whatever it might bring.