The world of chickens

Chicken-wise, the past couple of months have been a roller coaster here on the farm.  I never would’ve expected so much from such goofy birds.  But after the births and deaths, love, hate, and turmoil that came out of our coop recently, I have to say, I’ve grown rather fond of them all.

It began with the eggs.  Our chickens have worked out a system where only one lays eggs at a time so the others can focus on other important tasks, like, I don’t know, walking around.  This does not result in many eggs.  What’s more, if the on-duty chicken decides to abandon the coop altogether, we have to search for the eggs, as if every day were Easter.

In the recent case, the egg chicken hid herself and her eggs in some leaf litter beneath a low-hanging palm frond.  By the time we found her, we had no way to know how old the eggs were and so we let her keep them.  Everyday we fed her there as she warmed her clutch of 10 or so. Through rain and wind, night and day, diligently she sat.

Then one day, she was gone.  All that remained was a few unfertilized eggs, many broken shells, and three lifeless chicks.  What happened, we could only speculate.  Perhaps one of Namibia’s wild cats, maybe a civet.  It was a sizable loss; a new generation of chicks and a dedicated mother.  I realized how excited I had become to see those eggs hatch.

But on the way back to the house, movement in the old, abandoned chicken stall nearby caught my eye.  There was our chicken with two yellow fluffballs running circles around her.  Whatever had happened, she successfully defended two of her chicks and moved them to the shelter of the old stall.  It was truly heart-warming to see and I was probably more excited than I should have been.  We set them up with food and water and the stall became their new home.

A little later we got another new addition to the chicken herd.  A friend needed to get rid of a rooster and thought of us.  We figured we could use some new genes in the pool so we accepted it.  But this was no ordinary rooster.  It was the biggest, manliest, most spectacularly decorated rooster I had ever seen.  He made our old roosters look like pansies which they did not appreciate.  Retaliation ensued.

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New rooster finally came in out of the rain for a game of pool.  He was not at his manliest for the photo.

We had kept the new rooster separated from the flock for a few days to allow for acclimation.  So he roamed the yard alone, standing pathetically in the rain to emphasize his solitude.  Eventually, thinking all would be alright, we gave him a night with the others.  But when the door to the coop was opened the next morning, new rooster came shooting out, in a barrage of squawks and feathers with one of the old roosters right on his heels.  When the old caught up to the new, he leapt promptly onto his back and began pulling out more of his long, luxurious feathers.  The new, big, strong, manly rooster responded by attempting to hide in a patch of aloes.  I finally managed to break them up and the new rooster was again separated.

A farm worker advised that we should give the new guy a couple of his own ladies so that he could find a niche and regain his self-esteem.  So the two youngest hens were moved in to his bachelor nook.  One was indifferent, but one was in love.  From then on, they’ve cruised the yard as the new couple, eating, drinking, and sleeping together.  The old roosters still had their admirers and gave up their bullying.  Peace returned to the coop.  But not for long.

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The couple during an afternoon nap.

Mama chicken, still over in the old stall with her two chicks was found one night unable to stand up.  I picked her up and tried stretching out her legs but it only upset her.  Beyond that, one chick had disappeared.  Again, we could only guess as to what happened, but it looked like a snake had come for one of her chicks and she was bitten while defending them once again.  Not only did she lose the chick, but she lost her life as well.  She died that night in a box in our kitchen, her last chick still nestled under her wing the next morning.

As orphaned animals tend to do on the farm, the chick moved in with us.  She deserved whatever shot at life we could give her.  In honor of our last bird visitor, Spicy Chicken the owl, she was named after another popular Namibian spice, and became Barbecue the chicken.

Understandably, Barbecue was not terribly fond of us at first.  But being the trooper that she is, she came around.  In a few days, she discovered she could get free rides on our shoulders.  Shortly thereafter, she was eating with us, literally, straight from our plates.

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We’re hoping she won’t attempt to do this when she’s bigger.

Barbecue has now exchanged almost all of her baby fluff for feathers.  She is quite independent, yet doesn’t like to be alone.  Eventually, she’ll be big enough to join the tumultuous world of chickens.  It won’t be easy, but assuming that she is the woman we think she is, one day not long from now, she’ll be a mom herself, a very fine one, and bring in a whole new crew of these bizarre and charming creatures.

Poolsharkdom awaits

I’d been playing pool for a few years before moving here.  Unfortunately, despite this lengthy opportunity, I did not build my skills to a sufficient level to avoid having my self-esteem smeared across the green felt from time to time.  Thus, it was good news when I discovered the wealth of pool tables in Namibia.  My relocation did not mean the end of my pool-sharking dreams.  But the road to reach them is not a smooth one.

It began one day in Windhoek.  Running errands in the nation’s capital meant the usual traffic, crowds, and exhaustion.  We needed a lunch break and Jay had a faint memory of a little pizza place with a few tables.  Out of this memory he pulled the route to a wee side road and cold beer, pizza, and pool.  It was here that I was introduced to the African pool table.

Although Africa is 6 million square kilometers bigger than North America, they did not have enough room for American tables and had to shrink them.  They smushed in all four sides along with the holes and deflated the balls by about a third.  Then they made one-size-fits-all-children cue sticks that I feel I might break with one hard shot.  Not optimal for us tall people but out of our control.

American cue left, African cue right. Don’t sneeze, you may splinter it.

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The fun continued on a trip to Rundu, a town on Namibia’s northern border.  In an attempt to mingle with the locals, Jay and I went off in search for a bar with a pool table.  We found the curiously named:

But instead settled on the more traditional Free Town:

This place had all a bar really needs:  walls (sheet metal), floor (dirt), bar (wood) with a few stools and beer (cold), and, of course, a table (pool).  The few patrons plunked upon the few stools were not shy to stare at the two whiteys that just walked in.  We may have been the only ones to ever have done so.  No one spoke English or any of the other languages from our area of the country but we did manage to order two bottles of beer and communicate that we wanted to use the table.  The patrons whirled around on their stools to watch what would surely be a spectacle.

I was now used to the miniature tables but I had not yet played on one which had more duct tape than felt.  That wasn’t so much an obstacle as the cue ball that disappeared in the table depths every time we scratched.

The patrons were very helpful though.  The men would lift the table and shake the ball out when it stuck and the women shared, in Kavango, their version of the rules.  The two words I did understand were “two times”.  This was in reference to the two shots a player got if their opponent scratched.  When we scratched, everyone would yell “TWO TIMES!”, we’d fish out the ball, and play on.

I had many supporters since I was the woman.  The men gathered around me each shot and, after discussing it amongst themselves, point to the ball they recommended.  Free Town erupted in cheers when I won and I received many handshakes.

Then the bartender wanted to play.

She was about half my height but glared at me like a bull sizing up a naked matador; no challenge.

She snatched the cue from Jay and roughly ground the tip with the chalk hanging from the ceiling above the table.  I broke.  A blink of an eye later, she catapulted the cue ball off the table and out the door.  This happened more than once; she shot impulsively and missed often.  I didn’t win so much as she lost.

Skills, 0,  interesting African experience, 92.

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After playing many lopsided, coin-eating tables throughout Namibia, into Botswana and even Zimbabwe we finally decided to settle down and have a uniquely quirky table of our own.  Ours has different sized holes and will eat any ball at any time.  For extra skill-building, Africa occasionally sends in her jillion-strong army of bugs to change at will the course of our balls.

“11 ball, corner pocket, off the dung beetle.”

Alas, it is through this cruel world I must plod fate-ward.  As Muhammed Ali once said: “Suffer now and live the rest of your life a champion.”

I’m sure I’ll only need another 50 years or so.