Missy is one of our two-year-old Romeldale ewes. Because of complications during the birthing process, she was born hypoxic and obviously suffered neurological deficits. She has remained in our flock for the past couple of years to see whether she would breed; if so, she will continue in our flock. She has adapted fairly well, but she’s obviously slow to make connections, whether it’s a graham cracker held in front of her nose or the fact that the flock is leaving and she must follow. Missy does nothing quickly; she needs time to figure things out in her own way.
This past Sunday our sheep were enjoying some time in the lawn area around our house, munching on the various plantings before things went dormant for the winter. I also decided to release our chickens from the chicken yard during the middle of the day, so while the sheep roamed the lawn, the chickens were busy digging for bugs behind the garage. Rick and I spent the day doing some fall cleanup, so it was relatively easy to keep an eye on all the critters roaming where they normally don’t roam!
As we dug out some raspberry canes from the side yard, I noticed that Missy had come to see what we were doing. Our activity was too much for her to take in, so she moved on to graze the area behind the garage — right where the chickens were digging for grubs and various bugs.
As we watched, Missy suddenly found Albert the rooster within her view. You could see the lack of recognition pass over her face. “What is that thing?” she seemed to wonder as she began to approach. “I haven’t run across anything like this before!”
Albert is not the nicest rooster, having tried to come after me with his spurs on more than one occasion, but he either didn’t notice Missy, or he didn’t care. As she came closer to his tail to get a good sniff, he continued to scratch and peck, totally disinterested in this smallish ewe coming up behind.
Rick and I stopped our activity and watched. Would Albert turn and become aggressive towards Missy? Would Missy begin to stomp at Albert? We had no idea, but thought we should perhaps watch to make sure things turned out okay.
Missy spent a few minutes trying to figure out this small moving force as bits of leaves, dirt and bark sprayed back at her as Albert continued digging. She wasn’t quite sure what to make of all those shaking feathers, airborne dirt, and the occasional cock-a-doodle-do! She sniffed him from one end to the other, never quite figuring out this puzzle — and Albert did not care in the least. He seemed to understand that Missy was no threat.
Since Albert was obviously not interested in her, she finally decided that he was not something to be feared and began to move away, nibbling at bits of grass as she went. Missy’s encounter with her first chicken was over, and it had ended well — much better than we had expected!