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Prairie Life by Bill Radford

I resolve to be nice to Stinky, said Babu

Longtime local journalist Bill Radford and his wife, Margaret, live on 5 acres in the Falcon area with chickens, rabbits, dogs, cats, a flock of parakeets, goats and two horses. Contact Bill at

OK, so I donít make New Yearís resolutions.Iím guessing our animals donít either, since they donít have a calendar and arenít attuned to the holidays.But if members of the Radford Ranch menagerie were to make resolutions for the year ahead, Iíd have plenty of suggestions. Hereís what Iíd like to see our critters work on.Rooster A: I resolve to not bite the hand that feeds me ó or, to be more precise, to not attack the ankles of the man who feeds me.(We have two roosters. Our newer, younger one is pretty docile. But the rooster in charge is very protective of his hens and tends to attack me even when Iím doing something to help the flock, like feeding and watering them. The most annoying part is that the rooster is also sly; heíll wait until Iím busy with the chores and not keeping an eye on him, then attack. Roosters have spurs ó a sharp, nasty-looking, claw-like growth on the back of each leg ó and thatís what they use to inflict pain. You can remove them; we use the hot potato method, which involves a hot, baked potato on the spur to soften it before removal. But first, of course, you have to catch the rooster.)Our house chicken: I resolve to live outside again one day.(We brought this chicken into the house a month or two ago to nurse her back to health when Margaret noticed she was lethargic and very skinny. She has been living in a plastic tub in my home office while putting meat back on her bones. She seems healthy enough now, but when we try to put her back outside with the other chickens, her fellow hens beat up on her, apparently having forgotten that sheís one of them. The forlorn chicken then keeps coming to our back door waiting to be picked up and brought in. So until spring, we may be stuck with our house chicken.)Babu the cat: I resolve to quit attacking the new cat, Stinky.(We have three indoor kitties: Miles, Babu and our newest addition, Stinky, aka Stinkbomb. Apparently, two is company and three is a crowd ó because Babu keeps attacking Stinky. It has been bad enough that Stinky slipped outside and spent a few nights out in the garage, away from Babu, before we brought him back inside. Weíre investing in a squirt gun so we can fire on Babu when heís being mean. If youíre wondering about the name Babu, itís Nepali for baby boy; itís in honor of our daughterís time serving in the Peace Corps in Nepal.)Goats Pepe and Nana: We resolve to quit picking on fellow goat Chica and let her stay in the barn.(Our goats also come in threes: Nana, the oldest, Chica and Pepe, the only boy. While Pepeís always been wary around us humans, he has slowly taken charge of the goat group. And Chica has fallen to the bottom of the pecking order; while Pepe and Nana enjoy the comfort of the barn at night, Chica sleeps alone in a large doghouse that used to be the main quarters for the goats.)Blue the blue heeler: I resolve to be braver and more trusting of people and other dogs.(Blue gets along fine with our two smaller dogs and the cats. He is particularly good friends with the outside cats that have migrated over from the feral cat colony across the street. But except for us and our neighbor, Shirley, whom he has known since he was a puppy, heís mistrustful of other people and would engage in fear biting if he had the chance. Heís similarly ill at ease with other dogs. Heís been through multiple rounds of training, but remains what the experts call a îreactiveî dog.)Nikki the horse: I resolve to be nicer to Undies, my barn mate.(Nikki and Undies are bonded, but Nikki makes clear who the boss is. For example, when we feed them in their separate stalls, Nikki will chow down, then amble over to kick Undies out of her stall and see if thereís any food left over to steal. Undies is the bigger horse, but Nikki has the bigger personality. We got Nikki at a young age; we got Undies in her retirement years from a riding stable. Her name doesnít refer to underwear, by the way. She was originally known as Undertaker because one of the early duties was pulling a hearse. But Undertaker is kind of a scary name for a horse you want to ride.)Many of these resolutions have something in common: a goal to simply be kinder, whether itís toward a fellow goat, chicken or horse. The holiday message of peace on Earth and goodwill to all, it seems, should apply to the animal kingdom as well.

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