Saturday, June 12, 2010
Wednesday morning I woke up and was sitting at the computer doing my morning email checking routine. Everyone else was still asleep, except for Christa and Lexi, who went out for a run. I thought the chickens were being especially noisy, but thought maybe I just hadn't noticed them before since it's not usually so quiet this time of day. Chickens? I guess I should explain. We had been told that chickens are fairly easy to raise and that we could have our own fresh, organic eggs within a few months. So we decided to give it a try. Of course when Ryan decides to try a new hobby, he goes all out. Within about a week's time, we had close to 50 tiny chicks and 4 cute ducklings in a little pen in our garage under a heat lamp. This was in mid-March. In about 2 weeks they grew out of that pen and he built a slightly larger pen for them, still in the garage, since it was still pretty chilly outside. Meanwhile, a friend started building a more permanent chicken coop out on the driveway in front of Ryan's shop, with the intention of moving it to it's permanent home in the pasture when it was complete. Well, the chickens continued to grow and didn't know they were supposed to wait for the coop to be ready so they could have a home and learned to fly out of the pen in the garage and were creating a bit more mess and smell that I really wanted in the garage. Plus the nights were mostly above freezing by the first part of May. We attached wheels to the coop and moved in about 50 feet down the driveway, where it has been stuck since the first week in May. The ground has been too wet for us to try to take a large, heavy building across the field. And the original plan for moving it did not work quite the way we expected. The chickens (and ducks) were moved to a new temporary home of enclosed chicken wire in the field. They have been mostly content with this arrangement, as long as someone remembers to feed and water them often enough. The girls like to go out and pay them a visit every now and then. We have several varieties-mostly hens, but some roosters, too, and four funny ducks. On Wednesday morning as I was sitting here, I heard an especially loud THUMP, followed by more chicken sounds. It's not uncommon for birds to hit my windows in the morning, but this didn't sound like the usual chickadee hitting the glass. So, I went downstairs to investigate. Out the back window I saw my chicken enclosure completely empty with not a chicken in sight, and a large dog running away across my field. Hmmmm. I stepped out the back door, and still could see no chickens. I walked around to the front of the house and found about a dozen of the chickens hiding out on my front porch. Then I went around the other side and found another couple dozen, and the ducks, hiding out under Ryan's truck. I also found a few on the back porch, and two that had somehow fallen down the window well to the basement. I don't know a lot about chickens, but I really didn't want to leave them all over my house and yard, leaving little presents for us to find later with bare feet. So how to get them back to their home. (There was one chicken dead next to the enclosure, and lots of scattered feathers.) In books and movies it seems you see chickens happily following their caretaker, who scatters corn as she wanders the farmyard, and all the chicken follow. My chickens were not the least bit interested in following my trails of feed. Next idea: to herd the chickens back toward the enclosure. I learned that chickens are not particularly herding animals. Especially if there is only one chicken herder. I did manage to get all of the ones on the front porch to join the group on the back porch. Now to get the ones from under Ryan's truck. Finally Ryan came out to join me in my chicken herding endeavors. (Of course by now it's starting to rain again.) With the two of us and Ryan's brother Andrew, and our lawn boy, Blake, we managed to herd all the chickens back to their enclosure. Ryan nicknamed me "Chicken Whisperer" because I did have a good number following me around. We must have looked pretty silly chasing chickens all over the yard. Blake had to climb down the window well and carry the two that were down there up and out. I need to get better farm girl shoes-my good white sandals got pretty muddy. Another adventure of the city girl trying to turn into Farmer Brown.