Anyone who knew me 17 weeks ago would have rolled on the floor laughing because I was terrified of birds. In my defense, I was attacked by a seagull who stole my fluffernutter sandwich right out of my mouth (to this day i believe the gull belongs in the B-52 bomber squad). So when deciding to embark on this Adventure in Chicken-Land… yeah I was a little skeptical, but excited. I figured we buy wee little ones that I can get used to slowly as they grow up (slowly) and we will all live happily ever after. Life with chickens- happens faster than you’d think. If you don’t stop and take lots of pictures, you might miss it.
First, by the end of week 1, I was completely hooked- and had quickly learned about chicken math (while getting chicks it went from 6 then to 10 and we ended up with 15...). By this time, they have started to develop big personalities to go with their little selves. They recognize you when you come to spend time with them. All of a sudden, I realized how intelligent they really are… then I began to wonder… “Will they be able to play chicken mind tricks on me?!?!”. The answer is yes.
Second, no later than week 4, a top will be needed for the brooder. They want to flap and jump and fly. Chickens are very athletic. Who knew?!?! None of the chicken books warned me of this. At a very young age they show Olympic potential for the 100 meter dash- especially if you have a sleek little bantam- or the high jump. Escapee chicks are no fun- the others just egg the escapee on (pun fully intended).
Third, please note that by 6 weeks old the cute little bundles of peeping joy, need to move out. They are pullets now, not chicks. Yes they are so much fun in the brooder; we had ours in a spare bedroom in the house and are still cleaning up dust 11 weeks later (hey whose counting) but that’s ok. So totally unprepared for them to grow so fast ,no thanks to the chicken books, I really needed more time to get used to having birds.
So finally, week 8 arrives, and the weather has decided to be decent enough for us to have the girlies move it on out! Chicken wranglin’ time! Woo-Hoo! Yeah, it’s really nothing to be excited about… for anyone. We had two large Rubbermaid totes to move 15 pullets. To me they are rather large pullets. That I have not really been able to hold since, oh, week 2 or 3.
OK, here we go. Pullets in bins- lids on… out the door. They are not moving in the totes. It’s like carrying chicken statues. Are they dead?!?! They haven’t been in there more than a minute at this point… I’m having a minor panic attack and apparently so are the girlies. (Note to self- also not in chicken books- chickens FREEZE when scared or confused; helpful though when taking photos- try squawking at them when you want their attention).
Finally, in the coop. We’ve built our coop in a rather unconventional manner… think Native American Long House style. My rookie mistake. I know nothing about construction… hence I should not have been listened to. Oh well. It’s a rather pretty color of Orange though. I digress. Open the bins… to wide eyed girlies. Carefully remove said girlies from the bins….
And I get closed into the coop with 15 flying Velociraptors! PANIC has ensued! Me and them! They are running and flying around the coop and me trying to make myself into a very small out of the way object. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Ok. Finally- the door opens. Ok. Outside. Me not them. Much better. This is going to take some getting used to…..
After about 1 week in the coop, the girlies get to go out into the run. So opening the coop door, they are all standing on the edge, just looking out. Finally one takes the leap. And immediately turns around and jumps back into the coop. This goes on for about 10 minutes. The lesson here is that chickens are very, well, chicken about new things. And it’s quite funny to watch!
I had been spending time with them in the coop, but I couldn’t take them flying around me. Too much for my fear… but sitting with them in the run, yeah, this I could handle. Until they started jumping on me. Oh my. Having beaks so close to my face… and flapping wings. But their feathers are so soft, and their little cooing sounds as they nap are so sweet. Maybe this is ok. (Please note that chicken naps and cuddles in laps are quite addictive)
Every day before and after work, I would go and sit in the camping chair with the chickens. They would come and sit in my lap or on the arms of the chair. It’s incredible how much time passes when sitting with chickens. One day I made the mistake of leaving the chair out in the run- it’s now the chicken chair. You can fit a lot of chickens in the chicken chair. If you don’t have a chicken chair- I highly recommend one- they really enjoy it.
Then one day, it happened. I opened the run door and one got out. We really hadn’t decided if we would allow them to free range or not. We have a lot of hawks, eagles, etc. around us, so it was something that we really weren’t sure of. Thankfully, Rambo (she had a small injury so she got the name) went right back in. But that really got us to thinking. What about free range?
A few days later, under supervision, out they went! This they seemed to take free ranging like a duck to water. They stayed under the trees and shrubbery. Scratching for worms, bugs, and chasing moths. Now they know when it’s 530pm every day… it’s time for them to go out. The girlies are all by the run door clucking up a storm. And if I’m late getting home from work, boy do I get an earful (Our Silver Sebright, MoneyPenny, lets me have it!). Don’t let anyone ever tell you that a chicken doesn’t learn. Ours can tell time.
Now we’re headed into week 18… some of our girlies are (according to the chicken books) looking like they may start to lay soon. I’m so excited! It’s actually a little bittersweet, I guess. I wanted them to stay smaller longer- you know like watching dogs and horses grow up. But chickens grow so fast. I love watching them in the flower garden digging up grubs (my flowers aren’t nearly as happy about them scratching) and watching them dust bathe under their umbrella- beach bums
You know, I used to think that everything I needed to know about life, I learned from my horse (who, by the way, is sure that the chickens are giant horse eating monsters)... well I’m beginning to think that there’s a lot to learn from my chickens. But for right now, we’re just wingin’ it