Thursday, March 27, 2014

March showers

When you still have patches of snow on your flower bed, you're glad when the rain comes down. May it wash away all traces of winter!

When you have chickens in a coop and rain outside, your gladness is going to be tempered by the reality of tending to the birds in the rain.

That's okay. Hardy peasant stock. Out I go. And it's not even raining hard now. And while I don't fully love the thermometer reading (35F), I appreciate the fact that it's above freezing.

Oreo if crowing. Does this mean he's come to terms with his polygamous leanings? Are they all friends now?

Not so fast. Two hens upstairs, Oreo and Lexie downstairs. Well okay. Let me free them for a bit while I clean out the coop.

(lexie seems to be asking -- love me still?)

Here's another reality check: four chickens leave twice as much in droppings as two chickens. And so if you are a fastidious coop maintainer (I am that), you're going to spend twice as long tiding their rooms.

(the foursome)

For a minute, I feel like the maid in a small country bed and breakfast. The gang's out and about having a good time and I'm neatening up their quarters. But the feeling passes. I try not to think about doing this in the dead of winter. And I try to block Ed's words that cats are easier. After all, the chickens didn't wake me ten times in the middle of the night. You listening, Isis?

Chores done. Let me spend some time with the brood. Get the two newbies used to me.

They are indeed on better terms with each other. No one is fighting, biting, scratching. They stick close to the coop. I'm thinking -- nice! It's good to see them enjoying this wet spring day.

Okay, I'm hungry for my breakfast. Let's get them inside so that I can put them out of my mind for a while. Keep them safely ensconced in their shelter. Butter is already snuggled in her tidied bed. That girl appreciates good maid service. I can tell.

Oreo and Lexie aren't hard to shoo inside. They know me, I know their ways, in they go.

Then there's Whitey. I was told -- shake that bag of mealy worms and she'll come running! I shake the bag. She runs up. I lean down toward her, she runs away. I scatter worms all the way to the coop door. But I can't keep it open. the others will come out. And again, she runs away by the time I get near her.

Ed watches from the farmhouse as I chase Whitey around the yard. I admit it -- I'm having that second day remorse that comes whenever you introduce something new into your life. First day's exciting, second day, you wonder what craziness possessed you to do this. Third day things settle down. Right?

I chase her to the back of the silo. Round and round we go until she finds an old truck topper and scurries under it. That's it. She won. I can't get under that thing. Even though I remind her that a predator will have no problem crawling in after her. She ignores me.

I have no choice but to leave the coop door open and wait for her to come back to her home on her own terms.

Of course, in the meantime, the other three decide to stroll out again. I turn my back on the whole lot of them and go in to fix breakfast.


Ed tells me that I need to let go a little. That I should be able to let them roam, if that's their inclination. That I cannot spend all my free time fretting about chickens.

We watch them from the kitchen window. At least they're staying by the coop. So far, our neighbor hasn't come back with a squawking chicken under his arm.

The rain comes down. Isis retires for his day-long nap upstairs, Ed goes down to the sheep shed to work on whatever project grabs his attention there at the moment. And I see that Oreo, Lexie and Whitey are following him there. (Butter is roosting in the coop. What can I say.) Oreo peers inside the sheep shed window, as if to tell Ed -- well now, that's an interesting place. Want to invite me in?



I smile from the warmth of the kitchen table at the farmhouse.

And when I do go outside, I see that the chickens are getting quite wet. They're not thrilled with this and are easier to pick up and thrust back into the coop. Door latched. Exhale. I go back to my work at the farmhouse.


In the afternoon, I let them out again. Easy. Let them be. They are used to each other...


...and they know their coop. They're laying eggs, too!

I leave them alone and go inside to drink a good, warm cup of tea. As I throw a casual glance at them, I see that the rooster is standing on alert. What? Does he miss me? I smile.

And then I quit smiling. I see up in the sky three large hawks, circling, coming closer and closer to the ground and I know as sure as anything that they are after my birds (how quickly we become possessive!). And the rooster knows it too and he sends a distress call to the hens who stand frozen in the rose bushes. 

I'm out of the house in a flash. The hawk sees me, makes a final swoop and goes away. So do his buddies. That was today. Will they be back tomorrow? Almost certainly. Will Oreo and Ocean author defend the brood?

Sigh... this foster chick care is stressful.


I store the three eggs from the coop and reheat chili for supper. 

And in the evening, the rains stop and Ed and I stroll outdoors again. We open the coop to let the chickens out. We watch them forage and scratch and it is just such a good evening to be out with your brood and I'm thinking -- I'm lucky to have these guys here. Lexie looks up at me expectantly, always curious to see if I have some tricks up my sleeve. I rub her back and then step away. She rejoins her buds and they peck and scratch until we herd them into the coop for the night.