Tuesday, April 01, 2014

ten days

For ten days, we've been caring for the foster chickens. And who would doubt that they have finally settled in. Probably for the long haul. (In fact, we haven't seen the owners for many days -- it's as if they have handed over the job to us. Possibly happy to be freed from their care.)

If we thought that having foster chickens (instead of raising our own from a hatchery) would be in some way easier, less permanent -- well, that obviously was incorrect. We have invested so much time and effort on this! And, too, their owners are counting on us. So, it surely feels like a very un-temporary foster care arrangement. (I try not to think about winter: winter scares me. I don't think their coop is perfect for them for all those cold months. Such a small shared space! But maybe in the winter chickens don't move much? I can't answer that. Right now, we're facing the best of the good months and caring for chickens seems oddly pleasant.)

This is not to say that we are without chicken worries. I sit in the kitchen and glance out at the pen. Lexie is running to hide under the roosting box. The other hens file into the coop. Oreo is on alert. I surely know this drill: there is a hawk above them. I'm ready to help Oreo, but as I dash outside I see that the hawk is gone. Our birds are in a pen shaded by the crab apple tree. Nearly hawk proof. And Oreo does not let down his guard.

It's a cold morning (a really cold and windy morning!).  Butter is not too keen on scratching and foraging. She picks spots, makes nests for herself and dozes, oblivious to predators, people, the flock. Or, is it that she is lethargic due to illness? I wont admit to the hours we spend this evening researching all the things that can go wrong with chickens. Random illness that can ravage your flock. Snap, chicks are gone. Such words as culling creep into the literature.
What does that mean? -- I ask, even though in the case of sick chickens, it's obvious.

Lexie remains spirited and would you believe it -- the recommendation to kick rather than speak in soothing tones worked! She has not pecked me a single time since I knocked her down the other day. Still, I just can't take great pleasure in being top hen. Not if it means kicking scrawny screeching chickens.

Other details? Well,  I'm moving slowly still -- or at least slower than I'm used to. Almost fine, but still a little low on the charge level. And, too, after a warm day, the cooler readings feel like a let down. So that it takes us a while to go out in the morning. At 34F, it felt like we were still on the tail end of winter.

But, after breakfast (during which we actively engage in chicken talk)...


... we do go out and so does the brood and they follow us as we heave cartload after cartload of wood chips for the flower beds. (Okay, Ed heaved, I raked.) We work until we run out of chips.


Probably the hardest ritual (chicken wise) is the evening lock up of the flock in the coop. The chickens don't want to go in. Yet, we can't leave them out. Racoons, I tell them, it's because of the racoons! But I know that chickens don't much go in for people speak.

So, ten days of chickens. Much more fretting than I would have anticipated. Less odious than I feared. Delightful at times. Worry filled at other times.

Let me end on an upbeat note: here's a photo of Oreo -- poor, crippled Oreo, standing majestically in the evening sun.


(Here's a close up after a successful attempt to scoop him up and retire him to the coop.)


And here is one of Isis, walking past one of the big girls. She follows him, watches, he sits, waits. Maybe they even like each other a little. Maybe.