I won’t bother explaining how I ended up driving home with 6 chickens nestled together in a repurposed rabbit hutch with a safety gate for a roof. I will, however, try to convey the sort of happy, fulfilled state I was in, having had the nicest time picking them up at their former home. The friend I had purchased the chickens from is a natural animal owner, she understands and respects the order her farm animals have established and her property is a veritable playground for fowl. There were huge, enviable eggs on her kitchen table (duck? goose? Emu?) and her expansive pen held a dozen different types of fowl along with some goats who were penned up due to the snow. The scene even looked reminiscent of a playground, down in a corner the bully geese might as well have been cursing and smoking, friendly guinea hens could have just as well been playing hopscotch and an impressive white turkey hovered over everyone’s shoulders, definitely keeping an eye on things.
Maybe I’m getting carried away, but these are the images I was thinking about when I backed my car up to my chicken coop. I left the radio on for Margot so she wouldn’t mind sitting in the car for a minute while I slid the hutch into my chicken run. I locked my own two chickens in their coop, based on the instructions I was given to introduce the new ones at night. The rabbit hutch was just slightly too wide for my car, so it took muscle and shimmying to get the hutch even halfway out of the car, and that alone made the chickens restless. I thought about asking Josh for help, maybe 6 chickens would be too heavy for me, but he was working, and I get sort of a rush out of attempting situations like these that seem improbable and difficult. (If I succeed, I strut around saying, ”I did it!” If I don’t, I mutter to Josh, “I don’t know what I was thinking…”)
I freed the hutch from the back of the car only to truly feel the weight of all six birds who were less calm by the second. I set the hutch down only to find it was also too wide to drag into the run. I had to stop to figure out my next move, but while I was assessing the situation, so were the chickens, and they found their solution more quickly than I found mine. The hutch had been on it’s last legs and the journey from the back of the car to the ground caused the floor to collapse a bit leaving a crack a few inches wide, certainly something to be aware of but surely not something a chicken could fit throu…. oh, there she goes. Those chickens catch on quick, apparently only one needs to have a plan, because before I could move, FOUR CHICKENS had fit through that too small hole. To my credit, I ended it right there and grabbed the two remaining araucanas and tossed them into the run. Four chickens were now free ranging yards away from me, one stopped to drink from a puddle while another scratched in some leaves. I remembered they were hungry so I ran off to grab some chicken feed, thinking I’d sneak attack grab them while they were eating. A molting golden bluff ate some feed but was way more concerned with my approaching than her hunger. I foolishly tried chasing them, was it instinct? Of course it was fruitless and honestly kind of humiliating. I thought about the neighbor’s dogs I had seen on my property a few days ago, hoping they were nowhere near at the moment. I thought about the phone call I would have to make to my sister (who is supposed to get two of these) and the shame I would feel when these chickens former owner learned of their fate (sudden death in the woods, I imagine…). I wondered, could my dog help herd? That’s probably not a trait pitbulls are known for. I stood there, weary and defeated, but looked up to see my husband approaching, wearing gloves and work boots. Work boots mean business, I started to rally. We quickly decided on herding since the chasing had failed. Josh smartly grabbed a long thin stick (-I think a leftover from my teepee project!*) which helped him usher chickens from far away. I took off after a lone araucana who had strayed pretty far, and borrowing Josh’s technique I picked up a long, thick branch and escorted my prisoner to her cell. By the time I locked her away there was just one chicken left, hiding out under my car, a smart tactic if I was solo, but she was no match for our team. Josh flushed her from his side and I guided her towards the run. All six inside the fence, we locked the door and high fived. I’m grateful for a partner who knows when and how to help, I’m grateful for a baby who likes adventures even when they aren’t hers, and I’m especially grateful that I don’t have to move these chickens ever again.
*This blog is moving! Go to www.afarawayfarm.wordpress.com for more posts!