So by now, the chicks in the brooder box in the garage were completely over being in a brooder box in the garage. Whenever I stopped by the brooder box to say hello or to give them food or change their water, inquisitive little beaks were poking through the hardware cloth cover we’d made. My husband was home from the hospital and was feeling better than ever and we had a three day weekend looming ahead of us. Of course I took the opportunity to do a little good natured nagging about the chicken coop and run.
My husband and son were easily persuaded to start the run. I think they were ready for the nonstop peeping and pooping in the garage to go outside as well. Early in the morning, my husband and I tromped out to the coop to assess the situation…which means we went out and stared at the ground for a while and decided we needed more coffee. So back to the house for more coffee and some strategizing (secret code for “Watch the Today Show”).
Tom went back out a little before I did (I love Kathie Lee and Hoda), and when I showed up, he had already begun sticking bright orange t-posts into the ground. Hold up….
“Those are orange.”
“They don’t match the fence…it’s green.”
“I’ll get you some spray paint.”
I harrumphed around for a while because I wanted this to be CUTE…but I also wanted it to be DONE, so I clammed up and watched while he hammered posts into the ground. We had decided to use a vinyl coated garden fencing (did I mention it’s green and the posts are ORANGE? I’m not bitter) to contain the little rascals this first year. The plan is that next year, we’ll put in wood posts and taller fencing. I’m fine with that, they just needed to be out of the garage before they needed counseling from living in overcrowded conditions. So we started stretching fencing and I just want to tell you that it is absolutely amazing what you can do with a zip-tie. As I pulled the fencing taut, Tom secured it to the post with a three zip-ties. We got all the way around the new run and ran out of fencing about ten feet short of where we needed to finish…and I’ll take the blame for that because I kept insisting that the run must be BIGGER. Anyway, that meant another trip back to the farm supply store. And you know what that means….CHICKTOPIA!!!!
My son, who’d been wrestling with some plastic bird netting to put over some cana plants he’d been growing, heard that we were going to the farm supply store and he was instantly in the truck…they have free popcorn. When we arrived, he made a beeline for popcorn warmer, while Tom headed for the fencing section and I went back to look at the seeds…even though I have NO business looking at more seeds because I have a container full of unplanted seeds on the kitchen window seat. As I was walking back to the seed section I happened to look down at the floor.
Painted yellow chicken tracks…the very same painted tracks that we’d followed the day we got the first batch of chicks. I heeded their siren song and pretty soon I was standing in front of the stock tanks of peeping fluffiness and I couldn’t remember exactly how I got there. As I peered into the tanks, I noticed there were an awful lot of turkeys. They freak me out a little…on to the next tank. I checked them all out and ended up hanging over the top of a tank just FULL of light Brahmas. I stood there for a little while trying to think of clever ways that I could bring six more chicks home. I finally noticed a guy standing next to me.
This guy didn’t look much like someone who wanted chicks. In fact, he looked a little defeated. He was talking on the phone and it was quickly apparent that he was talking to his wife.
“How many? (pause) REALLY?? (pause) I don’t KNOW what kind to get. (pause) Yes, they are ALL cute. (pause) I can’t believe I’m doing this. Are you sure we need to do this right now?”
The conversation went on for a minute or so and he finally hung up and stuffed his phone in his pocket and looked dejectedly at the tank of chicks and muttered “I can’t BELIEVE I’m doing this”.
I said “Well, you’re going to have ONE happy wife”.
He looked at me skeptically and replied “She BETTER be happy.”
I wished him luck and went back to my musing about more chicks. The babies in the stock tank hopped around, pecked furiously at their feed and peeped non-stop. Just as I was slipping into a cuteness induced trance, my husband came rolling up with his cart full of fence and just gave me “that look”.
I decided to wait on more chicks…but ONLY because he’d just gotten out of the hospital.
We collected Greg who had been cruising around the store while eating popcorn and looking at virtually everything and headed back home with our roll of fencing that was incredibly too long, but it didn’t come in shorter lengths and frankly I didn’t care at this point because I wanted it to be DONE. I was a woman on a mission.
We finished the run fairly quickly (thanks to our friends the zip-ties) and the chicks, who were tooling around in a pen inside the coop-to-be, were released for their first taste of fun in the run. And of course, they just stood there and looked at the door like it was the gateway to hell itself. Finally, the always sassy, usually in trouble barred rock chick made the first move. He stuck his head through the door and looked around, deemed it safe and hopped out into the run. What followed was chicken hysteria as they all rushed to go outside to play. Once in the run, it seemed like there was a lot of frantic running, some failed attempts at flying, lots more peeping and general pandemonium because apparently, the pecking order outside had to be reestablished from the pecking order in the sardine can (brooder box). Several of them, during their epic flying moments, flew right into the fence (I don’t think they could see it well) and then sort of looked around and walked away as though they were pretending that it just hadn’t happened. Everyone started to settle down a bit and soon they were all scratching and foraging and checking out the system of branches that I’d installed in the run as perches. There was a fair amount of falling off the perches and pushing each other off the perches. What I was interested in was the reaction to the fabulous dust bath I’d constructed.
I’d made a lovely dust bath for the flock by using a pile of wood ashes mixed with diatomaceous earth. I ringed the dust bath area with interesting logs from our old woodpile. It looked like chicken bath heaven. At least to ME, anyway. I KNEW they were going to just LOVE it. Except…they didn’t even seem to know what it was. They walked through it, jumped in it, stood on the logs, jumped off the logs and pretty much ignored the whole thing. One of the Buff Orpington chicks walked to the other side of the run, flopped over like he’d been shot and started dust bathing in…plain old dust. I watched him for a bit while he looked like he was having a seizure (thank goodness I knew what he was doing) and with all the flipping, flopping and flapping, he ended up lying on his back, wings spread on the ground, beak pointing in the air. He just laid there. Like he’d been somehow dramatically killed. All the other chicks ignored him and went about their chick business in the run which mostly consisted of flipping over small rocks to find apparently tasty ants. The Buff chick was still lying motionless in his dust bowl. I finally walked over and stood next to where he was lying because I was getting concerned. Had he suffered some sort of sudden chicken death while I stood stupidly by and thought he was dust bathing? He popped up, shook off his feathers and made a frantic dash for the other end of the run, seemingly energized by his time at his own personal spa which was not nearly as cool as the spa I had created.
About this time, my husband and son were pretty much wanting to quit for the day, but I announced that we needed to wrap the entire run in bird netting as well as the top to keep out the hawks. So we spent the next half hour swearing, yanking, zip-tying, swearing more, sweating, pulling and securing the net. Pretty soon…TAHDAH!!! We were done.
The whole time we were doing the netting, the chicks were happily bouncing off each other, the sides of the run, the ground and anything else they encountered. They were positively giddy. At the end of the netting stretching, we stood back and admired our work and watched the chicks playing.
Then it occurred to me. We’d not put a man door in the run…which meant that when it was time to get them in at night, one of us (GREG) was going to have to squeeze through the chicken door in the coop and out into the run. Once there, he’d have to be crouching the whole time because the run is only four feet tall and covered by polyester bird netting. In this crouch position, he was going to have to chase and catch and deposit each chick back into the coop. Uh oh.
I’m going to have to bake Greg his favorite cookies…and cupcakes…and pie…because I’ve got to sweet talk him into doing every night until either the chickens “get it” and go in at dusk on their own OR we figure out how to put a gate in that run and raise the netting so that humans don’t have to walk like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
I’m going to be doing a lot of baking, I fear.