Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hot Time in Chicken Town

With the record breaking temperatures we've had around here lately, I've really been worried about the chicks getting hot in the coop. I tried putting a fan in one of the windows, but all that seemed to do was pull in piping hot air from outside and swirl it around a little. The coop temperature stayed near 100 degrees during the day. I finally decided to take a clean kitty litter box, fill it with pine chips, and pour cold water over it to moisten the chips and stick the whole thing on the floor of the coop to see if the chicks showed any interest. They loved it! They would wiggle their bodies into the chips and lay there with little smiles on their faces. Here's a picture of Lucy after her Wet Chip Spa treatment:


She was so pleased with herself that I didn't have the heart to tell her she looked like Phylis Diller. Look at Amelia checking out Lucy's wet and funky tail feathers. I'm pretty sure I heard her laughing. If you decide to try the wet chip box for your chickens, be sure to change it out every day. You don't even want to know what water, chips, and chicken poo smells like after about 24 hours......

We finally got the chicken yard completely finished. It now has a fence around it and a shrimp net over top of it. We also added chicken wire to the bottom of the coop so that they can't get under there and I don't have to spend countless hours retrieving ornery chickens from underneath of it.


Sunday afternoon we decided to open the chicken door and see if anyone wanted to come out into the new chicken yard. Several were intrigued with the idea, but for a good long while, we had no takers. This was about the extent of their curiosity:


After about an hour, we were just getting ready to close up and call it quits, when Big Roo Duke jumped down into the yard and starting eating ants like there was no tomorrow:


Encouraged that Duke was feeling adventurous, I was certain the others would soon be joining him and we'd have 23 chicks happily pecking and strutting about the chicken yard. I was certain, being flock animals, they would all stay together and not attempt to escape through the fence wire. At least this is what I had hoped and what I wanted the chickens to do. But chickens don't do what I want them to do. They have their own agenda, and it has precious little to do with mine. I live with cats, so you would think I'd be used to having my wishes ignored and expect it. But I didn't. And this is the part where everything went wrong.

In my excitement of seeing Duke happily eating ants in the yard, I decided to go inside and get a couple of adult beverages for Bernie and me to enjoy while watching our little balls of fluff. But when I left the chicken yard, Duke completely freaked out. He began running around emitting a high volume distress call. I didn't know this until Bernie told me upon my return - and I could hear Duke's screams and see him hiding underneath the steps. I squatted down to talk to Duke in a soothing voice and he bolted toward the fence and began throwing his body at the two inch spaces between the wires on the fence. Honestly, Duke is huge and there was no way I would have ever imagined he could possibly squish his fat body between those wires. But just as I reached for him, he sucked in his gut and jammed himself through the wires and popped out on the other side and headed for the woods. Just that fast.

Lordy. I don't think you need all the details to imagine how panicked I was - or how panicked Duke was. Bernie remained calm through the entire ordeal. He closed up the coop to keep the others inside as I tore around the woods trying to catch Duke. Duke may be fat, but he's short, and that worked in his favor while maneuvering through brambles and fallen trees and limbs. While I am short, it did not have the same effect for me. By the time I caught Duke my arms and legs were scratched and bleeding and I had as much of the Phylis Diller hair thing going on as little Lucy did, due to the branches that grabbed it as I plowed through the woods.

We returned Duke to the coop and I promptly informed everyone that one bad apple spoils the whole bunch and there would be no more outings for quite some time. As I left the coop, I saw several of the girls give Duke the High Five.

I ended up putting chicken wire over the coop door opening so I can open the door during the day to allow more air in the coop without allowing any chicks to go out in the yard. They are only three weeks old, so going outside unsupervised is not going to happen. Actually, thanks to Duke's shenanigans, going outside at all is not going to happen for a little while longer.

By the way, I put up several pictures on the Back to Basic Living website. At three weeks old, the chicks have entered their "teenage" years and, although still adorable, they are looking quite gangly. They are flying around the coop with great confidence, and can get up to roosts and windows with ease. They seem to enjoy using me as a launch pad and make quite a game of flying up to my shoulders or head and then dive bombing unsuspecting chicks on the ground.

We've been busy with other things on the homestead as well. The tomatoes are starting to form and other vegetable plants are blooming. Raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries are in here in abundance this year. Even Peachy is loaded down with a fair amount of fruit. Hopefully Mother Nature won't have any surprises for us and we'll be canning a lot in a few months. If you would be interested in learning about canning, drop me a note. If there is enough interest, I will put a page on the Back to Basic Living website dedicated to the basics of canning.

I know I've spent a lot of time talking chickens with you for the past few weeks. The addition of the chickens, along with the vegetable gardens and other activities, brings us closer to our homesteading goals of achieving more self reliance. Although it is still a few months away, we will soon be eating fresh eggs and the chickens will be free-ranging for a large portion of their meals.

So, here we are - homesteading with our chickens. And I'm sure you could homestead without chickens. I'm just not sure why you would want to.

Bee Free,

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