Friday, December 17, 2004

Our chicken babies aren't babies any more

The chickens are all growing, including Trill who has reintegrated with her playmates. She is afraid to come out of the chicken house/shed, due to the dog, but the other chickens seem to have accepted her. She is significantly smaller than the rest, and her hop makes her stand out, but so far it looks like she is going to be okay. Of course in the chicken world things can change very fast.

We had a crazy freeze. Dropped from the 50's or so to the teens, and back up to the low 40's in about a 15 hour period. I did my best to protect the chickens, and everyone survived. Thankfully they are all pretty big and well-feathered, and have the advantage of each other's body heat.

The most frustrating thing about the chickens these days is not the chickens, it's the horses. Since moving the trailer into the back, the horses have become much more interested in our comings and goings. It took several attempts before we found a horse-proof location for the fat-boys' feeder (under the axle of the trailer). We've kept the other chickens' food in the shed for just this reason.

Nevertheless, come sundown each day I was confronted with trying to catch 22 chickens assisted by Farmer Boy, while Molly randomly barked at 5 horses and a donkey whose noses were in my... well, they were VERY close. Add to that The Princess shouting at Molly to stop barking, and we had a recipe for disaster. A few of the horses are not very even tempered, and even the calm ones can get spooked. A horse is not light, exactly. They scare EACH OTHER when they kick, imagine how I feel with my precious children exposed!

One evening, the boy left the gate open and the horses got on the lawn. Stephen managed to lure most of them back with some horse feed, but it took so long the sun set. It wasn't until morning that he realized he hadn't closed the barn. 150 lbs of horse feed had been eaten and scattered throughout the barn.

The only thing we can absolutely count on is that one animal or another is going to be somewhere or eat something that he or she oughtn't. It's merely a matter of who and where. And when. Now is usually the most reliable choice.

So I moved the trailer back into the yard, but not really the part we use as a yard. It is within the same fenced apart area, but away from the house in some bushes... an area that may some day be a garden anyway. We no longer have to catch the birds because we can lure them with their food. With the horses around this was not an option. It is a much more civilized way to manage chickens! You'd be surprised how difficult it can be to catch a waddling obese chicken.

The smaller birds are now set up to have free access day and night to the outdoors. I love to look in the back yard as the sun rises on birds happily pecking in my grass. They are a beautiful sight. They almost all go in at night on their own. Managing them has become so easy.

No comments: