The partying had been going on all night. It was getting old. The teenagers had spilled drinks everywhere, were screaming and laughing, and were destroying the place. The human teenagers determined this had to stop. It was time to put the chicks outside.
Last year when we decided to get chicks, we had just moved and once settled decided upon getting wee babies to round out the mini-homestead. It was April. By the time the girls had their full bloomers on, and were used to the world, they were eight weeks old and glorious warm weather awaited them from their front door. This year, I jumped the gun and ordered eleven darling infants…a month earlier. All the breeds of chickens that I wanted were arriving at the feed store on the same day so it seemed like a very good idea to get them then. In March…early March…before record cold and constant snow! We were not even able to put them in the garage, it was so cold. Next year’s girlies will be April babies again!
The older girls are a little annoyed by the youth that has invaded their loft. We were exceptionally worried about integrating them all because of last year’s fiasco. We had nine beautiful, eight week old chicks. Everyone in the family would take time each day to sneak out to the coop and fawn over them, holding their new feathered bodies, and cooing to them. (Is it any wonder that they follow us everywhere now?) My friend, Sandy, had a pair of Bantams that were being picked on at her place and would be instant eggs and charming crow for us. I have always loved the pre-pubescent operatic crowing that goes on in barnyards everywhere thanks to the roosters. They weren’t there for long, I fear.
Sandy and Bill came over for dinner bearing a hostess gift of a dog kennel with sleeping chickens in it. We placed them gingerly into the coop and lights went out. According to chicken sources, if we placed them in there at night, the next morning they would think they had always been together. Not so. Petunia was alright, not particularly fond of chicks and did chase them, but Colonel Sanders was a miniature monster to the helpless infants. I recently saw him, and my is he small, but he looked big back then. He cornered the girls and never let them near the food and water. They led a secret brigade in single file along the coop walls, behind feed bags and crates to try and outsmart the old man, just to get a little food and a bit of drink (Please sir!), but would be banished in screaming fits back to a covered corner. It was frustrating. Nay, it got real irritating, real quick. And then one morning one of the chicks was dead. Daisy lay very close to a fallen board, so we do not know if it was murder or accident, but all the same, Doug yelled that late spring morning, “That’s it! They are going back.” He promptly loaded the couple back up and took them to Sandy and Bill’s house. A few weeks ago I told Sandy I wondered which side he would take this year? His beloved grown up girls or the darling new chickie girls? Turns out they are all favored.
We didn’t want to make the same errors as last year so a slower integration was necessary. Crammed into a large dog kennel, the ten girls went out. They stayed in their kennel for nearly a week with the red light shining on them. The big girls scarcely flinched at their racket and presence. A few days a go I set up crates around the perimeter of the dog kennel (Everyone can fly over them; it just felt like a playpen.) and opened the door. The girls left them alone. Should a curious newcomer (Man, they look cute next to the towering adults!) come up to them, they promptly chase them back into the play area. After Daffodil had chased Aretha Franklin back into her area, and Daffodil turned around, Aretha followed her, unbeknownst to the big chicken. Daffodil stopped in front of the feed and Aretha ran into her leg. Daffodil jumped straight up in the air, a good foot and a half, wings flapping and setting off the alarms of the other girls too. Aretha high tailed it back to the playpen.
No one is being overly aggressive. I locked them in the dog kennel at night for a few nights after their release but now just leave it open so that they have a safe place where they like to hang out, they can come out into the playpen for food and water and bask in the heat lamp, or when the big girls are out scratching and rolling in the dirt, the babies take over the coop until the big girls come back and put them back in their pen. No pecking, no problems. We are so relieved!
Pretty soon the girls will be allowed out of the play pen (I hope!), will be frolicking outside with the big girls and we will repeat this next year!