So, I think that we are in the honeymoon stage of urban chicken farming.
On Thursday I was feeling a good bit of chicken-guilt because the poor hens had been shut in their coop for two rainy days (“It’s just so that you can understand how your factory-farmed sisters live” I told them, but they were not comforted by my solidarity pep talk). The weather was lovely, we were home all afternoon and I decided to give ranging a try. So I set them down on the grass and held my breath as I waited to see if they would head straight for the road.
Did I mention that chickens are really really really hard to catch? I could just picture myself jumping fences through my neighbor’s backyards, red-faced and sputtering apologies, as I dove after black feathers. Great. As if we aren’t already known as the weird farming white people.
But it didn’t happen. After an initial flutter of wings, they headed straight for a bush two feet from their coop. Then they walked, in a group, to eat some grass two feet from the bush, and then they returned to their coop-area to get some water. Then back to the bush. No drama, no chasing, no stress… just water, grass and scratching for worms. I was so relieved that I wanted to hug them, but instead I just sat in the grass.
Things got more exciting when the kids came home. They were thrilled to discover that the chicken-holding-ban had been lifted and spent hours stalking their new pets. We had rules of course–no running, don’t chase them away from the center of the yard, try not to scare them, no screaming… hey stop screaming or I’ll have to put them back in the coop… but overall the kids were GREAT. Really, they deserve the caps there.
In fact, it turns out that my oldest daughter is a chicken whisperer. She rivals the older neighbor girls as a chicken catcher, but leaves them in the dust in regards to calming and soothing the hens. At first I was impressed because they would let her hold them. Then I was in awe because they would stay in her lap when she was not holding them. But then… but then… she actually got one of them to sleep in the baby swing… sorry, I have to use caps again… to SLEEP in the BABY SWING. While she pushed it and sang a lullaby. A CHICKEN. You just can’t make this stuff up.
And that my friends is why we are having a chicken honeymoon. Yes, they poop in their waterer. Yes, I still have to walk though the wet grass at 6:30 a.m. to feed them. Yes, we still have to figure out how to get the two-ton structure known as their coop into a shadier spot. Yes, all this and more, but seeing a chicken fall asleep in a baby swing pushed by a four year old grinning with joy… Let’s just say that it makes up for a lot of poop.