The girls are almost due to start popping out eggs, so it was time to give them boxes. I was quite happy to repurpose a decrepit pile of assorted drawers, feed boxes, and hutches, formerly used for a rabbit raising op. Chickens aren’t fussy, and what the assortment of boxes lack in beauty they make up for in saving time.
We just tacked them back together where they were falling apart and tacked them to the walls however they would fit, and presto, chicken condos!
Also a deluxe new pole near the ceiling for them to roost on, since they crowd together every night, teetering on the highest point of the branch. I think height on the branch equals status.
Stepped outside last night and was arrested by an unusual sound. A combination of snorting and rustling, emanating from the cherry tree 40′ from my door.
Yep, a bear. He was snorting like a pig and shaking the tree like it was in a mighty wind. I was choked at a) his audacity -SO close to the house, and b) the possibility that he would severely damage the tree. Another fruit tree was almost destroyed by a bear while I was away – the trunk split, broken by the bear’s weight climbing around in it, half the tree lying on the ground.
So I got some pans to clang together and went at it, crashing them together and beating against the fence, yelling at the bear in the tree. One of those events that would be quite the spectacle if someone could have witnessed it – me hopping around in my undies, banging pots and and hollering at a tree. Intermittently taking flash pictures of the tree. Lucky it was dark.
I got my camera because it was too dark to see the bear, and I thought he might show up in the photos, but the tree hardly showed up in the pictures.
The bear may as well have been deaf and blind. He didn’t even pause in his noisy, nasal rummaging, just carried on rustling around in that tree. I could hear him chewing. Eventually I gave up. Bear, 4. Me, 1.
I started letting the chickens out into the wide world when I got back, because they have to learn sometime. I’d open the main door and just leave it open and wait. For hours they only poked their heads out, until one of the roosters got jostled and fell out, with much squawking. Over the first few days, they slowly ventured a few feet away from the coop.
That was fraught with anxiety for me. At first I only did it while I was around, all scared of all the threats they would encounter, with no street smarts at all! But they seem to be ok. I’ve seen them practically interacting with the ravens, whom they are about the same size as now, the bear has rolled through, as have the neighbor’s dogs, and there have been no losses.
At first, every morning when I opened their hatch the roosters would tumble out and stand there wide legged, blinking, and shake their necks out.
Rearranged the henhouse interior and made some big high perches for them. They all (except for the smallest one, who’s gonna get called Teensy, and remains hilariously all legs, like a plover) look like real chickens now, plush with feathers and their final colours. They’ve been roosting together like hens on the edge of the boards and more surprisingly, flopped out on the grass, so perhaps they’ll move up a level now.
I wish they liked me more; they flee enthusiastically every time I rattle the door, but then, I tell myself they’re extra twitchy because of the bear. Twice, a bear has gone in the coop (opened the door) and stolen a bag of food. No chicks killed. Twice. Twice is a bit embarrassing, and the second theft was in the middle of the afternoon. I was very surprised at that.
The Ravens (funny, I just feel like they should be capitalized) are getting pretty cozy with me. I have two that I see every day, and I can’t believe how casual they’ve become with proximity. They let me get closer than I’ve ever been to a raven, but that may be because I am acknowledged as the purveyor of kitchen scraps.
I haven’t seen them necking, but I suspect they are a mated pair. I hope they have a nest nearby or will next year; I’ve never been close to a raven chick and that would be fun to watch. They spend their time lumbering around the paddock and lurking around the chicken coop, and they make short work of anything that goes in the compost, which is really inaptly named now, as nothing has time to compost. Except for the onions. They don’t care for onion breath, it seems.
They are loud! Not their voices (not just), but the air they beat with their wings, and the thump they make landing on the ground or a roof. From inside, I can hear them land on the ground! The noise they make clattering around on the steel shed roofs is unholy, and more than once has brought me outside to see what’s making the car crash noises. They are big, heavy birds, and they act like it too. Somehow they make walking look ponderous and wearying, and every takeoff looks like a hard won battle with gravity.
So, we are supporting them with leftovers; I love their constant presence, love that they trust me so much, and yet I fear that they will kill chickens once the chickens are freed to range. The robin I had lost her nestful, and I blamed the cat for awhile, but I eventually figured out it was likely the Ravens.
They’re loving their playpen. Really, they seem like a bunch of exceedingly happy chickens.
They’ve trampled the long grass flat, mostly, although they still get snagged and tripped up in it and fall over. That’s funny.
They all run outside when I open the hatch in the morning, and they crowd back in the hen door when I approach them. Except this morning, when I strolled up for a look and two of them promptly slipped through the fence like water to get away from me.
That’s a problem.
Luckily, it’s very important to chickens to be with the other chickens, so the teensy one immediately slid back in, but the other one had more trouble doing that, trying gap after gap before he found one that he could fit through. That smallest chicken is a spitfire, always in the forefront and thick of things. I’m gonna have to name them soon.
I’ve added some panels of smaller gauge wire to the lower feet of the fence, defying what seemed impossible and further increasing the utter charmlessness of the whole structure.
Mucky collected a pair of birds today. They flit up and down from his feet to his back and also worked up his mane to sit between his ears. So cute. I noticed he was careful to not flick his tail when they were on his back.
New procedure for the chicken coop: I’ve stopped mucking it out, and I’ve added a thick layer of fresh grass clippings. Now I’m going to just add grass and leaves and whatever and let the henhouse floor build up.
The birds seem to love it. It’s soft and much cleaner and attractive; they look bright and colourful springing around on their new emerald green floor, and they like lying down on it too. It gives them more to scratch around in. They pick out single blades of grass and eat them whole like a strand of spaghetti.