Monday, June 29, 2009

Adventures in Chicken Sitting

For the past five days I have been taking care of Alethea, Mars, and Xavier’s chickens while they have been on vacation. If you are thinking of getting your own backyard flock and have never had birds of any kind, I recommend that you “borrow” some chickens for a while and experience what it’s like to care for them.

They are adorable! They’re very friendly toward people, and as Alethea has described in her posts, they have distinct personalities. Every time I come near their box, and especially when they are hungry, they cheep excitedly and try to fly up to meet me. Now that their feathers have grown in, they are flapping their wings and trying to fly more and more.

At first I was nervous that I’d do something wrong and something would happen to the chickens. I didn’t dare let them out of their box, but after a few days it really needed to be cleaned out. Chickens do smell! By Sunday I was confident enough in handling them that I was easily able to catch them and transfer them to a 4-foot-square dog pen in the garage that we have been using to confine our elderly cat at night. I put a generous layer of hay down on the concrete floor and used an upside-down wine box as a platform for their food and water containers. I decided to give them their chicken feed in an old cake pan instead of in the chick feeder, as they were scratching so vigorously while eating that they kept clogging up the small holes of the feeder with bedding material.

They are really enjoying the new surroundings and are delighting in scratching the hay looking for tidbits and watching our comings and goings. When flies approach the cage, they follow the insects intently and try to fly up into the air to catch them. Fly control: another reason to keep chickens!

Mars, Xavier, and Alethea will be taking the chickens home tomorrow. I’m sure they’re going to be surprised at how much they’ve grown in the past week. They have outgrown their cardboard box, and it’s time for them to move to their new chicken house. I’m sure Alethea will blog about that next time. It was lots of fun taking care of the chickens, and I’ll miss them.

— Ilona Sherratt