Search This Blog

Follow by Email

Friday, May 21, 2010

Fragile environs of the chicken coop

We have some really dumb chicks on this farm. The yellow, fluffy, chirpy kind.
The Farmer picked them up the other day at Rooney’s. They came in cardboard boxes, where they sat on a bed of straw and chirped at the scene they spied through airholes.
It took a good day to prepare the chicken coop. First, leave-behinds from the previous tenants had to be cleared away. Next, clean straw was laid out on the floor of the coop. Over this, a circular enclosure that closely resembles a bottomless kiddy pool was installed. This chick pen is divided into three sections with boards. Each third has its own heat lamp, strategically hung over the compartment at exactly the right height so as not to set fire to the hay or scorch the chicks.
Aside – as I’m writing this column, on a Saturday afternoon, my attention is occasionally drawn out the window. I am easily distracted. I can hear the ewes calling to their lambs in the front field. They don’t always “baa”, you know. Sometimes, as though they are drinking water, they gargle. Many times they sound human. I often think I’m going to look out there and see Jim Carrey sitting amongst them, mimicking their call. Misty, the Belgian, is nose-to-nose with a new lamb through the fence. Precious. A convoy of kittens is making its way out of the stable for the first time.
One of the ewes – one that had to be shorn after birth in order to facilitate feeding – has discovered she is skinny enough to shimmy her way under the fence to the next pasture, where I am hoping the cows will protect her and the lamb that followed her from coyotes. She is calling as if to say she can’t remember how to get back through to the other side of the fence, where everyone is heading for shelter and it’s getting dark...I can see I’m going to have to go out there and shove her back through again.
Back to my chicks.
Blankets are stretched across the chicken coop windows, cracks in the wall, and over the door. The slightest draft will prompt the chicks to pile on top of each other under the heat lamp, smothering the ones on the bottom of the heap.
The water feeders are placed up on a brick so that the chicks have to reach for a drink. If the water is left on the ground, the chicks will fall asleep in it while they are drinking, and drown. I swear they all have narcolepsy. I keep finding them face down in the feed, sound asleep.
We go in twice a day, opening the door carefully and closing it softly behind us, so as not to startle our feathered friends, who are prone to heart attacks. We stir up the chicks with our fingers, uncovering the ones being smothered by their siblings. So far; so good. The Farmer has attained the optimum balance of heat, air, water, food, space. The chicks are happy. But man, are they high maintenance.

No comments: