Thursday, May 19, 2011

Moving Chickens Can Be Dangerous


I am not known for my gracefulness, and sometimes, in my exuberance to accomplish tasks, I become clumsier than usual.  My husband remains confused as to whether I poked myself in both eyes with the same stick, or whether I poked myself in the eye with two different sticks (for the record, it was the same eye, same day, with two different sticks, and I did it while clearing some land for my garden).  Nothing terrible has happened to me, though, and I am not a daredevil.  I’m just a little careless.
And sometimes, the injury is not really my fault, although in this case, perhaps I should have known better.  This morning, my daughter and I moved my nine chickens to what I hope is the “Fort Knox” of chicken pens from their chicken tractor.  Electric netted fencing encloses the chicken tractor so they can forage during the day.  We built the pen and run to house the chickens when are unable to provide daily care for the chickens.  I hope we made it sturdy enough, by burying the wire fencing to deter digging animals, entirely enclosing the run in wire, and attaching the chicken house to the run, that no one has to be there to open and close the chickens in the house at night. 
The new chicken pen.  My father harvested the trees for the cedar 4x4s from his land and had them milled for us.  He and I did most of the construction of the pen, and he dug most of the postholes.  Scott, my husband, built the chicken house.

We have neither named the chickens nor made pets of them, because someday we might eat them, but in so doing we have not tamed them and some are wild.  Some people have chickens as pets, and I think that’s fine.  I already have two dachshunds that have turned out to be very expensive to care for, although wonderful, pets, and I don’t need any more pets.  If I’m going to eat chicken meat from the store, I think I should be willing to eat chicken meat from chickens I raise.  At this point, all this is theoretical, and I might not be able to stomach eating the chickens, but it sounds like a good plan.
This morning I went to the chicken tractor with a cat carrier and, as I could catch them, put them in the carrier, took them to the pen, and released them.  Finally, I was down to two Americanas, and of course, they were the two wildest birds.  I caught one without incident, but the other one escaped the chicken tractor and was loose in the pen.  As I grabbed for her, she flew in my face, with claws outstretched, and scratched my eyelid.  Thank God for reflexes, because I closed my eye in time to avoid scratches to my eye itself.  My eyelid bled awhile, and it is bruised, so I can imagine a scratch to my eyeball would have required medical care.   
I didn’t know hens behaved so aggressively.  I know the poor creature was scared, because all animals are afraid of the unknown.  Books on chickens say to move them at night, when they are asleep, but I did not want to climb into the cramped chicken tractor, on the poop-covered ground, and carry them through the woods to their new home in the darkness.  Next time, maybe I should wait until dusk to move them, when they will be drowsier, and maybe I should wear safety goggles and gloves just in case. 

And my husband and I both hope my eyelid heals enough for me to cover it with makeup when we go out to dinner for our wedding anniversary.  On many occasions, after a day of gardening, I have began to dress for an evening out and have realized that I can't possibly wear that cute summer dress I planned to wear because my legs are so scratched I look like I've been in a briar patch. 

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