Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How Many Roosting Chicken Does it Take...

...to break the top out of an apple tree?  Did you guess three?  You are correct.  I just have to learn the hard way about chickens.  I have never been around birds, besides wild birds, before I began keeping chickens, and I have been having a difficult time understanding how they operate. 

After the fiasco of the wing feather trimming and being injured by the chicken scratching my eyelid,  I thought I had reached an understanding with the chickens:  I won't try to catch them in the daytime, and when I come for them in the evening just before sunset, they will behave. 

The dogs, cats, and cattle I have been around have either been tame or else guided by their stomachs.  Cows will follow a bucket, and can even be trained to come when called.  Dogs and cats of course will come to you, at least when they feel like it.  

On Saturday, I needed to move the chickens and their house below the garden so they could have fresh pasture.  Just before dusk, I released them and moved their house and fence below the garden from its previous home above the garden, which was out of their line of sight from the old location.  They saw me move it, but were not interested in following me.  I tried to shoo them down there, I tried to catch them, and I even enlisted the help of my husband.  We managed to catch four of them, but the other five were ran wildly around the orchard.  Not wanting to terrify them, we decided to leave them alone until dark.

The chickens in their yard, enclosed by portable electronet fencing

I went outside several times, but they remained elusive.  Meanwhile, they managed to fly up high enough into my apple trees to peck at and knock off a couple of apples, which they chased around and played with as if they were balls.  Finally, when it was becoming dark enough that I was afraid I'd lose them in the shrubbery and would have to use a flashlight to find them, I came outside and heard loud squawking.

Three chickens were attempting to roost in my two-year-old dwarf apple tree, and they succeeded in breaking the central leader branch out of the top of the tree.  The poor branch is no more than 1/2 inch in diameter, and is not meant to bear the weight of any creature.  It snapped, and this frightened the chickens.  I managed to catch a couple of them, and to stuff them into the cat carrier I use for chicken transportation.  I didn't realize another of the escaped chickens had taken refuge in the carrier until I stuffed her flock-mates in on top of her.  I plucked another one from the mantle of our outside fireplace, where she had decided to sleep, and finally, at almost my bedtime, all the chickens were in their new, clean yard and pen.

I have made a new bargain with the chickens.  I will not try to catch them except in the late evening, like our other bargain.  And, I will not move their house out of their line of sight from the original location without keeping them inside it during the moving process, even though that is difficult.  It bewilders the little chicken brain to have to work so hard to find her house.

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