Teenage Chickens

Olive eyes the great outdoors.

We are now eight days past our target date for moving the chicks into their coop.  We have been doggedly hammering away for more than a month now and have made significant progress on the chicken coop, but swarming bees, busy work schedules, and taxes have gotten in the way of many a would-be workday.

As I write this, I can hear the chicks’ incessant chirping and the occasional indignant squawk drifting from their cardboard box through the house. They are impatient. Cramped, bored, and hormonal, the two gray Leghorns bristle at each other, craning their necks to stand taller than the other and occasionally leaping with sharp toenails (chicken talons?) outstretched. Olive, the sneezing chicken, seems to have claimed the top position, but Fiona hasn’t given up yet. They frequently miss out on treats because they are so preoccupied with their dominance drama.

Meanwhile, Petunia and Luma (more commonly referred to as Baby Tiny) are comparatively peaceful and much less physically developed. They lack the bright red combs and wattles that their sisters grew a month ago, and they are noticeably smaller and less bulky. Luma’s differences can be chalked up to the fact that she is a week younger than the others and a different breed (Barred Rock). We have wondered, however, whether Petunia is not actually a Barred Leghorn, but some other mystery chicken breed.

Petunia accepts a lift.

Petunia has developed a penchant for flying and is constantly on the lookout for new perches. A few days ago she flew the length of the guest room turned chicken room, flapping into the curtain before landing unceremoniously on a stool. She likes to perch on the rim of the box while we clean it and surveys the proceedings with quizzical chicken glances. She seems especially fond of Kelly and will climb up on her outstretched hand in hopes of being lifted to a better vantage point.

In an effort to prepare the girls for the real world of the backyard, we recently began turning off their heat lamp for periods of time. We had lifted the lamp gradually higher over the box to reduce the heat as the chicks grew older, but turning the light out entirely seemed like a natural final step. It also seemed like a good way to teach the babies about night and day. They have been living in perpetual day since they were born, and we worried that sticking them out for their first night in the dark coop might come as a rude surprise.

With the light off last night, the chicks were silent. We peeked in before bed and found them sprawled on the floor of the box. I turned the light back on and opened the curtain at 7 o’clock this morning, and the chicks dutifully took up their peeping and scratching.

With any luck, Kelly and I will finish the final touches on the coop this weekend and get the girls moved into their new abode. Note: final touches, in this case, equals filling the trench, attaching aviary wire to the frame, making and hanging a door, and notching the frame so that the coop’s egg-collecting doors open smoothly. Wish us luck!

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