Day of Progress

Whew. This has been a day. After a shaky start for both of us (see Sick-Abed, Sigh) we arose shortly after noon and began our day. It was a windy, mild spring day with rainshowers in the middle of sunshine and fresh air all around. It was a day of unplanned visits with neighbors, bubble blowing, keyboard moving, coop building, planting, cooking of dinner, whipping of cream, bed making and more. I am plumb exhausted. But what a lovely day we had.

After a short drive through the countryside to call on some friends we settled in to our homesteading. Elihu corralled his chickens in a densely packed flock and spoke to them softly as I began to construct the new room for our chicks. As they cannot be mixed in with the adults yet we need to build a separate, outdoor living space for them. I divided the run with a wall of fence and netting last week, and today set out to build the small room within the garage where they will live for the next few months. Hoping that perhaps the extra labor might not be truly necessary, and that  the hens would accept the youngsters (their own children), we brought the chicks out last week and put one hen in with them. Within minutes she had attacked several rather violently, requiring our intervention. It was confirmed; I had another project yet before me.

Thanks to craigslist and some very kind people in my area I have collected some nice, free pieces of lumber. Assembling these pieces to make a makeshift coop became a bit more challenging than I would have thought. No two pieces are quite the same, some are warped, some have screws or nails still in them. They’ve all been used before. Plus, due to a mid-winter meltdown of our coop heat lamp all the outlets in the garage no longer work (no, it’s not a fuse) and so I must run a super long extension cord from the house to the garage in order to do any work. Not un-doable, it just required a bit more resolve from me to get the silly project underway. It took three long extension cords and a few minutes of setup, but not only did I get underway, but I finished the task. Thanks to some beautiful sheets of 4×8 plywood I was able to create walls in fairly short order. And thanks to the pheasant re-population program in Ithaca, New York I am stocked with a good amount of nylon netting (a kind man there gave me a bag of extra netting when I told him my plans on our visit last summer) which made a fine roof for the small room. I have no idea what Elihu said to his chickens for the hour and a half it took me to construct the room, but he was content to wait it out with their gentle company.

Tonight we test it out. I caught raccoons red-handed in the garage last night, raiding the feed bins as I went to close the coop up for the night. A close call. If it weren’t for the food available to them I’m not sure if my chickens would have all been there waiting. A bin of grain is an easier meal than a feisty hen. (And I have seen bloody evidence of the good fight my hens can put up when challenged!) So tonight, I’ve closed the garage as best I can, and I’ve left the lid to the feed bin loose, so that if a raccoon should be snooping about, the lid will be moved when I go out in the morning. We’ll see. I’m feeling pretty good about my security, yet not good enough to be entirely smug. One can never be smug out here. There’s always a new story to be made at the expense of one’s naivete. So I am confident, yet cautious.

Now it’s bath time and I must drag my son away from his beloved birds.  Elihu has been doing nothing but talking to his chicks all the time that I’ve been here writing. I can hear him in the basement, the one sided conversation mixed with tweets and chirping sounds. Tiny, fuzzy things just four weeks ago, they are now gangly teenagers. They’re not exactly cute, nor do they look entirely like true chickens. They’re in an awkward, in-between sort of stage. They are, however, not chicks anymore. They are young chickens, and they are fast becoming very stinky. It’s amazing how much food they consume. Tomorrow, if we pass our raccoon test, those teenagers are getting their own apartment. I can’t wait.

To bath, to bed. To be continued…

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