I hesitate to broadcast this to the universe, but we seem to have reached a state of interspecies harmony here at the homestead. Raymond, former chicken-killer, seems to have figured out that he can follow the chickens around the yard, wagging his tail at them, and making small whining sounds without actually having to kill them. It’s clear he wants them, but so far, he’s managed, even unsupervised, not to kill them.
And here’s Owen. If you look closely, you can see chickens taking dust baths in the background behind them. Owie’s never killed a chicken, his current challenge is learning to stay out of the chicken coop when the door is open. He goes in seeking “delicious” chicken poop, which makes me want to hurl.
So, it only took a year, and two dead chickens, but it seems that everyone has pretty much learned to live together. It certainly makes gardening much more entertaining …
Well, it finally happened — the little red hen went over the fence this morning, and before I could get my robe on and get out there, Raymond (bad dog!) had done her in. I sort of figured I’d lose one to dogs before it was all over, but frankly, why couldn’t it have been the problematic rooster (who could also have given him a run for his money)?
Ray’s in the doghouse — no breakfast, bark collar turned to high, not looking at him, locked in the front yard where he can’t even go look at the chickens or go roll in the scene of his crime. Bad Dog.
And the other two hens, and the problematic rooster, are hiding under the chicken coop. They came out briefly when I took them some leftover spaghetti and the diced red potatoes that mysteriously refused to cook (another story, but they went from hard to rubbery without ever really tasting cooked). But they seem to have decided that in this dangerous world, they’re going to huddle under the coop.
Here are the chickens — they’re so goofy looking right now, they seem to be in whatever passes for eighth grade in chicken-dom. Their feet are enormous, and while their feathers are coming in, they’re still not really feathered out (look at their funny tails). But they’re getting little chicken-y personalities, and they like to torment the dogs by flapping their wings.
I took the chooks outside for a little air last week, and here’s Raymond watching them. He spent the entire afternoon out there, occasionally running inside to whine at me that there were birds! birds! out there. In the yard! Birds! The next step is to build the coop. I’ve got a big packing crate that we’re going to recycle, but since it’s snowing again, and wet, and nasty, and well, the chooks are fine out in the shed in their dog crate, it’ll probably be another week or so until we get the coop built.
In the meantime, we’ll all just keep watching the funny things. Funny, smelly, goofy-looking birds.
This is Raymond, staring at the shed door, because on the far side of that door are four baby chicks in a cardboard box tucked into a dog crate all kept warm by an infrared light.
There were six chicks, but I erred and thought they were too hot under the light, and so two of them caught a chill and gave up their tiny little ghosts. They’re resting peacefully in the compost pile.
Here’s the little peepers. Saturday morning I called Murdochs, our local ranch store to see if the chicks had come in (they’ve had a shortage this year, one of their hatcheries cancelled on them). They’d just unpacked an order, so I jumped in the car at 7:30 to get there before the small children of Bozeman had mauled the poor little things to death.
They only had two varieties — Rhode Island Reds and Red Star Sex Link — so I got three of each. They cheeped all the way home in their tiny cardboard box. So loud for little tiny things — they’re none of them any bigger than a ping pong ball, with downy little proto-feathers.
I wound up putting them in an old cardboard box with nice high sides to keep the draft out, inside the dog crate to protect them from critters, and then covered it all with a tarp to keep them warm. I don’t have electricity out in the shed, so there’s a very long extension cord strung across the yard (Patrick left me several 100 foot outdoor extension cords — the benefit of relatives in the party tent industry).
Last night it snowed, and the temps dropped down into the high twenties, and I’m happy to report that the four survivors seem pretty perky out there. I took a couple of old towels to drape over the tarp to try to keep them a little warmer, poor things. But they’re in there, cheeping away — I’ll have to clean the cage when I get home from dog walking.
And so a new adventure begins. Chickens! I’ve wanted chickens forever, but kept telling myself that I couldn’t have chickens because I have dogs. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to stop telling myself that things I want are impossible — to taks a shot at it. And so, chickens. Chickens!