The Chicken Days of Summer

It’a hot. Dang hot. Now, more than ever, a mother hen worries about her precious egg layers. I read that a chicken’s internal body temperature is somewhere around 107 degrees, so until the temps climb in those triple digits, I will try to keep the worry to a minimum. We don’t need no broilers.

Besides the ever-running fans, the placement of a shade umbrella, and cold water refills twice a day, one thing that I’ve noticed the hens enjoy is a little turnout time each day. Not every day, mind you–not when the temps are extra-stifling and the humidity ruthless–but most days, I don my still-wet bathing suit and head for the great outdoors.

Here’s the rundown of chicken turnout procedure in the summer:
1) Don bathing suit. Oops, already said that. But it’s worth noting twice.
2) Set up makeshift gate across aisleway, ignoring Mabel’s “you better be doing what we THINK you are doing” evil eye. This hen can deliver some looks.
3) Hide a couple of worms under the dirt for hens to find, much like a parent hides Christmas presents from their kids before The Big Day.
4) Jump in pool. Apply six layers of mosquito repellent upon exiting pool.
5) Open the door to the run.
Side note: have you seen the running of the bulls? Imagine that with my hens as I open their door.
6) Observe Marguerite exit the run. If you can, picture a wide-body feathered black and white jet barreling down a runway, head held high, eyes wide and alert, beak shining in glee, wings outstretched, body arched forward for maximum aerodynamic efficiency; two steps, then six…aaaaand–the brakes. End of runway. Sometimes I wonder what she’ll do when she can REALLY go!
6.5) Jump in pool, reapply bug spray.
7) Watch all three hens settle into furious ground-scratching while they hunt for bugs. Watch in giddy fascination as Goldie uncovers a WORM and gives herself away with a jubilant series of squawks and squeals, only to have the other hens give chase while she tries to wolf it down, drops it, loses half of its still-wriggling worminess to Marge.
8.) Reapply bug spray. Sigh.

Once the vigorous ground-scratching subsides and the decoy worms have been located and assassinated, a sort of calm settles over the flock. Dirt baths ensue, followed by a period of preening and grooming. Eventually, the sky turns thick with the pinks and blues that a Florida evening brings, and Mabel turns a wary eye to the coop, where she will soon herd the others for their night of safe roosting.

Side note: as much as I try to capture Marguerite’s runway barreling act, it seems impossible. I will not give up! At the very least, I will gather up my paintbrushes and give it a whirl, hoping you can share in the delightful image of pure, unadulterated avian jubilation. It IS a sight to see.

One more side note: Goldie’s done brooding. Stopped on the 20th day exactly. Hoping to see eggs from her soon, though it will likely be another 3-5 days before she starts earning her scratch again.

Happy 4th of July!

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