Tonight I had two hens on my head. They are still frightened of the dark, so when nightfall comes, do not–I repeat; do not–approach the babies. Their frightened little peeps are heartbreaking, their panicked little eyes just so sad. But to approach is to guarantee a fully feathered onslaught of sharp-talon baby hens. Okay, their feet aren’t that sharp. But having to coax them off of the safety of my head is even more heartbreaking.
Here’s where things stand: First, the babies are familiarizing themselves with a new routine. Daytime is filled with running and flying and mock-charging each other with extended necks while avoiding the threat of a well-placed peck by a pair of certain elder hens. They’re all out most days in the backyard while I, mother hen that I am, peek out the back door every 45 minutes or so to check on them. (Ever seen that scene in Forrest Gump where Forrest checks on Jenny while she’s sick in her room twelve times a day? That’s me.) All has been well with group turnout–as long as there’s room for the young ‘uns to escape the sharp beaks of the elders. It’s when the gang heads into the run that the fireworks start. So I’ve built up the escape routes: second floor hideys, third floor roosts up high–might I just remind potential chicken owners that having adjustable quarters is the way to go?–and so far, so good!
At night, just about 30 minutes before sunset, I herd the babies into their inner cage and supply kibbles to fill their little bellies. I then encourage the big gals to mosey on in for their own set of dinner snacks. When they head up to the coop to roost for the night, I lift the roof off the babies’ cage and–oops, that’s when they jump on me. Get ’em off my head and put ’em on the roosts.
In the morning, I get up before the break of dawn (normal for me, thankfully) and head outside to make sure there’s no loose-feathered carnage, and when I see all is well, I scoot those little ones back into their safe cage (the “inner sanctum,” for lack of a better term), and here come the big gals, down from their roost. Goldie first–a light flop to the floor of the coop before she waddles down the platform and outside. Marguerite is always last, and she leaves the roost about as gracefully as an elephant. By the time they’re both outside, the babies are safely ensconced in their quarters for a few hours, and I breathe a sigh of relief.
At Noon, the doors open up and everyone’s in the backyard for the day.
It’s clear the babies finally trust me. (Besides the aforementioned jumping on my head.) Each evening when I enjoy a glass of wine outside, they graze closely, sometimes jumping up on my lap for some girl time. They also have started to run toward me when I come out of the back door–they must’ve learned that from Goldie–and I don’t disappoint: there’s always a treat in my hand. I’d rather have them beg (and trust me) than have them scatter when I approach.
Four more weeks to vacation. I’m really hoping things continue to go smoothly over the next few weeks!