The integration efforts have ceased. Big girls want nothing to do with the young ‘uns. Out in the backyard, harmony is everywhere. You can practically see songbirds circling around my little flock’s collective wattles, singing happily about feathered friends and hen love. Put the four girls in a pen, however, and things are not happy at all. Marguerite and Goldie seem much more relaxed with the babies, but the babies have long memories and have not forgotten the sharp beaks and hefty weight of their not-so-long-ago attackers. Who can blame them? Instinct is strong in these creatures, and it’s what has kept them alive.
In less than three months, Mabelene and Henrietta will start laying eggs. They can’t be constantly moved around to temporary shelters and continue to shack up like wandering nomads above the big gals’ nesting boxes (which requires me to rise before dawn to ensure they haven’t jumped down early in the morning and met up with sharp beaks of big hens). They need safe sleeping quarters and adequate roaming space for those days I’m not home (or, God-forbid, head out for an impromptu weekend away).
So after returning from my vacation (all the while fretting about the babies stuck in their small but tall parrot-like enclosure–even though my creature sitters let them out to roam for at least 30 minutes a day), I researched some online coops. The day I returned home, I ordered one. Two-day shipping, 45-minute assembly. Works for me. There were mixed reviews online about the size and sturdiness of the coop, but I could see the layout was right and, hell, I’m handy enough (thanks to Dad’s years of brown bag clearance tools and crafty household crafty lessons) to shore it up.
Seven hours of sweating in 92-degree Florida sun (with occasional dips in the pool and the brilliant-but-redneck assembly of beach umbrellas above my work area), four diet cokes with lime, and two jugs of water later, I stood back to admire my hard work and ingenuity! The new coop/run was built! I reinforced it with hardware cloth along the underside, knocked out the cheap plexiglass window and replaced it with wire mesh, installed new hasps on the doors, and opened up the roof for ventilation (since the coop manufacturer doesn’t seem to believe that hens need to breathe or be protected from hungry predators), and tricked the little gals in with romaine and veggie burgers, shutting the door behind them.
Of course, I thought to myself, they’ll LOVE it! Their own place! Fresh water, romaine, treats all over the place, a safe coop to spend the night–a double-level condo! How could they NOT love it?
They panicked. Paced back and forth like caged lions, scraping their beaks against the mesh walls and uttering heart-wrenching little peeps of shock. At that stage of the day, and coming off weeks of worry and stress and sleepless pre-vacation nights and a fresh $289 charge on my credit card from chickencoopsource.com, I gave them a stern look (which of course they understood) and said, “Girls, get used to it” and went into the house and shut the door. And poured a glass of Chardonnay bigger than most people see in a lifetime.
Two days later, I am coming off my hangover and they are actually seeming to acclimate to their new quarters. I actually slept in until 8:30 today! Good thing chickens have little brains, because I was pretty worried about getting them to go back in there with the whole romaine-bait trick. They fell for it again last night, and I’ll find out in an hour if they fall for it again.