A Visit From a Chicken Ghost

Something really crazy just happened, and I feel the overwhelming need to tell someone about itI was sitting outside with my dog in the sun, listening contentedly to the lovely sound of a rooster’s crow. How I miss that sound, I thought to myself, when I realized… Why am I hearing it now?? It happened again. “What the…?” I said, jumping up. My hens were making the noise that means something exciting is happening (usually reserved for when I get mealworm bag).

I ran to the coop, and sure enough, Sybil/Sid was standing right there before me. (Sybil/Sid is one of my bantam roosters I had to give away the summer I got my chicks). And while it wasn’t Sybil (that would be crazy because I’m pretty sure he is in a better world) it sure looked like him, but grown up. It was a bantam rooster, about the shape and the size of a sugar pumpkin, if sugar pumpkins had gray, white, and black markings. “What the…” I said again, at a complete loss. I live in sort of a suburban area- this chicken would have had to cross five backyards to get here, and why would he do that? Did someone drop him off because they heard I had hens? And of course: IS HE DISEASED?! (I bet you were expecting that one). Anyway, I lured him into a separate pen I had fenced off by sprinkling mealworms and blueberries, plopped some water on the grass for him (all this travel must have made him thirsty) and set off down the road looking for potential home-bases.

I figured it must have been the closest coop down the road- they had recently gotten chickens (and goats, and sheep, and oxen) and I often heard crowing from that direction. I had never talked to them before, and they have three rather large and very protective dogs so there was a little bit of trepidation knocking on their door. But it all worked out, because the woman that answered was very nice, we drove back to the coop, she caught the escapee, and the fiasco was over in thirty minutes.

I must be doing something right if all the chickens in the area want to vacation at my coop 🙂

Cleaning

I’ve been doing a lot of cleaning lately, something that is very rare in my life because I hate every second of it. But some cleaning is absolutely necessary, as I found out last weekend. For a week, whenever I entered the coop a strong smell made me want to gag. People will tell you that chickens are foul and dirty creatures, but this is simply not the truth. Sure, they poop a lot, but if they are well managed, the smell isn’t all that offensive. So when I walked into that gross, chemically smelling coop, I knew that it was in need of a good cleaning. But the weather lately has been far below freezing, so if I tried scrubbing it with water, it would freeze to the sides of the walls. Instead, I settled for a thorough dry cleaning.

I took a much needed trip to the Tractor Supply store, and filled the shopping cart with more layer pellets, a bale of pine shavings, a soft brush and a stiff-bristled brush, as well as a spray bottle that supposedly protects the chickens from poultry mites and lice (I thought I saw a poultry louse on Edith the other day). The next day happened to be unseasonably warm- a balmy 35 degrees, and out the door I went.

I started off by scooping out all the soiled shavings with a big snow shovel. It worked great! Then I got every last piece of shaving out with a broom and the stiff bristled brush. After this, I scraped off any remaining excrement with a mini flat rake. I took out the poultry parasite spray and used it according to the directions (I sprayed all surfaces, in the corners and cracks, nest boxes, etc…

While I waited for that to dry I refilled the food container and scrubbed down the waterer with warm water and the soft-bristled brush. By this time, the coop was pretty much dry (I had left all the windows and doors open), which allowed me to fill it with four to five inches of pine shavings. I am lucky enough to have a water heater, which I prop up on concrete blocks to prevent fires from the pine shavings. This also raises it above the pine shavings to prevent them from dirtying the water. Unfortunately, when I removed all the shavings, the wood was wet and the shavings underneath were caked to the wood. I wish I could keep the water outside in the run, but there is no way to thread the chord through the hardware cloth at the moment.

After this whole ordeal I let the chickens back in to their new, fresh smelling, home.

Much Squawking

I did it.

About an hour after I published my last post, I ventured outside. I spread the pine shavings in the new coop with my father, and got everything set up. Then I took a deep breath and walked into the run, where my chickens were cowering, away from the snow.

I bent down, tentatively calling “here chook chook chook chicken. EEEEEEEEEdiiiiiiiith.”. He emerged from the coop, fluffing out his feathers. I nervously edged towards him, and knelt in the snow, slowly wrapping my arms around him. He kind of jerked upwards, clucking, and I gently lifted him up. He stayed completely still, softly clucking, and I (completely astonished) carried him over to his new coop. He was such a sweetheart! Here I was, picturing squawking and biting and scratching. Lesson learned- Edith is the best!

I dropped him off in the shavings, and he stood their clucking. I shut the door and returned to the hens. I did the same thing, calling Cora forward. When I placed her in the shavings, they flew to the second level and clucked some more. Easy as pie.

Then came the hard part. For the next forty minutes I sat there, trying to get close enough to Mabel to grab her. I succeeded in snatching her, but she screamed and got a wing over my hand, flapping against the wall. Completely frightened off, I took a break and let it grow darker while I made some hot cocoa inside. Thirty minutes later, it was completely dark and still snowing. I finally regained my confidence and went back out again, sneaking up to the coop. Mary and Mabel faced the back of the coop, their tails pointing towards me. I quickly grabbed her, pressing her wings to her back. She screamed again, did the same thing as before, except I still was holding on.

Against all my philosophies and research, I grabbed her legs, and pulled her out of the coop while she hung upside down. She immediately calmed down, stopped struggling. Shaking, and talking softly, I brought her through the cold to her new, warmer coop. I lay her down on the floor, and she stayed there, stunned. The poor thing got up and crawled in the corner. I’m desperately hoping she is okay, that I didn’t harm her. I just figured it was better for her to be scared and in a safe, warm placed rather than content in a dangerous and freezing one. I hope I figured right.

Mary gave me no trouble, as I suspected, and all four are in the new coop. I just hope they’ll be okay.

The Plan

Today, I will try and move my chickens into their new coop (which has officially been finished!!!!!)

Here is the plan…

As I write this A LOT of snow is pouring down from the sky. We’re supposed to get about nine inches. My chickens are not amused by this endless fluffy, wet substance. They’re sitting in their A-Frame, gazing out at the plummeting snowflakes. Edith hasn’t left the safety of the coop, but Mary and Cora came to see me after I returned from school. They left little bird tracks in the snow 🙂

This snow, I think, is working to my advantage. My chickens are going to be less likely to run away with all of this precipitation. Hopefully.

  • As it gets darker out (at like 4:00 pm ish) I will go outside and coax Mr. Edith out of the coop. I’m going to have to try and pick him up- this is quite daunting, because he is HUGE and usually quite grumpy. And, I haven’t picked him up since I could hold him with one hand. If he cooperates, I can continue with my plan. If not, I’ll have to rethink everything.
  • If I can grab him, I’ll carry him over to the new coop first (if I leave him where he is now, he’ll freak out when I take away his ladies). Then I’ll try and catch Cora, and bring her over to the new coop as well.
  • Now comes the hardest part. I’m going to see if I can grab Mabel, the Escapee. She is still super skittish, so I’m not sure if its going to work out. If not, I’ll wait thirty minutes for her to go to sleep, and then grab her.
  • Finally, I’ll bring Mary over. She won’t cause any problems… I don’t think.

So that’s the plan. I’ll let you know if it works or not. My fingers are crossed though. They really need insulation in this weather, and a covered run to get out of the snow.

Coop collage Cora pic Frosted glass Mary pic New coop picture