Over the past six months or so I’ve become quite accustomed to the sights and sounds (and even the smells) associated with keeping a couple of backyard chickens. I’ve definitely grown used to the idea of fresh fresh eggs every day and feel quite the urban farmer when I present half a dozen of them to friends or family. There’s that odd little surge of happy as I hand them over, almost as though I (and not the backyard chooks) have laid them 🙂
Despite all of this, it’s taken me a while to get my head around some aspects of chicken-wrangling, specifically actually handling them. Birds have never been my thing – I’m more of a dogs person and have always viewed birds as best admired from a distance. They flap – and have beaks – and beady little eyes.
However, since I do want these chooks to have a happy-chicken-life, I generally let them out of their run every day. In theory, this means that they’ll sally forth and forage merrily in the garden, eating bugs and slugs and fertilising as they go. But, sadly, this is not the case. It turns out that chickens are not overburdened with intellect and ‘sally forth’ is not part of their avian mindset. This means that they need some encouragement in the sallying department and, as my methods tend to be forthright, this was initially along the lines of herding them with a garden broom. Not super successful, I must confess, as it resulted in panicked chickens making a run for their hutch and huddling in a corner muttering and clucking nervously to themselves.
Plan B was no more successful, as it was really a variation of Plan A: I trapped them OUTside their hutch and herded them with the broom. They ran in all directions and clucked like, well, panicked chickens, really.
On to Plan C. It turns out that the best way to get them to go where I want them is to don a pair of gardening gloves, manoeuvre the chickens into their hutch, then grab them (gently) – one at a time – and pop them down in the appropriate garden bed. This has to be done quite quickly, otherwise there is more of the wild clucking and running around in a panicky sort of way. By the chickens, not me – although there have been moments…
I’ve now done this twice – and do feel rather proud of myself for having conquered this key component of chicken-wrangling successfully.
So it was slightly startling to look out of my study window this afternoon and find two sets of beady little eyes checking me out. It’s a bit creepy to realise that they know where I live… and hunted me down… and then lurked their making their ‘I’ve found something tasty to eat’ cooing noises. Backyard chooks… or backyard raptors…?