This morning, my three chickens woke up outside for the first time. They are seven weeks old, and for now, my lack of a coop crisis has been averted.
Thank goodness for the generosity of chicken people. I quickly realized it was time for my little ladies to move out. They were squawking. And stinking. And knocking stuff over in the brooder they’ve called home since day three of their lives. To be quite honest, they were driving me crazy. I believe I uttered the following: “These birds need to get the hell out of my basement!”
Okay, I didn’t utter it. I yelled it.
My basement bathroom turned chicken home is covered in a thin layer of dust. A couple of weeks ago, I woke up at 3 am to the sound of terribly loud and panicked chirping. I went downstairs only to find Susie Q out of the brooder. She was terrified and sitting on the floor. The other girls were continually calling to her from inside their home.
I knew then that the ladies were on their way to adulthood.
But again, the coop isn’t here. And until I had a safe place for the girls to live outside, they were staying downstairs.
Inspiration struck when I remembered the bright blue, plastic “starter” coop I saw more than a year ago in the backyard of Janice Cole. I’ve already told you about my first chicken-raising mentor. Janice wrote a cookbook of recipes using chicken and eggs. She has three birds pecking around her backyard. In the midst of my fretting, I thought about the extra coop Janice keeps for temporarily housing new birds in her flock. And I thought to myself, it’s a long shot, but she might just let me borrow it.
Within hours of emailing my very forward request to Janice, she agreed enthusiastically to lend it to me. It’s too small for Minneapolis city requirements, with no room for a heat lamp, but for a few weeks at the end of the summer, it would be perfect.
Jay and I borrowed my dad’s big rig of a pickup truck, drove to Janice’s house and picked up the coop.
I felt intense relief. And wonderful gratitude.
The morning after setting up the coop in the backyard, I put the birds in the run. They’ve been spending lots of time outside lately, ever since I learned Henry wouldn’t chomp on them the minute I turned my back.
They spent the day pecking about, exploring their new digs. And as the afternoon sun faded and dusk began to settle over the city, I assumed they’d waddle right on into the coop and cozy up for the night.
I was wrong.
From a back window, I watched the chickens and felt their uncertainty. It was getting dark and they had no idea what to do. Instead of retreating to the coop, they simply huddled together. MaryAnne hunkered down in the middle while Roz and Susie Q flanked her tightly.
I had to help them.
I reached in the run and gently picked them up one by one, carrying them to the coop and setting them inside. Their alarmed chirping subsided as they were enveloped in the security of their enclosure. I closed the doors securely, latched up the run and went back into the house that was, for the first time in nearly seven weeks, chicken-free.
And now, we have a new routine. This morning, I opened the door and let them out to begin another day of doing what chickens do. Pecking, preening, eating, drinking and walking about.
Free at last.