Remember the saying about the cat being away and the mice getting into trouble? Well, Kim's away and the chickens are running wild.
The chickens were always going to be Kim's thing - I had my hands full with the vegetable and perennial gardens. And a good thing, too, because those birds could not want for a better mama than Kim.
But even the best chicken mamas need a break from time to time, so Kim is spending the week at a blues guitar camp in Port Townsend, Washington. Which is lovely, and I am so happy for her. But it's about those chickens. . .
The current count is 51. Many of those are young cockerels destined for someone's freezer in a few weeks. But for now, I am responsible for all 51 of those birds. In Coop #1 there are eight Old Girls (aka the year-old Buff Orpington hens), Hector and Alice, plus five Red Rock Cross pullets and eight BO and Australorp teenage pullets. In Coop #2 there are 15 BO and A teenage cockerels, plus 13 BO and A babies, the last batch hatched in May.
Needless to say, this takes some management. So first thing every morning I refresh all five feeders and waterers, usher the teenage boys out of the coop and into the wild (they roam free every day, which we think is why we haven't had any rooster-type squabbles so far), usher the babies into the medium-sized chicken yard, usher the teenage girls into the small chicken yard, and usher all the big girls and Hector into the biggest chicken yard. Then I usher myself back into the kitchen for a very large cup of coffee.
Early in the afternoon I collect all the eggs and let the grown-ups and the Red Rocks out to free range. At that point I feel sorry for the teenage pullets and the babies, who are chirping and squawking at their gates wanting to roam, so I go into the garden to pick them some nice greens which they gobble up in no time flat. Today I cut up a mango for them, which the babies devoured but the teenagers turned their beaks up at.
When Kim is home she lets everyone run wild, including the babies. This is easy: you just open all the doors and stand back. What's not so easy is getting everyone back in the right enclosure at the end of the day. Kim is a Master Chicken Wrangler. I am not. So while she's away everyone has to play by my rules, which means no freedom for the pullets (who are impossible to separate from the cockerels when it's time to go to bed) and the babies (who are impossible to get anywhere near bed).
The chickens who do get to free range are running wild - they are roaming all over the property, scratching in my perennial beds, making a mess of my careful mulching. Today I found a bunch underneath the hydrangea, pecking at my hostas. I don't remember them being so rambunctious when Kim was here. I think this is the chicken version of the Substitute Teacher Syndrome.
Then about 5:00 or so I do my best to get everyone in the right enclosure of the chicken yard. If you're having a bad day and need a good laugh, just show up and watch. Kim thoughtfully provided me with two tools: a big bin of scratch (the babies are clueless about scratch, but everyone else will come running on the double when I shake the container and yell "Here chickie chickie chickie), and a long, skinny twig known as the Boop Boop Stick. Please don't ask me how it got its name, because I don't know. All I know is I'm supposed to use the thing to poke little chickies in the butt to usher them along in the right direction. Oh, and I'm supposed to say "Boop, boop" as I do that. Apparently that's part of Kim's Master Chicken Wrangler magic.
Then about 7:30 it's bedtime, so I go out again, use the Boop Boop Stick to get everyone in the right rooms of the two chicken coops, refresh all five feeders and waterers again, close the doors and turn out the lights.
Kim comes home on Sunday. I can't wait.