Sunday, April 13, 2008

Fowl Play

Last week, my uncle, who dabbles in livestock and other farm animals, gave me and my children a Bannie Hen and her six newly-hatched chicks. It has been a couple of years since we last had any hens, deciding to get rid of them not only because I was the only one who fed them, watered them, or cleaned the coop, but also because a dozen fresh farm eggs each day was just too much to keep up with. So, the chicken coop conveniently turned into my lumber storage barn.

But last weekend, my son and I (it was actually just me) cleaned out all the lumber and made the coop chicken ready once again. We went out to the farm with a box for the chicks and a cage for the hen. After several minutes of trying to catch all the little rascals and getting pecked my the mother, we had the entire poultry family ready to take to their new home. The kids immediately fell in love with the tiny chicks, with the tiny little feet, itty-bitty feathers, and soft, slippery poo poo. The mother hen was very protective and did not thoroughly enjoy how we were handling her offspring, but she realized soon enough that we meant her no harm. She was just going to have to get used to our loud, annoying, man-handling presence.

We put them in the coop, where they immediately retreated to the corner. One even squeezed through a small gap in the wire and took off into the yard. My brave son tracked down the wandering fledgling and returned it to the coop, where I had already repaired the tiny breach. We played with those little guys until they appeared very nauseous and our hands were covered with a soft, slippery substance. The kids told them good night as we all retired indoor for the remainder of the evening.

The next afternoon was very busy, kids had after school activities to attend, so I didn't arrive home until late in the afternoon. My wife had noticed that only two chicks and the mother were visible from outside the coop. Thinking it a bit strange, resigned her thought to the fact that the other four were in the corner behind the plywood lean-to I had set up for them. But when I went in to verify this, I saw nothing but a few tiny feathers and disturbed ground. The four chicks were gone. I knew they could not have escaped, but I also know that I had built the coop several years ago to be varmint proof, and I had NEVER had any problems with the previous batch of laying hens.

There was, however, only one explanation: a snake had found its way to the new chicks and made off with four of them in his belly. I felt immediately horrible! I felt bad for the chicks, for the hen, for my Uncle who had given them to me, and for my children. Later when I told my son, he cried.

That night, I put the rest of the chickens in a smaller, portable cage as I decided what to do next. Luckily, my father in law came to the rescue. He not only built a larger portable cage for the chicks, one in which they could stay until they were big enough to fend off snakes for themselves, be he also had visited the feed store and restocked our supply with seven new chicks, bringing the total up to nine, plus one hen.

Today, the nine chicks are living large in my garage, while the mother hen is living solo perched high in the coop. In the meantime, we're trying to bait the snake with ceramic nest eggs, and the mother hen has avowed revenge should the slithery predator return.

I HATE snakes!


Anonymous said...

Have you ever thought about pigs and cows. I think my kids would really enjoy coming over to see those too.
Also from your previous blog, have you ever considred not helping random neighbors with jobs around their homes. That may free up a little time.
I'm currently working on a new day of the week. It will be considered the weekend as well, we can call it Sleepunday. Write your congressman.

Anonymous said...

Well, at least the snake went home happy!