Never Kiss Your Chickens

We added two new chickens to our little flock last week. Pique and Boo. They’re younger and smaller than the rest by a few weeks and it was like dropping a pair of seventh graders into a varsity locker rook after tearing them bodily from the comforting arms of their mother.

I felt like a complete jerk. Those poor girls were catatonic with fear and we just walked away. I worried about them all through the first night, sitting hard on that new parent instinct to poke sleeping babies to make sure they’re still alive. I managed to sit on it until 6 a.m., at which point I had to know if they had survived. I ran out to the coop in my flips and pajamas…

They were gone.

GONE. I LEFT THEM ALONE WITH THOSE OTHER DICKHEAD CHICKENS AND THEY WERE EATEN ALIVE.

No…that couldn’t be right. I didn’t see any blood or bones or feathers and one thing I have learned about chickens is that they are wasteful eaters. No way did those bloody-thirsty, pocket-sized velociraptors manage to cannibalize two whole birds without a trace.

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The bloody-thirsty, pocket-sized velociraptors: Robin, Monarch, Muppet-feet, Unlikely, Flappy, and Speedy.

Weasel? But that didn’t make much sense either. The other birds would have been injured or upset, right?

So did they get out? I checked both sides of the garden before I realized that the most likely point of escape was through the nesting box channel. The barn had been closed off, so they must just be hiding in the barn. I scanned high and low, peering into the hay under the rabbits for flashes of white.

Nothing.

An eerie sense of bafflement color my fear for my new birds. I stepped back and decided to feed the bunnies and consider the problem, give my brain a few more minutes to wake up.

A flash of movement caught my eye as I pulled hay from the rack and there was Boo, perched in the tight little space between the feed tray and the coop post. My heart flipped over an I just couldn’t stop my hands from reaching in to pick her up…which scared the poop out of her, which incited her to protest, which drew down the wrath of Muppet-feet, who quickly orchestrated the explosion of Angry-Rooster-Palooza, leaving me no choice but to pull Boo out of the coop before my freaked idiot roosters could peck her to pieces.

I put her into a nest box, still seeing no sign of Pique, and hustled to get the pop hole open for Dumb-dumbs #1-6, aka Robin, Speedy, Monarch, Flappy, Muppet-feet, and Unlikely. Blessedly lacking the predatory focus of velociraptors, they rushed the door and settled into eating grass as if the mad panic at the alien invasion had never happened.

I went back inside to make sure Boo could get to food and water unmolested and there she was: with Pique. The two were snuggled together on the ramp landing. I still have no idea where Pique had squirreled herself away.

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Pique and Boo, in another of their favorite snuggle spots.

After having them for a full week, I think I have to say that Boo is short for Boodini. We went to camp for a few days, and when we got back, she was outside of the coop, just hanging out in the barn…which is fortunately more tightly sealed than the coop itself, so we didn’t loose her. That time.

Last night, however, Boo flew the coop. We had fixed the spot we assumed she had snuck out through, but apparently she’s still little enough to squeak through some pretty small spots because she was roosting on top of the nest boxes when I went down to close them up for the night. And, because the barn was not yet closed up, when she flew away from me in terror, she ended up OUTSIDE.

This might have been a manageable situation if the cats hadn’t been outside with me, but life is what it is, and Lyra managed to terrify Boo into fleeing into the woods, where we quickly lost track of her in the ferns and stream that runs under a mass of dead leaves and tree roots. After a solid forty minutes of searching, John and I had to admit that we weren’t going to find her…and her chances of surviving were not great. It just about broke my heart to go inside, but I didn’t see what else I could do, aside from leave the garden gate open so she could get at the outdoor feeder if she found her way back.

My night was not fantastic–I kept waking up from dreams about Pique being mauled by the other chickens without Boo’s protection, or of Boo trying to get into the coop frantically while running away from something horrible with teeth and a fondness for chicken nuggets. So, once again, come 6 a.m., I flip-flopped out to the barn and my pajamas…and there she was. In the garden. Attacking the closed pop hole with manic terror as I shut the garden gate and went over to let her rejoin the others.

The degree to which I worry over these stupid chickens is maybe an indicator that I’m not cut out for the anxiety that comes with being responsible for fragile little lives. All the same, I have not forgotten that these particular fragile little lives are also filthy little salmonella-incubators, so from one crazy chicken lady to the rest of my fellow backyard chicken owning weirdos: don’t forget to NEVER kiss your chickens.

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