To the Coop!
They Grow Up so Fast
17 April 2011
The clock strikes midnight at the very moment I begin typing this sentence. It's sad that I can't seem to sleep tonight but of all things to think about, awake in bed, starring up at the ceiling, I'm thinking about my chickens. This weekend was a big step for my chickens-- they finally got to leave the Solarium and went off to the coop-- their home for the foreseeable future. They've done really well so far. The coop is built well-enough that three escape-like-artists haven't managed to find a way out, yet. And for now, at least, they have the warmth of their lamps and the fact that the coop is still in my garage. But what worries me is have I built them a good enough home-- not to just survive, which clearly is important, but to thrive? I suppose time will tell but I'd rather not play the trial-an-error game with my three birds.
They were eager to get out of their brooder (which, coincidentally, is a large blue recycling bin-- how's that for re-purposing!). In their coop they flap around and chase one another when I throw in something other than peep crumbles. The coop is cozy, no doubt about it, but it is leaps and bounds bigger than what they've called home for the past few weeks. My hope is that they will love their coop and consider it as much as a home, comfortable and safe, as I regard mine. Their safety is one of the utmost important things for me. Living in Colorado, I know full-well the dangers that exist for my girls. Coyotes are a sure bet-- they come around fairly often but never stay long (that is, until there is something finally on the menu!), but it's also large birds of prey. I don't think I have to worry too much about the hawks as I do the coyotes, but I wouldn't put anything past Colorado. This State is rugged-- it exudes the very essence of what it means to be the "frontier," where everything fights to survive under some pretty austere conditions. And though it is no longer the Wild West of Clint Eastwood or John Wayne, there is plenty yet to be called "wild" in this part of the West.
So now the peeps are in the coop-- and I mean in it-- thrown behind bars, unable to leave. Having read the forums, I found out that it is advisable to shut in your chickens in their new coop so that they get the clue that this is now home. Know it, love it, live in it. Outside of these walls is not home. You may leave home for many reasons but in the end you must always come back to it (does anyone else find the parallels forming here for us Humans?). Home is where the flock is-- it is safe, it is cozy, and it will have food and a roost. Thankfully, I think my peeps get it. They seem perfectly happy to be in their coop, blissfully unaware that that goofy board thing in the corner that rattles when they walk on it is a portal to a who new realm and dimension-- the run. That got me thinking, though, that because it was sunny and warm today and I had to be outside in the garden anyway, the peeps shall join me.
Something I did not expect was just how familiar the chicks would be with me. When I gathered them up to put them in their old brooder, they peeped loudly in protest over this...peep-handling, but quieted down almost instantly when I got them into their old blue box. When I got out to the garden and took them out of the box, they were visibly upset over the situation and as I stood back to watch what would unfold, it occurred to me that this is the probably the first time they have ever been under the vast Colorado sky, without a box, or a cage or something between them and the eternity of Space. I took a few steps closer to them and they calmed down. So I sat with my peeps until they become bolder and began to explore and I was eventually able to get back to work.
But what a wonder these birds have become. While toiling away at the dirt-acting-like-concrete soil typical of our "highland" country, I was aware all the time where my peeps were. It seems my daughter has made a good protector out of me after all. With Anna, wherever I am, I know what she's doing, what she's near that could hurt her or what she's already managed to pull from the counter-top because she's growing so damn fast. It was much of the same feeling with the peeps. I knew where they were and I knew, by the cries of the bird, that a hawk was just over the way in the trees somewhere and that straying from the peeps or letting them stray from me for long gave the ill-chill, as I call it, when your baby is too far out of your range to be comfortable. The soil won, I was spent and though I got the job done, I needed a rest. I sat down next to the scar I committed upon the earth and watched my birds play. They played chicken football with a blossom for a while but tired of that and decided to have a group dust bath in the waning sun. We were, in the moment, a happy flock-- nothing but sunshine and cattails today-- no hawks, no coyotes, no Dies Irae today.