Saturday, April 12, 2014

Raising A Wild One

Ok this post is really only for those of you following the chicken stories. If you're here for training/racing stuff, come back in a few days I'll have a story for you about my first sprint 'race' of the year. But for today, we're talking chickens!

Yesterday morning I went out back and opened the coop door for my three girls. They flew out immediately. It's a rare treat to come out in the morning- usually it's late afternoon when they get out. But what the heck, it was Aloha Friday and all! Ozzie was actually out in the yard when they flew out and I sort of wanted to watch what he would do. It was sort of funny when they flew across the yard he  ducked down like he was afraid! Eventually he came out from hiding under a chair and just watched them intently from afar. He might have been slightly conflicted because I would scold him if he started looking too much like a pounce attack was pending... it seemed clear he knew that I was not going to let him get those birds but all of his evolutionary tendencies were saying get those birds... After a few minutes I gathered him up and brought him inside, leaving the chickens to their peaceful search for worms and bugs.

I spent the morning mostly inside finishing up work and doing a bit of cleaning (in this house seriously though WHY bother cleaning on a Friday?? It's all for naught come Saturday at noon when the house is full of neighborhood kids destroying the place.) Every once in a while I would peer over the edge of the lanai to see how the girls were doing and all seemed fine... until it wasn't.

At one point late morning I went to check on the chickens but did not see them. Hmmm. So I went down to the backyard and indeed, no sign of any of them. Oh no! Where did they go? I looked over into the neighbor's yards... nothing. They weren't even peeping?? I got a little more frantic. Eventually I heard some scuffling in the coop and interestingly, Big Red and Ellie were roosting up high in their coop. They had put themselves away all on their own, but Snow, who does not go into the coop on her own, was gone.

I'll save you the drama of the rest of the morning, which I spent wandering around our yard and the neighbor's yards, peeping like a psychiatric ward patient.

Then I sent a sad text to Scott.
I went out several more times over the course of the day but no sign of Snow. I thought maybe it was a good sign that I didn't see a pile of her feathers somewhere though... Was thinking that if a neighborhood cat came by and got her that there would be some evidence of a struggle in the form of white feathers somewhere?

Anyway, later when I was bringing Moana home I told her that Snow went missing. :( She was as sad as I was about that and just as we were lamenting the situation I happened to drive by a mama hen who had like 8 new little chicks on the side of the road. Ah ha! Problem solved. Moana and I drove home, grabbed a net and a shoe box and set off on a mission.

It took me like 10 seconds to catch Choco 2.0. These chicks were all really little and when a mama hen has so many it's not hard to catch the one who gets distracted and doesn't follow the flock into the safety of the woods.

Moana was stoked of course and we came home and eagerly took our shoebox into the backyard to introduce our new little pet to her new home and her new big sisters! Oh happy day! So I put the box down in the grass, opened up the top and BOOM! Little Choco flew right out and darted off into the bushes! GAH!

Once again I found myself on a chicken hunt... Choco 2.0 can peep as loud as any, but she's also smart enough to go radio silent when she is being hunted. She went deep into some thick brush in our side yard (note to husband- we you should clear that out!) and I couldn't see her or hear her but I knew she was there and had no real escape route. Eventually I was smart enough to play her game... I also went silent and just waited patiently... eventually I heard some peeping, then some rustling, and then I saw her making her way out of the brush. Long story short, I caught her again and released her into the safety of the coop.

I was super excited to watch Big Red and Ellie act like protective big sisters or something... I figured maybe they'd sit on her to keep her warm... or something like that. Instead, they got tall, fluffed their feathers and silently stared at her. When they finally went near I figured maybe they were interested in getting to know her a bit but instead they pecked her! Choco 2.0 crouched in the corner of the coop and started shaking. Oh no! Moana was super sad watching this unfold and I was thinking I'd possibly made a big mistake in bringing this itty bitty wild thing home. :(

So then Scott came home and saw our new chick, which he thought was fine... I let Ozzie and Tom out of the house (they'd been locked in all day!). Scott then went on his own search for Snow. Turns out, if there's a chicken on the loose, best thing to do is let the cats out and then follow them. Ozzie and Tom are better hunters than I am... they found Snow in the neighbor's yard pretty much immediately. I was cooking dinner and heard Scott yelling to me outside I FOUND SNOW COME HELP! Of course I was stoked so I went running outside and sure enough we had to swat the cats away as they were both cornering her. She came to us eagerly and I held her close feeling her little heart beating 100mph. PHEW! I put Snow in the coop but thought we needed to move Choco out because while that's a good home for the bigger chickens, I wasn't sure it was the best place for a little one?!

Scott set up the brooder in the garage again and we got Choco settled in there on her own. I did some reading then about introducing a new chick to an established flock (maybe I should have done that before going out and catching the wild one?? I can be impulsive, I admit.) Turns out we are going to need to let her get a little bigger then maybe put her in there at night when the chickens are sleeping and have them all wake up together... then just sort of let the pecking happen because it turns out, The Pecking Order is not just a hypothetical phrase of speech but a real thing that chickens must establish on their own... Did you know the chicken who is highest on the pecking order roosts in the highest spot in the coop? I did not know that either. #FactOfTheDay

Anyway, through my recent reading I've also learned that chicks really don't like to be alone, and that if they don't have any other chicks to bond with, they may bond most with humans... Sure enough, Moana and I went into the garage to play with Choco this morning and she didn't attempt to run away at all! In fact, she just wanted to cuddle up close to us. It was super cute! Moana gave up one of her little stuffed animals to put in Choco's brooder so she has something to cuddle up with when she wants to sleep. It's a little polar bear, which should serve to further confuse Choco as to her identity as a chicken.

So for now, Moana is pretty stoked at having a new little playmate in the garage. I'm hoping Choco lives. I think if we make it through the first week we should be good, and then hopefully I can get her integrated into the coop with the others as soon as possible so she develops some social skillz as an actual chicken.

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