Yesterday was chicken day. We were picking up 55 'ready to lay' pullets from the hatchery. Of course it is never quite as simple as that. First it involves 'rehoming' the hens we already have in that coop. We have two coops. This was the south coop. They are small coops, and there's a limit to the number of hens we can have in them. The hens in that coop had originally been purchased about this time, two years ago. They were supplemented with 20 more hens purchased in the summer of last year. Then due to coyote predation, the numbers had been whittled down a lot. We had marked the hens from last summer with a leg band. So we moved what was left of those 20 over to the north coop, whose numbers had been reduced also. There were 12 hens remaining. I had planned on emptying that coop after Christmas, but we were always able to sell all the eggs, so I hadn't needed to. Then suddenly we get a call from the hatchery that our pullets will be ready the next week. (They never seem to be able to tell you an exact date much beforehand). I did what I normally do, put an ad on Craigslist for the 12 old hens. Within an hour or two, I had the first reply. Phoned them, had a long conversation, and arranged for them to come that night. They were going to phone me as they were leaving home, or if something came up and they couldn't come that night, they'd let me know that too, and they'd come the next night. For any of you that have had a lot experience selling things on Craigslist....well you can guess how that went. They didn't phone and they didn't come. The next evening I contacted the next person on the list. Sounded like he was coming that evening, you guessed it, he didn't come either. I took off my 'gone,pending pickup' addition to the ad, and changed it to 'still available'. Posted an ad in the Vancouver section as well as the Fraser Valley. Got a reply quickly, yep, want them all, will come after dark, here's my phone number. Called and her mailbox was full. Forwarded my number, emailed her back. Phoned twice later and was able to leave messages, but got no response. By now we are at Friday evening. We have to pick the new hens up on Monday. We need time to get the coop cleaned out, and I always like to pressure wash it between flocks, so it needed time to dry. My option now was to take them to the auction on Saturday morning, to be sure they would be gone. I had two more replies. Phoned the next one. Managed to convince them that they needed to come that evening, which they did, thank goodness. Larry cleaned out the coop Saturday morning. I pressure washed it in the afternoon. Took the nest boxes out and pressure washed them too. Left it all to dry until Monday morning, and then put things all back together again. Made a few adjustments to how things were arranged, spread some hay around on the floor and in the nest boxes and we were good to go.
When we arrived home with the 55 pullets in various wire cages and dog crates, Luna immediately realized there was something exciting in the truck. She was quivering with excitement, and once we opened the back of the truck she just sat....and stared....and stared. There is no way in a photo to capture the bottled excitement in that one black and white dog. Calli and Jake showed no interest at all. Jake kept hoping though that WE would show some interest in his stick.
That top cage had a previous 'meeting' with Larry and the tractor, and needless to say, the cage came out the loser.
Luna escorted us back and forth down the hill, and then ran under the coop, her favourite spot to be in that chicken field, while we unloaded the birds into the coop. She's not really interested in the chickens as individuals, in fact I had to coax her into the coop. I'm not sure what it is that gets her all wound up about them.
Since these birds are raised in a barn, and are shocked at the sudden change in their lives, they do not rush to venture outside. While I was watching them after they were all unloaded, something set them off and there was a great kerfuffle, a virtual chicken tornado, and this hen flew about 30 feet out of the open door.
This doesn't LOOK like Kansas!
I was hoping I would just be able to walk up to her and pick her up, and as I got behind her she suddenly flew the 30 feet back, landed outside the door, and walked back in. I couldn't have planned it any better.
Today, I had the little 'chicken' door open, but didn't see any venture outside. Later this afternoon I went down there and propped the 'man' door open for a while. A few got brave and stepped a foot or two outside the door. Baby steps! Hopefully tomorrow they will be a little braver. It will be a couple of weeks or so before these young ladies start to lay. That gives them a chance to get used to the outdoors and eat some greens and live a more organic lifestyle before they start producing eggs.