Everyday I deal with dim-witted but strangely adorable hens. Some days are like an idyllic scene described by Wordsworth but other days are simply frustrating as the reality of country living slaps me in the face.The day we force them outside for the first time is one of those awful days.
In the early summer our chicks lose their down and their feathers slowly grow in. Once their skin is well protected, it is time to introduce the adorable little birds to the great outdoors. Needless to say chickens are well, chicken; we are forced to literally pick up every single little chicken and throw them out the small door into their fenced-in run. Chickens definitely lack courage.
However, as soon as the young birds are off the slanted plank walkway outside, they desperately try scramble back inside. Many manage to dart back in while the mob crowding the doorway stops me from pitching anymore outside. Since we raise free range chickens it is of paramount importance that they spend their days outside. In fact after about ten minutes we cannot convince the little darlings to go back into the large chicken coop till dusk because they relish scratching the dirt for tiny seeds and grain which we scattered around everyday as well as weeds, grass and bugs.Yet the problem is getting them outside for the first time.
It took a few years to perfect our plan of attack on the cowering mass of chickens. Nothing is more frustrating than catching a bird, while trying to herd out a couple more, only to lose all three. You must understand that we are talking about 175 meat birds, bred to eat voraciously.These white rock meat birds can move quickly. Duck, Deek and Dive.
Our final method involved stationing at least one or two children outside, preventing a mass retreat back into the chicken coop as well as scattering the clustering chickens around the door. Basically it is a crowd control issue. I call this Operation DDD because it is planned much like an army mission.
Inside four kids stretch out huge sheets of plastic, moving them slowly so that the plastic barrier resembles two slow-moving walls. This herds the birds in the direction of the small doorway. It is my job to grab the fowl one by one and push or throw them out the door. You cannot possibly imagine how many birds Duck, Deek and Dive out of our hands. Often in sheer frustration we all troop out of the chicken barn once in a while to take a break and grab a glass of water or a snack to fortify our resolve to finish this operation.
Thank the Lord that this particular task is only one day a year.