The Best Way to a Chicken's Heart

I recently rented a cabin in the woods, a small space with lots of light and a small solarium that faces south; there are a few such structures dotting the oak savanna that a group of us call home. We are all residents of varied interests; most everyone is a student of some sort, among the number we have two doctoral candidates, one master's degree seeker and a BA holder seeking a BS; we have a resident glass blower and now a resident gardener (me...); one of our number keeps a small herd of goats for milk production, they share their space with a quartet of Muscovy ducks. The glass blower keeps bees, though we have yet to see any honey. There are chickens too, all hens, a variety of colors and sizes; sadly, their owner built them a home and then had to move on. The flock moved to another resident, one who now too has moved on. The poor girls, they simply have nowhere to go. We've been trying to figure out if they lay eggs, but nobody seems to remember if they did when they first moved in or not; the fact that they are for the most part free-range means they keep their nests hidden, even as they have "official" nests in their coop. I did some research which suggested that we put them in their coop for a few days and not let them out to roam--if they can lay, they should; now if we could just catch them...
I did some more research and found that if one approaches them in a non-threatening manner, suddenly standing (sic looming) very straight, they will flatten themselves to the ground just before trying to take flight; that is the best time to gently grab them. I suspect that this advice may have been from a Victorian Farming in Central London pamphlet or something, as none of us who followed the advice could get the hens to prostrate themselves. Another source suggested putting feed in the palm of your hand, getting the chickens accustomed to hand feeding; pet them after they have been acclimated and then proceed with gently picking them up, remembering to support their feet and to gently restrain their wings. I (notice the singular) decided to give this method a go. Let me first state that gloves are nowhere mentioned in this method, but I would highly suggest them (unless you can deal with a flock of chickens pecking the hell out of the palm of your hand, I imagine this is sort of akin to catching a rubber ball shot from a sling-shot, over and over...); second, while the chickens will indeed readily eat from the palm of the hand, it will take quite a bit of food to get them acclimated to actually letting you pet them; third, once they are used to you petting them, you still have a ways to go before they will actually let you pick them up. Other observations: after your hand-feeding experience, said chickens may magically appear anywhere you are, they are not really looking for a hand-out, they're just looking for their mother hen; depending on your initial interaction with them, you may or may not name them--the two big Rhode Islands are Lucy (flaming red head) & Linda, the pied gray one, Ursula...the Bantam and the other are nameless as yet; you may realize that they have personalities (Would you want someone telling you to lay an egg?)

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