Wednesday, June 30, 2010, 07:23
Something must be off kilter in the universe because our normally tranquil rural area has experienced many tragedies in the past few days.
Two girls from neighboring towns were killed in a car accident. A woman and two children were killed in a car accident. An attorney representing one of the defendants in a court case I am covering for the newspaper was killed when the wall of an outbuilding he was dismantling collapsed on him. One of our town board members died of a heart attack.
And Tuesday afternoon, a friend of ours was killed when the tractor he was driving was hit by a train.
My thoughts and prayers go out to all of the families. . .
LeAnn R. Ralph
Wednesday, June 23, 2010, 21:08
It seems like it has been a long time coming, but Randy and I are now the proud parents -- errr-- the proud owners of five chickens. We've got two Buff Orpingtons, a Hamburg (they are black and white), an Americauna (they lay the colored eggs) and what looks like an Americauna cross.
We got them Tuesday evening from a neighbor who lives a couple of miles away. The daughters are in 4-H, and I asked them about buying a few chickens when they were showing poultry at the fair in town last weekend.
Randy spent a couple of months this spring building a chicken coop. It is double-sided, insulated, with nest boxes and a roost and also solar lights on the front. He built it on an old boat trailer so that we can move it around when we want to. We also bought a five-foot by fifteen-foot dog kennel for a run for them, which Randy covered with chicken wire on the top to keep predators from coming in that way (hawks and owls and whatnot).
The chickens seemed to take the ride home in the back of the truck in a big dog cage right in stride. They were nervous when they were put into the dog cage, but once the truck started moving, they settled down.
When we arrived home, we carried the dog cage to the hen house and opened the door. The older chickens, the Hamburg and the Americaunas hopped right out and into the hen house. The Buff Orpingtons, which are pullets yet at this stage, I guess, and are younger, were more hesitant, but finally they got out into the hen house, too.
And that's kind of when the problem began. It was hot Tuesday, with a high temperature of 94 degrees and a dewpoint in the 70s. It was sweltering. It was downright miserable. And it was hot in the hen house, too.
Soon our brand new chickens had their beaks open and were panting. Not good. They were already stressed from being moved, and now they were stressed from being hot.
We opened the little hen hatch to let them out in the run. The older chickens caught on right away, but the younger ones eventually had to be gently prodded out the door.
Once outside, they cooled off and began to peck around. Two of our kitties spied them and came to lay by the run. The chickens found this to be alarming. They were not alarmed by our Shetland Sheepdog Pixie, who came down the hill to the hen house barking, but they were alarmed by the cats.
As the sun began to set, the chickens started looking for someplace to roost. With a little more gentle prodding, they went back in the hen house.
And once again, their beaks popped open and they began to pant.
"We can't leave them in there," I said to Randy. "They are stressed already. They can't take being hot, too."
By now it was getting dark, and the chickens were not interested in going outside.
We carried a bench down from in back of the house and put it into the run for them to roost on. Then I tried to convince the chickens they should go outside.
I ended up catching each of them in their hen house, carrying them around to the run door and placing them on the bench. Once I got hold of them with my hands around their wings, they were calm. Randy caught the last little Buff Orpington because she was in the window and his arms are longer.
Once they were outside, the chickens accepted that it was time to roost. Two of them roosted on the bench, and three of them were on the edge of a little shade shelter Randy had made for them.
Of course, now the sky was looking like it was going to rain, so that meant getting a sheet of plywood out of the lean-to by the barn to put over the top of the run.
I checked on the chickens several times before I went to bed. They seemed calm enough on their perches out in the run.
Wednesday morning, by the time I got down to check on them, they chickens were awake and taking turns going back into the hen house for chicken feed. I got some chicken feed and put it outside for them on a scrap of plywood, and soon they discovered their outside treats, too.
All in all, the chickens seemed to have come through their first night just fine.
Wednesday morning, when I left for the newspaper office, one of my kitties, Jack, was sitting on top of the little entryway covering where the chickens go from the run into the coop. He sat there for a few minutes and then jumped down. The chickens did not pay any attention to Jack. Maybe they are getting used to the cats, or at least used to the idea that the cats cannot chase them.
Now all I have to do is get some pictures to post to my Rural Route 2 photo album and figure out what to name the chickens. I have to call them something. Don't I?
LeAnn R. Ralph
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