Last August I bought 15 assorted chicks. They were supposed to be hens, but I'm afraid a few masquerading roosters joined the flock — they will be evicted soon, I hope.
The pullets have started laying, which is good, except when our weather gets below zero. Then we have to check a couple times a day for eggs or end up with egg-sicles. Bob has taken care of this chore, mostly because he likes getting out of the house. He definitely doesn't tend the chickens because he loves them.
If a hen happens to be in one of Bob's homemade nests (square plastic 5-gallon buckets) Bob won't disturb her. He's afraid of the bird, while I am not. I don't mind reaching into the nest bird or no bird.
Over the weekend, when we were playing Dominoes with Rebecca and Andy, our daughter looked out the kitchen window. "A chicken," she said and clucked a greeting.
Having a chicken come up on our front steps isn't odd in the summer, but this cold winter day they were all locked up. Still there was an escaped hen pecking around the wild birdseed the sparrows had scattered. She looked so cold out there all by herself I was afraid for her life. Hawks had been frequenting our yard looking for food, too. A large hawk would have loved having this chicken for dinner, I was sure.
Bob guessed she had slipped out when he had entered the chicken house earlier. There were always a couple bold birds trying to get past his feet. He hadn't seen her escape, but that seemed the best explanation.
I thought to wait for dark before trying to grab that hen — they don't see well in the dark. They tend to stay put and not run. Still, that afternoon's weather got colder and colder. Finally, I eased the front door open thinking I might be able to scare her inside. To my surprise, the hen looked at me and came closer. If she kept moving, she'd walk inside herself.
That's when the dog noticed we were having a feathered visitor and came to investigate. Sunny was ready to grab her and I knew it wasn't going to be in a friendly kind of way.
Bob held the dog back and handed me a few grapes from the fridge. I plopped those down inside the door and the chicken came in for her treat.
Snap! I closed the storm door behind her. She dropped the grape in her beak and tried to retreat, but I had her cornered. She made a loud fuss when I picked her up, but was finally safe from hawk and hound. I took her outside and reunited her with the rest of the flock.
The following day a rooster and a hen escaped. This pair didn't come up to the house. Instead, they stayed by the shed. We thought it best to open the outer door and let them head in at sundown to roost, and then I would capture them and return them to the flock. The trouble was that when we went back later, more birds were pecking around the ice and the snow.
It was time to look for their escape route.
I checked the floor and above to where the walls almost reached the ceiling. Only a tiny bird could get out there and the birds outside were not tiny. That's when Bob told me to look at the window where some of the chickens were roosting.
I looked at the window and didn't see anything. There was nothing to see. The glass was missing, meaning a large hole opened right were the chickens usually liked to sit, sunning themselves.
It was late in the day. Light was disappearing fast. Bob went searching for something to temporarily cover the hole, while I gingerly stepped on the ice pack outside the barn and picked up pieces of glass.
After getting a temporary solution tacked up, we still had loose chickens to contend with. It sure wasn't easy guiding them home as Bob and I had to watch our step while walking over ice. In the end, we had them all inside. Problem solved.
Today there is an ill-fitting window in place so the chickens can enjoy the sun again — more work will have to take place when the weather improves. The problem with extra roosters still exists. That should be solved with a roasting pan, hopefully soon.
FYI: Weather permitting, Bob and I plan to be at the Wisconsin State Farmer booth (Hanger C 5599) at the Farm Show, March 25-27, in Oshkosh. We have our fingers crossed for sunshine, as this is our annual rite of spring. Hope to see you there. I'll have my books along for sale.
Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; Sunnybook@aol.com; www.susanmanzke.net; http://www.facebook. com/susan.manzke.