Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Chicken Story - part 3

Yes, there is more to tell in this crazy chicken story. Now I’m going to talk about who sleeps where.

When we first opened up the coop annex for the birds, none of them bothered with it. We had to go out each night and grab a couple birds and put them in the annex. Then we hit on the bright idea of closing off the entrance to the main coop run and trapping about half of the chickens on the side with the coop annex. That did the trick. They know how to get themselves to bed. As it started getting colder we put a heat lamp on in the annex.

Now, as I understand it, a heat lamp heats the air and the sweeter heater heats the body of the bird. It’s a radiant heater. I don’t exactly get it, but I do know that it felt much warmer in the coop annex (of course it’s a smaller space too). After we turned the heat on I began to notice a funny trend. We weren’t getting out early enough to separate the chickens and force some into the annex. So one night I went out and there were maybe three chickens who had chosen the annex. The next night there were five or six. Then maybe eight. It kept growing till more than half were in the annex and it was packed! They know a super warm coop when they feel it and the word had spread!

I can just hear them on the chicken playground each morning…
“Brr, last night was a bit nippy.”
“It was? I hadn’t noticed.”
“What? Oh, you’re sleeping in the other building. Hmm, maybe I’ll have to give that a try.”

Here they are coming and going - and responding to a big intruder!

But after awhile the chickens had gotten much bigger and suddenly the coop annex wasn’t quite right anymore. Very unfortunately, their bums hang right over the waterer so they were pooping in that all night. So we had to move that outside. And they kept knocking against the heat lamp because they’re so close to the ceiling of the annex and that fell down a couple times. Ack! So we removed that too. It had warmed up again and they were fine. (Thanks bizarre Minnesota winter!)

Last week the nighttime temperatures plunged to single digits with a negative wind-chill. Jeremy put the heat lamp back in the annex so they wouldn’t freeze out there. We went to bed feeling our chickens were safe and sound.

Early in the morning we were awakened by the sound of crowing. And I mean early. 3am to be exact. “What the heck are they crowing for!?” I groaned. About 3:45 I finally pulled some clothes on and went out to see what was up. All the chickens – that’s what was up! Between the heat lamp and the full moon shining in their window, it was like broad daylight in there. I thought about the situation for about two seconds, then reached over and unplugged their heat lamp.

I went back to bed and I’m sure they had to too, back to the roost to snuggle up and stay warm.

The next night we decided to avoid that problem by making the roosters (ALL of whom have been sleeping in the annex) move to the main coop. So out we trooped at 7pm and carried them one by one to the other coop. And boy did they put up a racket: squawking and crowing and screeching and carrying on like we were torturing them. It was kind of hysterical. No word from the neighbors… yet…

The following night we didn’t feel like moving the roosters, so we just unplugged the heat lamp. But, 3:00 that morning – the roosters started crowing! I have no idea why. It was way darker than the night before. Those ungrateful wretches.

This time Jeremy got up. His thought was to close off the coop so it wasn’t so open to sound escaping. He closed their window, which we’d had open an inch or two as a vent. And then he cut a piece of plywood and screwed it over their open door. Yes, at 3:00 in the morning. This dulled the sound somewhat, but I could still hear it later – so I put my head under my pillow. It is just about time to get rid of those beasts! We are planning to get rid of all but one, but Jeremy has been avoiding it. They’re so beautiful and it’s hard to pick which one to keep.

At this point, I’m ready to do away with all of them!

But wait, you guessed it, that’s not all!

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