Sunday, July 30, 2006

Home "Tweet" Home

At long last! (~Insert heavy sigh of relief~)
This afternoon I was privileged to assist in the final stages of construction of the interior of the chicken/guinea coop! Though I must say I was a little out of my element. Picture me: long flowing lilac dress fluttering about my ankles, bending laboriously over a sawhorse in the barnyard, and wielding a disc sander on a stack of 2X4's. I was preparing them for their ultimate destiny as rungs for a roost. I'm certain I presented an incongrous spectacle to bemused passers-by! (Aren't you proud of me using a power tool especially when I have a singular fear of anything that plugs into an electrical outlet and goes "buzz"?)
So, praise the Lord.......after many weekends of grueling labor, an abundance of mental as well as muscular exertion (and not a little sweat), and a flurry of industrious activity by Dwayne today, the Taj Mahal of poultry coops was declared inhabitable this evening. Following a burst of initial protests over their sudden eviction from their previous residence, its new tenants are now slumbering contentedly on their freshly-sanded-by-yours-truly perches. And so we are finished. For the time being. Ahem. I'm sure revisions will come along the way. Being a perfectionist means never being completely satisfied!
I'll be posting several before and after pictures to display the extent of the work that Dwayne accomplished, at times with the help of his dad. What we are using as the coop is actually a structure built onto the back of the barn (a shed, if you will) that was divided into two sections. It was in great disrepair but looks completely different now except for the ceiling and rafters. The floor is cement and we're using pine shavings for the bedding. The guineas are blocked off from the chickens with poultry wire in a large holding pen area since they are still getting accustomed to one another. They need to stay in there for the next six weeks to imprint upon their pea-sized brains that this is home. According to what I've researched, they will then return each evening after their daily foraging. Hopefully they've read the same books. I can only imagine the daily antics I will be sharing with these characters. (~Insert happy sigh.~)
At six weeks old, they are getting quite homely with their tiny heads and large bodies, although the spotted feathers are attractive. I've heard of critters being called so ugly they're cute.....well, these beauties are halfway to being ugly and cuteness is long-gone. Once their heads grow bald and white and they develop little cup-shaped wattles and a knobby red growth on their noggins, they almost make you believe in creatures from outer space. I personally think fully grown guineas resemble a Dr. Seuss character gone mad......but they eat ticks, I keep telling myself. (Funny thing about those ticks. I think the word got out about the guineas coming because I have not seen one of those eight-legged creepy-crawlies since springtime. Not one! Someone in the neighborhood is undoubtedly wondering why they have twice as many as usual this year!)
It was quite the exercise in patience and frustration transfering them from the porch to the barn though not as much as I had anticipated. We closed off the porch and opened the pen; they flew out in a screeching, flapping, panic-stricken mass; we chased them down, put them in a covered bin, and carried them over to the shed. Once in their new pen, they at first huddled in speechless horror at the furthest end, then one by one began mincing cautiously around, pecking at the feed, taking a sip of water, glancing up at the rafters, peering suspiciously through the wire at me! Then, with a flap of wings, one bold aviator took flight, and suddenly it became a circus as they all attempted his example simultaneously. Feathers exploding everywhere! They were having the time of their lives. With the heights they're achieving at this tender age, I can just see them roosting in trees and on the rooftops!
The chickens were far from excited; in fact, they were quite put out with me for closing off their harbor of safety on the porch and ushering them into a strange new place with those same psychotic neighbors. Someday they'll forgive me. Have you ever heard a chicken cry? Honestly, when I left them in the barn they were literally weeping. I think I will leave them in there for a day or two to get comfortable with the idea of their new home. Not six weeks though! I have come to believe that chickens are a lot smarter than we give them credit for, although they do occasionally have their functioning-on-limited-brain-cell moments. But then....don't we all?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Great Chicken Rescue of '06

The forecast yesterday predicted thunderstorms in the afternoon. I figured that I had my day mapped out perfectly. Let the chickens out in the yard, transfer the guineas from their small bin to the larger chicken pen, feed and water the guineas, go for a walk with Anna-Rose, come home and have breakfast, bring my mom on her weekly shopping trip, come home and get the chickens back onto the porch (yes, porch....the coop is still under construction) before the weather changed.
I forgot the saying that plans were made to be changed.
And that the Lord has been working on my habit of impatience for some time now. Did I mention that I'm a slow learner?
Long about an hour after the chickens had been enjoying their morning constitutional around the back yard, I heard a faint booming. Thought nothing of it as there is some development going on down the road a piece. The booming went on and on and on. Suspicious now, I ventured out onto the patio just as the sky began to darken. Great. Back onto the porch, guys and gals.
Needless to say, the chickens did not eagerly stand at attention and gallop at my heels to the sound of my snapping fingers and sweet voice beckoning, "Choooook.....chookchookchook." They looked up at me with that peculiar chickeny tilt of the head and cold calculating eye and silently declared me to be off my rocker. Whoever said chickens were stupid never met my flock of geniuses.
Bearing in mind that my back is in a fragile state these days, I commenced to murmuring endearments, coaxing, and finally full body tackling all twelve chickens until they were all rounded up and safely ensconced on the porch once more, albeit NOT in their pen which was now occupied by fifteen psychotic guineas. (Yes.....I still have all fifteen. No one who knows the reputation of guineas should be surprised that I have not found a single person who will take even one off my hands. My father-in-law remarked to me, "Whatever possessed you to get guinea hens? Hm. Possessed. An accurate assessement.)
Well, by now it was too late for a walk and we had to rush to make it out the door in time to pick up my mom. I left instructions with Isaac that if the weather cleared, he was to open the porch door and let the chickens back into the yard.
I arrived home shortly after 1:00 to find the chickens playing cards on the, they're not that smart. Truthfully, while I was gone, we had had quite the gangbuster of a storm here complete with hail. It appeared to be growing less cloudy and the sun was making brief appearances, so I opened the door to the porch, much to the chickens' glee and they raced away joyfully as fast as they could distance themselves from me. (If you've never seen a chicken run, you don't know what you're missing. Try tying your arms to your sides, lean forward, and sprint. You get the idea.)
Fast forward one hour.
Boom.......Boom. Uhoh.
This time we didn't start off with a tentative drizzle but the mother of all downpours. Poor chickies. They sought shelter under a bush honeysuckle by the back door under which they huddled in a miserable array of sodden feathers.
Dilemma #1: Bring them in? Leave them out? Bring them in? Leave them out? Oh look at the poor things. They're going to get hypothermia or some chicken disease. Yeah, and I'm going to get soaked! But they're still technically babies, aren't they? Oh, they'll survive, they have all their feathers. And so I argued with myself for several minutes. The survival instinct was kicking in strong. In the meanwhile, the downpour increased until the view of my back yard was a blur.
Clenching my jaw, I rolled up my pant legs, and set out on the great chicken rescue. Thunder boomed and lightning crashed. It was a life or death situation.......mine. Twenty soggy minutes later I was a hero and my flock was warm and on their way to being dry.
Dilemma #2: The chickens are now LOOSE on the porch because the guineas have taken occupation of their pen and there is absolutely NO WAY I am going to lasso those varmints again. They are now almost four weeks old and they can fly! In circles even. You cannot imagine how difficult it is to restrain a guinea whose wings are stronger than my biceps. Okay, I'm a wimp muscle-wise, but you get the picture. I'd already chased them around the porch that morning with everything but a set of bolas to get them into that pen. "Anna-Rose, come here and help me......we're going to fill the porch with these pine shavings." And that is what we did. The chickens now have a cozy little (temporary, I emphasize) pen on the porch. It will be a mess for a while but you do what you have to do. Necessity is the mother of invention and all that.
Ah, the joys of country living. Wouldn't trade it for the world.
Had any adventures lately?