We carefully, strategically, thoughtfully plotted our chicken wrangling caper. We were not going to rustle chickens! That would be illegal although I'm not sure that the rustling of fowl constitutes a serious problem anywhere in the U.S.
A friend of mine in a nearby rural town, Beth Merayo, knew I wanted to plump up my chicken population by a few hens. They needn't be layers as my own Chicken Girls were providing all the eggs I needed. But a few older hens, past egg-laying, would beef up my poultry patrol platoon for added insect and weed abatement here at the Cottage.
Chickens are such useful creatures. They lay eggs - a perfect protein - and that alone endears them to me. But there's so much more I love about them!
Chickens prowl the garden scratching for insects, thus constituting my most effective strategy for pesky bug eradication. Chickens save me lots of weeding time by gobbling up many as they sprout...kochia, foxtails, cheat grass, the billions of elm seedlings that come up each Spring, wild tansy, stink weed, and more! They also snarf up my flower garden's heartsease and bachelor's button seedlings but that's another issue altogether.
Chickens cultivate and fertilize the soil as they scratch about pooping as they go. When I clean out their coop in the block barn I toss those gleanings onto compost piles and into gardens in the Fall to "mulch" in over the Winter.
The sight of chickens poking and pecking about, taking dust baths, grazing on the lawn, chasing and catching grasshoppers, and napping on a soft bed of leaves is entertaining, calming...quiet pleasures I can enjoy for hours. I think chickens are very attractive birds, too.
I LOVE chickens. They are, unapologetically, one of my favorite creatures in the whole world!
So, Beth and I went a-wrangling for chickens. Beth knows a gentleman who wants to get rid of all his chickens. She's feeding his flock while he's out of town and he told her to "come get all she wanted".
We planned our wrangling-raid for dusk when chickens head for their roosts and become more docile as nighttime falls. We gathered cages and carriers so we could haul our be-feathered booty safely away. We dressed in old clothes, funky shoes (that would become even funkier after chasing chickens through the hen house, around and around their run, and through vast quantities of panic-induced pooping.
And then, when all was ready...we struck!
I'm after this wee, very spry, black chicken. Someone forgot to tell her that chickens are supposed to become more docile at dusk. She gave me a run for my money! But in the end my very unspry self caught her.
When Beth and I entered the hen house the chickens were just beginning to settle down for the night. As soon as they saw us their chicken-intuition kicked into high gear as they perceived our foul (fowl?) intentions and began flapping and squawking and kicking up copious clouds of feces-laden dirt and dust. Yarghhh!
Apparently, these hens didn't know they were supposed to become somnambulent at dusk. They about wing-beat us to death trying to get away. All parties involved in this fracas, human and hen, squawking, flapping, panting, running, kicking up dust! But we got 'em...eventually.
Beth successfully "bagged" these two Araucana hens who are a bit frightened right now and clamped together like suction cups, but they will calm and settle down nicely in their new home where they can roam her vast lawns grazing and hunting plump worms! Like me, Beth doesn't eat her chickens...only the eggs. Our chickens simply retire to lives of leisure when they enter "ova-pause".
All in all, Beth acquired four new hens to supplement her flock. And I snared three to bring home with me - a Rhode Island Red, a small white one (possibly a Leghorn mix), and that cute black one (breed unknown) that I cornered after a strenuous jog around the chicken yard a few too many times!
Chasing chickens is hard, dirty work. They don't like being cornered or caught, kicking up a huge fuss and making their human captors very tired at the end of it all.
By the time I drove the few miles home to my wee, rural burg, my car smelled like panic-projected chicken poop (I'll hose out the carriers tomorrow). I left the car windows rolled down to air out the...um, aroma. Surely, my new Girls emptied themselves of everything they'd eaten for the past two days!
I settled the new hens into a straw-lined hutch in the block barn with water and food where they could calm down in peace, seclusion, and darkness.
In a few days I'll introduce them into the coop - at night - with my own Girls and when they all awaken together they'll simply think it's always been that way and it's likely they won't fight.
Yet, introduce new chickens to an established flock in daytime and they'll fight and carry on making a big ruckus over the "invaders".
I think my new hens will enjoy free-ranging the front lawn and gardens, savoring the earwigs in the Orchard Garden, gleaning the large Back Garden, and doing early Spring clean-up in the Kitchen Garden.
I'm not sure if the new chickens Beth and I caught are past their egg-laying prime, or not. All seemed fairly spry and fast-moving. We'll find out in the next few days whether they've still got eggs to lay...after they settle in.
If I get more eggs than I need, I know people who'd love to have free-range, organic eggs from "pastured" chickens ("pastured" simply means that a hen grazes on green grass, laying highly nutritious eggs, rich in Omega 3).
Ahhhh...the country life! I want...no, NEED...a bath!!!