Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Try, try again

I have new chickens, replacements for my girls that were killed in the Pre-Thanksgiving Massacre. We have a new back gate, and new reinforcements on the back doors of the coop. It takes me some time now to undo all the latches in order to change the feed, water, or bedding, but that's OK. These doors can't be opened by anything but human hands and a decent amount of strength. I also accidentally trapped myself in the backyard, as the gate opens out (so that it can't be pushed in) and the latch is the type that drops into the ground. It seems that it is possible to drop the latch by reaching over the gate, but once it's lowered, it's too low to reach from the other side. Thank goodness Don was mowing the front yard and saw me jumping up and down trying to get his attention.

We are also experimenting, trying to determine exactly how "teachable" chickens are. Obviously they can learn some things; for example it only took them a few days to realize that Mara = food and they like me a lot, now. What we want, is for the girls to learn to run for the coop should they see a dog in the yard. We're using Alice, who is a hunter by blood and would kill the birds if she had the chance. We walked her down to the backyard and when she saw the birds, she froze and pointed. She raced around and around the run, and the birds ran in circles inside. Then three of them jumped up into the coop, while the fourth (re-named Stupid) continued to flap in circles. Eventually she figured it out, too. It's too soon to tell if they're learning (we'll do another trial next weekend but I don't want to put undue stress on them), although I noticed last night that when a bunch of neighborhood dogs started barking, the chickens all ran to the side of the run (haha, that sounds funny) and stared out, alert-like.

I hope it's safe to say that, whatever may happen with THESE chickens, it won't be a dog attack. I say all this because whenever I announce the arrival of New Chickens, the first thing people tend to ask about is our new defensive system, as in, "You're not going to let dogs get these ones too, are you?" Still, when I called Don yesterday evening, they were the first thing he asked about-- "Is it the chickens? Are they OK?"-- still traumatized, I guess, by my phone call last November along the lines of, "All my chickens are dead and I need you to come home and deal with the bodies."

I'll have pictures soon. Meant to take some Sunday when we were free-ranging, since the photos come out so much better without the wire mesh of the run in the way, but I forgot to bring the camera downstairs with me.


Rachel said...

I thought all chickens were kind of stupid, but sounds like you've put in some security measures that a dog or coyote couldn't easily get in there. Good luck!

Mara said...

Thanks Rachel!

I don't think chickens are stupid, really. They have good smarts for what they need, like any animal species. What I'm finding surprising is the amount of variability from one individual to the next-- each one is different, has its own little personality. It's not how we're taught to think about chickens, certainly.