Sunday, September 25, 2011


 AUTUMN SEEMS TO BE BLOWING THROUGH BIRDLAND, and I haven't quite got the hang of a cool weather closet. I pull out a sweater but find myself at the soccer game wishing I'd chosen a jacket and maybe gloves. It's suddenly damp, too, and the grass is greening up, and growing after its long weeks of stagnancy. I think I'll mow once more if I can remember how, and then put the mower away until Spring.
 The chickens have outgrown the aviary, and I need to transfer them to the garden coop before long. The garden coop needs a new door, which I bought several weeks ago, but is still sitting in the basement waiting for a coat of varnish. I also need to build new nesting boxes for the inside of the coop. The idea is to slowly transition them back to a free range lifestyle. I've been letting them out in the late afternoon with Ursula on the leash. She tries to be good, but she is a bird dog at heart. On the leash she seems curious and friendly, but still tries to tangle with the big rooster, who baits her constantly, though more than once she has grabbed him by his hackles and run around the yard with him. I believe she is only playing, but her play is pretty rough. He can still manage to get away from her, but I'd rather she learn that chickens are not toys.

 This morning as I was carrying food to the chickens, a little Barred Rock pullet dashed out the door as I stepped inside. Ursula was out, but occupied. I always spill a little food for her midway between the house and the chickens, to distract her from racing around the aviary, upsetting the flock. I scatter the pellets on the path, and she is quite occupied with snuffling up every last one of them, so when I realized catching the chicken would be a two person effort, I shut the door and snuck up on Ursa instead. Luck was on my side and I was able to grab her and walked her into the house before she realized the little chicken was out. “Walking” her into the house is harder than it looks. She wasn't wearing a collar, and she's too big for me to carry, so it was an awkward dance. We made it to the kitchen door, and then I called for reinforcements to retrieve my little stripped chicken.

The trick to catching a chicken is not to panic. Ursula and Ellis can outrun a chicken, but even that takes some doing. I don't stand a chance of winning that footrace. Chasing is no good. It's much better to use psychology: what does a chicken want? The chicken feed I just brought out to the coop. All of her sisters and the two roos are gathered around the feeder, clucking contentedly and greedily pecking. She wants in on the fun, but now the door is shut and she doesn't see how to get back home. If one person holds open the door and discourages the others from escaping, it's an easy matter to walk slowly counter-clockwise around the aviary, herding her toward the open door. Sometimes it takes a couple of tries, but eventually the chicken walks in, the door swings shut, we go back to the kitchen to finish our coffee and start our day. Maybe some long sleeves, a sweater. Do I need a jacket? I look up at the overcast sky. An umbrella, just in case.

Coax Beauty; Pursue Peace: Blessed Be.

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