Letter from Birdland: Chicken coop ready for spring

Letter from Birdland: Chicken coop ready for spring

In Birdland, spring seems to be truly here at last. Warm breezes (and sometimes warm gales) blow in across the fields, carrying the chirpings of frogs and rumblings of toads from the grass waterway. Daffodils are bursting with yellow.

Today, while I was away, Michael was busy making the chicken coop ready for spring. My husband surely knows the way to my heart.

First, he unearthed the coop from the bags of mulch that had been insulating it all winter. The bags were beginning to be weathered. Leaves were spilling out from the ends.

Then he unwrapped the plastic covering that kept the wind from quick-freezing my flock. I had forgotten how light and airy the coop was. With the plastic on, we can see the silhouettes of the chickens, but little else. Now, with just the hardware cloth, the coop becomes transparent, and we can see what a cozy, little den it is.

Next, Michael upended the coop so he could muck it out and then move it to another location. When he rocked it onto its side, he found a very upset hen, who, hidden by the bags of mulch, had been secretly setting a rather large clutch of eggs on the ground under the nest box of the coop.

She stayed right there, guarding her eggs, while Michael scooped chicken manure and later carried the whole coop over to a more sheltered spot behind the big cedar tree.

It's tricky to try to move a hen's nest. We have nesting boxes in the garage, and one is more private with a lid. If she's still with her eggs when it gets dark, we could carry her, nest and all, to the garage, but if we try now, she will just run away, the eggs will get cold and we'd never catch her.

The coop in the new spot is a nice change for spring. It is set at an angle and sheltered some by the trees so the west wind won't hit it full on and tear the lid off again.

Michael replaced the splintered wood. He's handy like that. He showed me where he still needs to reattach the hinge that will hold the lid open while we clean the coop. He cautioned me to be very careful.

The chickens were curious, he told me, while he was making his repairs. They milled around for a while, watching him as he cut slats and screwed them into the coop. Then they went back to wandering the yard, tails up, scratching for grubs and bugs. They would come back to him, by ones and twos, hopping curiously up to the roost, then back down to return to their grazing.

"Do you think they'll find the coop," he asked me, "when it gets dark?" "Of course they will," I assured him. They saw you carry it over here, didn't they?" Just then, a yellow hen hopped down out of the high nesting box. She had been there listening to us.

But as the evening wore on, my husband continued to worry. I finally told him that we'd just go out at chicken dark and check.

I really thought they'd all be snug in their new spring digs, but I was wrong. We looked out the window and could just see the shadows of chickens lined up on the old grain wagon where they were perched, apparently for the night.

We waited five more minutes. It doesn't have to be too dark to sneak up on a chicken, but we wanted to make sure. Then, one by one, we grabbed the birds before they could put up much of a fuss and walked them halfway across the yard and popped them into the coop.

In the morning, they'll wake up and know just where their home is.

Perch in beauty; roost in peace; blessed Be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She is interested in all the cycles of the year. You can see pictures and read more about Birdland at http://www.letterfrombirdland.blogspot.com. Mary can be reached at letterfrombirdland@gmail.com or via snail mail care of this newspaper.

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