I painted the floor with floor/porch paint, added boards to keep in the shavings, spread pine bedding on the floor, mixed diatomaceous earth (DE) into the bedding (more about that later), filled the feeder and waterer, and adjusted the height of the feeder by moving the S-hook up a few links on the chain. While there are a number of tasks to be accomplished before the coop is complete, the coop was ready for occupancy – and the 11 Easter chicks were fast outgrowing their current home!
Last Tuesday evening, I set to move the Easter chicks into their new house. Turning on the solar shed light in the new coop (but not in the little coop), I was able to see where I was setting the birds and they could see that the new environment was clear of predators. Just after dark, I picked up each bird from the roost in the little coop, carried them gently with my left hand and arm like a football, softly reassuring the bird, and placed it on the roost in the new coop, aiming little feet towards the wood. The transfer occurred without incident, although I had a few flappers.
To learn that this, and not the little coop, was their home, the Easter chicks spent a day and a half inside the coop. Fresh and roomy, they were healthy and relatively comfortable.
On the afternoon of the second day, I decided to let them out to free range. The run is not complete, but they have ranged successfully in the past and stay close to the coop. I checked on them every 45 minutes or so. However, when I finally came out at about 9:05 pm to do a head-count and tuck them in, I had nine birds. Not eleven. Nine. I quickly realized I was missing the two hawkish-looking EE hens.
I went to grab a flashlight. I hoped that Talli, my faithful chicken dog, would help me locate the girls, but a week before the 4th, the local townspeople were setting off fireworks, so Talli was instead hiding under the chicken house. I was on my own. I had seen them bed down under raspberry brambles during earlier threats, like a passing shadow in the sky, so that is where I focused my search. I also looked in the trees near the coop, but to no avail. Finally, in the pitch dark, I gave up. The chickens were roosted or abed for the night wherever they were, and they wouldn’t respond to me or move from their position now. I hoped that they were somewhere safe and would make it through the night, but I knew that between the skunks, raccoons, and den of grey foxes on my land, they hadn’t much of a chance.
I woke at 5:55 am, thinking immediately of my birds. Walking up the hollow, my heart sank: There were no little hens pecking around in the grass. I commenced to look for the hens once again, also scanning for feathers or bodies. I searched for perhaps ten minutes when I finally decided that they must have gone, or been taken, further up into the woods, and I began to walk down to the house. My faithful chicken dog was happily panting at the small coop, which by then contained the little Ameraucana chicks that Talli is so dedicated to. She was distracted and looked up to her left once or twice, and, heart in my throat, I walked back up to see where she was looking. Sure enough, there were my two burnt-umber and black EE hens, setting on a thin branch of a sapling, about twelve feet in the air on the hillside behind their old coop’s run. As I looked up in relief and started laughing, they looked down at me as if to say, “What? This is perfectly normal.” They were so cute cuddled up next to each other in that small tree, I went for my camera, but they decided to fly down when I moved. One flew right into the small coop’s run; perfect, I thought, she was contained. The other flew down onto the ground and began running towards the new coop’s pop door. I walked over, sat still until she approached again, and popped her back into the coop. Then, I went over to the run, picked up the other girl who was calling out in despair of being alone, and popped her in as well.
Heartily relieved, I went back to bed. And when I woke, I strung up a run of deer fencing to contain the chickens until the wire is up. They now have the habit of returning to the new coop to roost at night. Whew. Transfer complete!