September 10, 2020
It started in April when Joe “surprised me” by bringing home a box full of chicks from the farm down the road. SURPRISE! I was flabbergasted. We live in an older neighborhood with fairly large lots but, still, a neighborhood, with neighbors. I had that dreaded feeling like when your teenage daughter brings home a stray kitten and you know who will end up cleaning the litter box. I couldn’t believe he hadn’t talked to me about it beforehand.
“Where are you going to put them?” I had immediately decided I wanted nothing to do with this project.
They lived in the guest bathroom for weeks and they smelled. Not a terrible odor but it brought back memories of Easter chicks that had lived and invariably died under the kitchen table of my childhood. They were sort of cute, though.
During this time, Joe began research on chicken ownership. He spent hours looking at coop plans on-line, read articles on chicken care, and sought advice from the owner of the above mentioned farm down the road. I just wanted them out of the house.
When they got too big for the bathroom, Joe built a temporary pen. I had hoped they could be “free range” in our fenced backyard, but we were quickly dissuaded of that notion.
“It won’t take but a few days for the raccoons, hawks and owls to get ‘um,” our farm owning friend told us. “They need a pen where they can’t get out and nothing can get in.”
So Joe built a pen with on old desk for shelter and a tarp for a roof. A few days later we discovered two chicks were missing. He secured the pen and continued planing his coop. This included multiple trips to Home Depot.
“You know you can buy a ready made coop for less that $500.00 ?” I had been doing some research too. “It won’t be good enough,” he said. “I’m making it hurricane proof.” I pictured us hunkering down with the chickens during the next storm.
Another week or so goes by when he appears in the kitchen looking stricken. “What happened?” I asked. “Looks like a couple of them got into a fight. I had to bury one.” “Not Betty?” I said, hopefully. Betty was a pretty little brown one and my favorite. “Afraid so, and one of the black ones is hurt. I’m going to have to treat the wound.” He went upstairs to do some research on chicken emergency medical treatments.
This is when I learned what vicious creatures chickens actually are. Once the others saw that one of their own was hurt, they turned on her and finished her off. I was horrified. We had murderous chickens on our hands.
Joe conceded that the pen wasn’t working and that they would have to move into the screened pool area until the coop was finished. Just a few days, he promised. That was in July. They moved into the coop yesterday.
Having chickens live on your patio for two months is not something I would ever recommend but there were some comical moments. When they were hungry, they would peck loudly on the glass door. Ralphie, our pup, would bark at them through the door but once out on the patio, he would keep a wide berth. Louise, the cat, would totally ignore them. Once, while I was escorting Ralphie through the patio into the backyard, one of the chickens (named Dot because of a black spot on her back) ran into the house. I had to chase her around the kitchen/dining area for quite awhile before successfully shooing her out. Joe was upstairs pretending not to hear the ruckus and the cursing.
The patio became covered in chicken poop. The volume of poop was quite astounding. After a few days, I refused to go out there. The pool guy tiptoed around the pool like it was a minefield. Now that they are finally in the coop, we have begun the first stage of the clean-up which involves moving all the furniture, chairs, tables, lounge chairs, plants, etc. out into the yard for a good scrubbing. The patio and pool deck will have to be scraped, scrubbed and disinfected. The lime in the chicken poop has discolored the cement so unless we want a polka-dotted patio we will have to paint it.
The chickens finally have a home and we have a new place to shelter during the next tornado. Hopefully, I’ll have my pool and patio back to normal by the time our daughters come home for Christmas. That is, of course, if the pandemic allows us to have a family Christmas! I don’t even want to think about that.