Chicken Trouble

It was a troublesome day with the chickens today.  For a few weeks, we’ve been letting them out in the morning so that they can dig around for bugs and eat all the weeds in our terrace area.  We found that in general, the chickens stay together in a group and they like to stay near the coop.  Our terrace has a drop off made of rockery on one side, and the other three are closed in with 3 fences bordering 3 different neighbors.   The chickens are definitely happier and they’re hardly eating any of the chicken feed when they have a choice to forage.   However, the last few days, we have been finding that the fence is not completely chicken-proof. 

They have never flew off of the rockery into our drive way, but on several occasions, we have found them pecking around as a group in our neighbor’s yard.  I don’t think the neighbors mind too much (hey! free fertilizer!), but it’s always a little disconcerting to see your pets over at someone else’s house.  On the few occasions when we’ve had to retrieve our chickens, Caleb and Andrew usually hustle over and carry them back.  I’ve been meaning to bring some eggs over and let them know that this has been happening with a promise that we’re trying to address the areas along the fence where they can sneak through.   In fact, Caleb and I went over this morning and rang their doorbell after we retrieved our poultry from their yard.  No answer.  So, we just came back home with our eggs in hand and did another round of fence mending.  This afternoon, Tenille told me that the neighbor stopped her and told her that they just saw a chicken in their yard, and pushed it back through the hole in the fence where they thought it might have snuck through.

Immediately, I grabbed Caleb and the eggs, and we trekked over to the neighbors.  They answered the door and we gave them our peace-offering.  They were very kind and introduced themselves.  They told us that the chickens were not a big deal.   I wished we could have met under better circumstances, but the chickens made for a great excuse to meet our neighbors.  I suppose that’s the downside of living in a neighborhood where the properties are pretty private.  One day, we’ll live in a neighborhood where there are block parties every quarter and everybody knows each other.

This evening, we went to the Korean Thanksgiving party at our church.  When I came back home, my mom excitedly approached me and told me that two of our four chickens were gone!  They went out in the neighborhood with flashlights looking for them, but wasn’t able to find them.  She said she didn’t really know how to call them.  (I usually say, “come here chickens!”  My children usually say, “bak bak… bak bakk!”  They seems to respond to both…)  My grandmother was also freaking out!  The chickens all just started laying eggs and we’ve been getting between 3 and 4 eggs every day.  She kept lamenting what a shame it would be if we lost two of the chickens now!  She asked if we had any pictures of our chickens.  She said we should blow them up on a big missing poster and start putting them in all of our neighbors’ mailboxes.  I told her we didn’t have any pictures of them and my mom started insisting that once we find them, we need to take family pictures with the chickens.  I reassured her, that there were millions of pictures of our chickens on the Internet.  At the risk of sounding like a specie-ist, chickens pretty much all look the same.  Just have to google “Rhode Island Red” (RIR) or “Black Austrolorp”, and you’ll see our chickens.  In fact, if you showed me a picture of my chickens mixed in with random pictures of other RIRs and Black Austrolorps, there’s no way I’d tell them apart…   My second point was that we probably didn’t need to include a picture.  There’s not a lot of chickens running around in our neighborhood, so it’s not like anyone would be asking, “But, is that the Hyun’s chickens?”   Just for fun, I’ll include some pictures of chickens that look like our chickens.  You won’t be able to tell the difference, and frankly, neither will I.

My grandma was also concerned that someone might steal our chickens and keep the precious eggs for themselves.  I’m telling you now, whoever would steal a chicken so that they can take care of it in order to get eggs is a fool.  Much cheaper and easier just to buy eggs at the grocery store… Everyone knows that you only grow chickens so you can have something to write about…  I’m pretty sure at this point that we’re no way near break even on the egg costs.  And that’s only counting dollars spent on building a coop, buying equipment, bedding, feed, etc.   I don’t even want to think about the time cleaning the coop and run.  Needless to say, the cost of the chicken is pretty much negligible.

My mom told me that on her way back home from her Chicken Search, she stopped by the neighbors (again), and let them know that our chickens are missing (again).  She asked them to keep their eye out for them and let us know if they see them.  I told my mom and grandma that the biggest worry is that if they’re hiding out in some bush tonight, an animal might get them.  Speaking of which, I asked if the two we had are locked up.  She said that they weren’t.  So, I trekked up to the terrace to lock up the 2 chickens that made it back to the coop.  Usually, when it gets dark, all 4 chickens just know to come back to the coop.  They enter the gate in the chicken run, then hop up inside the coop and nestle in among the shaved pine for the night.  In the evenings, shortly after it gets dark, I just check in on them in the coop and lock up the gate on the chicken run.  When I got up to the coop, I looked in to make sure the Austrolorps were safely inside.  There are 3 compartments to our coop – 1 main office and 2 side rooms (that were meant for egg-laying).  The side rooms are easier to check because they were designed to be opened regularly to take the eggs.  When I opened the side, I saw the tail of the Austrolorps laying down in the main office.  In the main office is a roost (or a wooden bar) that runs across its length.  Apparently, chickens like to sleep sitting on this bar.  Unfortunately, our Austrolorps are treated like freshman fraternity pledges.  They don’t get the bar.  They are about 2 months younger than the RIRs, but that’s enough of a difference in chicken age where they are constantly hazed.  The RIRs will go over to them and for no particular reason, just start pecking at them until they run away.  The worst hazing is that the Austrolorps (pledges) have to sleep under the RIRs that are roosting in the main office.   That might not sound so bad, until you see all the poo under the roost.   Seems pretty cruel… but hopefully, it’ll create a sense of solidarity among the pledges.

Anyway, I wanted to make sure both of the Austrolorps were in there, so I lifted up the roof of the main office.  Lo and behold, there were my RIRs… roosting…   All 4 chickens safely in the coop, just like every night.  I locked up the chicken run, came back inside, and had to give a brief training session on how to check if the chickens are “REALLY” missing before sounding the alarms and sending out missing posters to our neighbors. 

It should be another fun conversation tomorrow if our concerned neighbors approach us about our chickens.  “Well…. it ends up that we just didn’t know how to check inside the coop…  but we’re all good now.” 

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