“You have to do what!” I thought I misunderstood my neighbor at the farmers market.
“You have to have an evacuation plan for the chickens in case of an emergency to be certified natural.”
I burst out laughing.
Anyone who is anyone who knows chickens knows that rounding up chickens for an evacuation is like herding 57 toddlers to bed by yourself.
It’s not like the evacuation drill on a cruise ship where all are cordial and follow directions by wearing attractive life vests while standing in line. Forever. Chatty cruise ship crew glide around the passengers telling jokes and promising drinks and snacks when the drill is finished. The passengers are slightly annoyed, but pleased to know what to do in case of an emergency–like the Coke dispenser breaking.
An evacuation plan and an actual evacuation of chickens is much more complex. And messy.
I know since Tom and I had to conduct our own chicken evacuation last Sunday night.
Picture this; 75 teenage chicks in our front yard for their protection. They are surrounded by a flexible, solar-powered, electric fence and covered by an old trampoline with neting. We charged our two dogs to guard them.
Sam, our standard poodle took his charge seriously. Since all night he barks at leaves blowing in the wind while actual people can walk in our house unharmed. Barnabas, our $1000+ rescue mutt mostly barks when Sam does but did watch the chickens intently.
We found out why. We caught him red-mouthed while he finished a poor bird. We grabbed him just as he swallowed the feet.
He wasn’t looking at the chickens as his charge, he was planning his meals. One thing we’ve learned in our new country life is “once a chicken-eater, always a chicken-eater.” It didn’t help that the teenage chicks had chicken brains and kept flying over the fence into the dog area.
Not only that, the other neighbor dogs who used to visit and get treats from me mysteriously stopped showing up.
Time for a chicken intervention-evacuation. We declared an emergency. The chicks had to be moved to our other field where Molly, our livestock guardian dog could look after them. (At 6 months, she played with one to death, but since then there have been no casualties–for more information on that disaster see my old blog titled, “When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Chicken Pie.”)
But how should we evacuate?
When they’re asleep, that’s how. Some kind of special pixie-chicken-dust-trance comes over them at nightfall and you can pick them up without incident. You could probably even vacuum and they’d sleep through it.
Or so I thought.
We set the date and waited until nightfall. Unfortunately, nightfall is past our bedtime.
“I’ll pick them up and you open the lid to the cooler, Pauline.”
Sounded simple enough. “What’s that on your head?”
Tom faced me as a bright red light shown in my face. “It’s an infrared light to be able to see the birds.”
He resembled a cross between a miner and a dentist with the light strapped around his forehead.
I continued, “So let me get this straight. We’re going to load the chickens into the coolers, drive them to the other side of our property and lock them into their new coop?”
“That’s right. We’ll keep Molly and the other birds away from these until they get used to each other.”
It sounded simple but I’m 57 years old and one thing I’ve learned is nothing is simple.
At first the girls cooperated. We quietly loaded 5 or 6 of them into the cooler while they made a cooing noise. Then one rebellious Americauna woke up and alerted the others. I think she said, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” in chicken language.
Almost two hours later we finished. Sweaty, covered with chicken poop, and tired we trudged back to our house.
“I’m too tired to take a shower, Pauline.” I noticed a grin under his infrared face.
“I guess you’re sleeping outside then,” I added. “Let’s strip on the back porch and throw our clothes into the washer.”
My boots already had holes in them. I threw them away along with my socks.
I forgot to tell you. Originally we had 75 chicks, as we loaded them into the new coop we counted them. 56.
I guess dogs have to eat too.
Maybe we need an evacuation plan for Barnabas.