Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Great Chicken Heist

It was the perfect night for a chicken heist.

Well, actually, that's not true. It was about 25 F last night and we were all freezing our tails off in the dark. But there was still beauty in the cold - the newly formed frost that crunched crisp and fresh under our feet, our breath billowing like steam in the beams of our headlamps, and the stars, undimmed by city lights and flickering above us in the frigid air.

Not that I had much time to observe such things. We were moving chickens.

It was a three part operation. Part One: Take down the fence and move the mobile chicken coop to the front yard. Part Two: Move the young chickens from the front yard coop into the mobile chicken coop with the rest of the chickens. Part Three: Move the mobile chicken coop to a new location and set up the fence.

The second part was where things got tricky. Susan, Caitlin (a part time worker on the farm) and I formed a daisy chain that went like this: Caitlin crawls into the tiny front yard chicken coop, grabs a chicken, and hands it to me. I pin down the chickens wings - or, for the roosters, hold them upside down by their feet - and carry the chicken out to Susan, who puts it in the big mobile coop. Easy as pie.

Well, maybe "easy" isn't the right word. For example, please examine Exhibit A - the fact that we were doing this in the dark wasn't because we just got too busy to do it earlier, but because, according to the theory, chickens are sleepy and therefore much more docile at night. We also turned our headlamps to infrared light for the endeavor, since chickens can't see infrared light, helping to preserve the atmosphere of calm and docility. Or so I'm told. Because if what I witnessed last night is evidence of chicken "docility", all I can say is I never want to move one when it's being feisty.

Who can blame them, really? I certainly wouldn't stay calm if some disembodied force came out of nowhere to pluck me from my nice warm bed and stuff me in a new one that was already inhabited by people who hate me for disturbing their rest. And based on last night's events, I think some of the chickens would say the same.

Regardless, the entire episode only took a little over an hour, and all things considered, the chickens were fairly well behaved, despite the inelegant interruption to their night. And in the end, it was yet another new and exciting experience to add to my list of things I would never have done if I weren't here.

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