Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Chicken Castle

Few chickens have ever lived so well. Of this I am confident. Two years ago, when we moved to Old Paths Family Farm (our first farm!), we bought baby chicks. Fifty-five of them to be exact. Fifty beautiful Buff Orpington hens and five roosters. It is probably everyone's starter critter project. They are little (at first), and cute. What could be better? Chickens are to farm critters what radishes are for gardeners-a good first project. Their housing is generally simpler as well. A chicken coop is easier and quicker to build than say, a barn.

That is, unless you are married to Mr. Visionary.

I had fifty-five chickens living in an enormous makeshift cage in my mudroom for months waiting for housing to be built for them. "With housing so simple, what took so long?" you may be wondering. My Mr. Visionary was building no ordinary chicken coop, you see. Everything he does turns out to be more than I expected, more than I needed, and able to withstand hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and even young boys. (Those of you with young boys will fully understand the criteria involved in that building code.)

The Chicken Castle, as we lovingly refer to it now that the ordeal is over, is a masterpiece. It is 10X14' on a concrete slab. It has 8-foot high sidewalls, vaulted ceiling, two standard steel walk-doors, a billion nesting boxes, and enough roosting posts for an army of chickens. Every nook of this stronghold is trimmed, caulked, or covered with wire. It has attached to it a 10X16', 8' high cage area with chain-link fencing on three sides and on top.

Our chickens free-range during the day, occasionally popping in to lay or for a snack or drink, then stay in their Castle at night to sleep. Once the door is closed at night (the opperative word being closed), it is an insurmountable fortress for any chicken predator. The only time we have lost any chickens have been during the day, when they are roaming about, or in the evening before we have closed the steel door. I have a feeling that most critters in the woods around here tell bedtime stories to their offspring about our Chicken Castle. And about their relatives who have lost their lives attempting to break in. I may have to check with Mr. Visionary on this, but at last count the roll was 1 fox, 2 raccoons, 6 opposums, and one wild dog who have lost their lives to Mr. Visionary's shotgun. With Charlotte's Web, Wind In The Willows, and Milo and Otis floating around in their memories, the kids are convinced that there is a Legend of The Chicken Castle being  recited to the young in animal land.

Once while working outside an overhead  shadow alerted us that a chicken hawk was flying by. Quickly, we visually scanned the yard for chickens. Not a hen in sight. After a brief panic, we checked the Chicken Castle. Our rooster, Chief (that's Head Rooster to you), had rounded up every hen into the Castle. Mr . Visionary looked poignant and muttered, "They feel safe in there, don't they?" I think I even saw a glistening in his eyes.

Yes, Mr. Visionary, they do feel safe there-you done good. You done real good.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Before writing your comment, be sure to read the Fine Print!