yesterday i finally broke down and posted a note on my neighbor’s door that basically said i was letting the chickens out for the day. i apologized for any inconvenience that might cause them, and told them that i would come over and clean up or whatever if there was a problem… i explained that the coop needed some time to air out and i needed to be able to clean it.
my boys put a dog kennel across the driveway that sort of fenced in the area- but here is the beautiful part- none of the chickens flew over the fence. even though they easily could have, since none of them have their wings clipped, and even though the grass and bugs of the neighbor’s property beckoned, not one of the chickens went AWOL.
i’m not sure if they realized they needed to be on their best behavior, or if they were just so demoralized from being grounded in the coop that they were staying close to home, but they all hung out near my house and i was able to let them stay out all day long- hurray!
i had forgotten how many chicken-y things they enjoyed doing in the normal course of a day, and watching them scratch around in the dirt and poke and forage and hide and run and play and be their normal chicken selves made me alternately super happy for their freedom and so sad for their time stranded in the coop.
i called a friend a few days ago to see if he could come over and help me puzzle out a way to build a run for them somewhere over here. he is much smarter about these things than i am, and since he knows how to build, he can visualize things in ways i can’t. he hasn’t been able to make it over yet, but we are hoping to connect on sunday. meanwhile, i let the chickens out again today- still with the kennel/fence in place- and i am very much hoping they will stay here. i am on edge and feeling guilty that i am doing the wrong thing and being un-neighborly by taking a chance of the girls getting out when i have already cleaned the coop (so this isn’t a truly legitimate excuse like it was yesterday). i feel torn by wanting to do the right thing for the humans but still wanting to do the right thing by my chickens.
in general, i hate HATE when people put the needs of animals on par with those of humans. i feel like animals have to be protected because they can’t stick up for themselves (clearly i am not talking about cases where they are better equipped to fight than we are!), and i always feel like humans are tasked with being responsible stewards of other creatures. but when someone makes their animal more important than a person, my blood is very likely to boil. and if we call this what it is, i am awfully close to that line right about now…
so, on the one hand, we have my neighbor, who are very kind and not unreasonable. they have always enjoyed our chickens, and i’m sure did not make the decision lightly to ask us to keep them away.
on the other hand, we have me: the weird chicken lady, who is anthropomorphizing her chickens. i assume that they are bored and sad staying in the coop and that they miss their old way of life. but also, and this is more real and observable (and i don’t say this just to justify my position)- the weather here is damp. i have too many chickens to actually live inside of the coop. the bedding gets damp and stays that way. their feet don’t stay dry enough, which is unhealthy and can lead to lots of health problems and pain for them. they are on concrete, which means they can’t scratch and dig like they want (need?) to. the roof of the coop is metal, which means they get no direct sunlight, contributing to it being cold-ish, damp-ish, and never bright and cheery. when they have personality conflicts, there really is no place for them to get away from each other. so, truly, they need to be out of that coop for at least a good portion of every day.
for now, i am going to have to tolerate my uneasiness and hope the chickens stay in my part of the yard. my neighbors will just have to be adults and realize that you can’t have your wishes granted on 12-hours’ notice. hopefully my friend will come through and find an ideal solution.
and i’m going to enjoy the fact that my chickens are oblivious to the drama that percolates around them. they are happily scrounging in the garden, devouring the last bits of rotting tomatoes and fat juicy bugs. today we are supposed to get some sun later on, and i am thrilled that my chickens will get to bask in it.
because that’s really all a crazy chicken lady can ask for, right?