Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Drunken Chicken

There is a type of drunken chicken you get when you cook a chicken on top of a can of beer. I’m not really sure how that works, but I’ve read about it.

Then there is the type of drunken chicken you get when Millie goes on a bender. Yes, I got my chicken drunk yesterday. It was not my proudest moment.

Listen, here’s how it happened. We have a slug problem in the garden. Given that we’re not into poisoning the environment (not to mention the local birds and our chickens) with chemicals, we do not use slug bait. Instead, I set beer traps throughout the garden beds. The slugs are attracted to the yeasty brew, they slime their way into the low, beer-filled cups, and they get drunk and die happy.

I was working on the tedious project of repairing the raised garden beds yesterday and so I let the chickens out to roam freely in the yard. They absolutely love pecking around looking for bugs to eat. I looked up frequently to make sure the girls weren’t destroying any flowers or getting themselves into trouble. I was even paying special attention to make sure they didn’t linger near the beer traps. But after quite a while out there, I looked up and spotted Millie: she was not just lingering over a beer trap, not just pecking at the trap, but chugging beer like a freshman at a frat party.

I ran over and chased the girls to another part of the yard and went back to my project, but as soon as I sat down, I saw Millie walking purposefully toward the beer trap. I got there just as she was going in for another swig. This time, I chased her even farther into the yard, but as I walked back to my project, I kept a sharp eye on her. She set off at a full sprint toward the beer. At this point I gave up and corralled the girls back into their pen.

Needless to say, I was concerned about the effects of alcohol on a pre-adolescent chicken. From our observations, it seems that they are similar to the effects on humans. After a while, Millie was rolling around on the ground and flapping her legs and wings around in what seemed to be a really happy, if ungraceful, manner. She didn’t try to get up much, but when she did, she didn’t stay up long. Phyllis and Flo, who are used to following their fearless leader around in their regular pecking and scratching activities, sat with her for a while and looked really confused. Eventually they got bored and went back to pecking while Millie lolled around for the rest of the afternoon.

My name is Lorraine and my chicken is an alcoholic.

Savage Chickens: Drink Beer Cartoon

Friday, May 23, 2008

Top Chicken

I don’t have any new pictures to add today. Just a quick anecdote. Opening up the coop yesterday morning was pretty fun. When I opened the chicken door, I saw all three girls sitting in a row on their perch. Within a few seconds, they were dropping down like paratroopers. It was as if a sergeant was slapping them on the back yelling, “Go! Go! Go!” They each jumped down, one, two, three, and emerged onto their “porch.” Then, of course, the appearance of organization fell apart and they started running around like…well, I won’t use the obvious cliché here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Still trying to get the hang of things

So I finally finished the chicken run and the girls get to roam outdoors within the confines of their fence all day now. They were clearly meant to be outside enjoying tasty grass and weeds and digging for bugs. They're catching on to the pleasures of worms, slugs and bugs. Every time one of them finds a creature, the others start running around after her maniacally and it passes beaks a few times before someone finally gobbles it down.

When I opened the chicken door to let them out of their house for the first time, they behaved, of course, like the chickens that they are. I eventually tossed some grass on their "porch" to coax them along. It turns out that while Mildred is the most curious and brave, Flo is the greediest. She came out to munch on the grass first, she was the first to walk down the ramp to get the next pile of grass I left there, and she was the first to jump down onto the ground. She is also the one who usually gets the worm.

Mercifully, the ugly adolescent period has passed and they are getting cuter, fatter and fluffier every day.

They're still kids in many ways, though. The girls' voices are still more peepy than clucky and they haven't gotten the hang of eating vegetable scraps yet. We tried some parsnip peels the other day and they just got thrown around and trampled a bit. And they're still not sleeping like adults do, on a roost that's high up. In fact, for their first few days outside, when it got dark they just face-planted in a pile in the corner of their fence. We had to scrape them up each night and stick them inside their house. Now they seem to be going inside at dusk, although it could just be that I'm running out of the house and shutting them in before they get a chance to bust outside again. I have been accused of being overly protective of the chickens. I suppose it's pointless to argue.

Here's Flo waving at ya.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Grass! Grass! Grass!

Following moving day yesterday, we let the girls out to graze for the first time today. The fence that goes around the coop isn't quite put together yet. First we have to find some strong people to help us move the coop a few feet over so it fits in the allotted space. This is one of those times that it would be nice to have a big dude or two around. Sigh.

So, we let Mildred, Flo and Phyllis out in the cat run (sans cat) because it is secure from predators and fairly escape-proof. There, I said it. We are THOSE neighbors who not only HAVE a cat run, but we put our CHICKENS in it.

While it is admittedly difficult to gauge the emotions of chickens, I am fairly confident in saying that the girls were thrilled to be running around eating grass for a few hours. They certainly seemed more relaxed than I've seen them in a while.

Pretty different from the peeps of just a few weeks ago, no?

Our neighbors are now all fully aware that the weird little house in back is for three chickens. The little boy who frequently visits his grandparents next door seemed excited about them, but he's two and he doesn't speak any English so all I could do was hold Mildred in front of him. His Dad asked a few questions and I made it clear that we will not be keeping any roosters, so hopefully that will help calm any fears our neighbors may have had. We can only talk to the youngish generation of the two families on both sides of us since we don't speak Chinese. We're hoping that the fact that they are very Chinese will help them accept the chickens as not too freakish an addition to the neighborhood. We also plan to ply them with eggs.

Here are the girls relaxing inside their new pad. It's a cozy, second-story property with eastern and southern exposure. I think they got a great deal on it considering home prices in Seattle these days.

Moving Day

So we've been really lame and haven't updated the blog in a while, which apparently has more fans than I would have expected. Frankly, I've been really busy doing a ton of stuff to the chicken coop to make it as cute and as easy to maintain as possible. The former owners left us paint, so the coop is painted the same way as the house (except for one wall that I've left white so Sarah can paint a fruity mural on it). I also primed the whole interior and put down some scrap vinyl flooring since I have become very familiar with the cement-like properties of dried chicken poop. Behold.

The girls officially moved out of their "parents" basement and into their own place yesterday. They seemed a bit nervous about the whole thing, and possibly chilly. However, we have a ceramic heat bulb in there that we turned on overnight because, well, we're those insane people who spoil their chickens.

So, to go back some weeks, after our last posting in the awkward early adolescent period things progressed quickly. The girls kept growing and getting more feathers and eventually they stopped looking like hideous monsters. Even Phyllis is turning into a rather attractive, fluffy little chicken. At some point they couldn't get enough of running around their basement room. Every time we lifted the cover off the brooder, Mildred would pop up to the rim instantly to check us out and the other two would follow. They often played, well, Chicken, as they tried to balance on the slippery plastic rim and knock each other off American Gladiators style. The running around the room was fun to watch except for the inevitable clean-up of copious amounts of poop. The cramped quarters in the brooder and farm smell in the house just got to be too much, and so moving day arrived.