Food & Drink

Have you ever tried to move chickens?

The master plan has been to combine our 35 future laying hens, with my son Levi’s hens and the feral chickens that hang around the house, into a single productive and profitable flock.

We forgot to mention this to the chickens.

Toward the end of a recent week, the future Barred Rock laying hens, which have been hanging out under the apple trees for weeks, started migrating up around the barn looking for nooks and crannies to lay eggs in.

Since they did not know how to lay eggs yet, they were dropping them on the concrete floor, laying them on shelves and the tops of chest freezers, and who knows where.

A new chicken-wagon project has been on the back burner, but Levi and I got busy on it. I finished the four sides, threw a tarp over it and went to catch chickens.

I started with the Barred Rocks. Most were in their coop on roosts, about nine were on top of the coop, and I plucked seven from apple tree branches and stuck them in the wagon. Went up in the barn loft and caught the rooster, Dapper Dan, where he had taken up residence for the last week and a half.

Got some chicken crates and collected Levi’s chickens into the wagon, and then got all but two of the wild chickens at the house.

The roosters started fighting even in the dark, so I pulled all three out of the wagon and they got their own individual crates for the night.

We moved them to my dad’s cow pasture with the idea that all the chickens would be in unfamiliar settings and not in “their territory.” The tarp was sagging with gallons of water from an unexpected but very welcome rain. We got the wagon situated on pasture, put the three roosters in, which caused a ruckus, and then opened the door.

One-eye immediately chased Chester down across the pasture, and Dapper Dan made a beeline for the fence line.

We made the mistake of carrying our two dogs with us, Bubba and Margarite, and they went streaming across the pasture. This caused my brother’s dogs to start barking, which caused our dogs to go investigate, which meant we had to quit what we were doing and go get our dogs.

My brother’s dogs are Bubba’s sisters, so it was a family reunion without the overcooked green beans.

I thought I had located the chickens far enough from their home ground that they would hang around the new chicken wagon, but when we got back to the wagon, Levi’s chickens had already strolled 100 yards down the hill to their old coop, and we still don’t know where Chester and his girls went.

Dean Mullis writes from Laughing Owl Farm in Richfield;