Last night, our chickens moved into the coop and spent their first night in the dark, in a strange place. I lifted Cooper (my rooster’s new name) up onto the roosting bar to show him how nice it was, but he quickly flapped down to join the rest of the flock in their frightened little huddle. I showed them where their water and food were and said goodnight.
Today, we worked feverishly to finish the chicken run and let them out of their confinement. Halfway through the task we had a sudden downpour and the last trench we were using to bury the fence turned into a watering trough. That slowed us down a bit, but once the water soaked into the soil we were able to finish putting all the dirt back in place and Joe secured the last bits of fence in the narrow spaces around the coop.
By the evening, we had the big unveiling. I listened at the coop door and heard frantic peeps and cheeps of a pack of hungry adolescent chickens. When I looked in, I discovered they had tipped over their food tray and couldn’t get to the chicken crumbles. Perfect! That would make them all the more enthusiastic about leaving the coop to go peck around in the dirt out in the run.
I tossed out a cup of feed onto the ground outside their little trap door and started my chicken dinner call, “Here chick chick chick!” They had no idea what was going on. I picked up a couple of them and tossed them out the door into the run. They ran back into the coop as fast as they could, slipping sliding and flapping up the smooth door. We’ll have to put bars on it so they can get a grip.
I was a little discouraged, but after a while they began to catch on that down below there was food on the ground and one by one they slid down the door into the run and started pecking around. Our dogs aren’t behaving well, but they cannot get at the birds because we did such a bang-up job of fencing in the run. I hope that eventually everyone will get used to it so that the thrill of flapping little animals just out of reach will no longer be so enticing and the chickens will learn to ignore the threat of menacing terriers looking for an opening.
At dusk, I returned to the coop alone to put the chickens to bed. They were all crowded into the crack between the coop and the barn, peeping loudly and trying to squeeze out the fence. I think they saw their feeding tray which I had set on the ground had spilled and they wanted very badly to get at it. I took it into the coop and waved it in the doorway for them, trying to coax them inside, but once again they just didn’t get it. I had to go into the run and pick up each chicken and toss it up into the coop again. I thought chickens were supposed to naturally return to their coop in the evening? When I closed everything up, they were once again huddled in a little pile in the middle of the floor looking insecure and uncomfortable. When will they discover the joy of roosting on the wonderful bars my husband put in? When will they move in and out of the coop according to the schedule of daylight? I guess I’m going to have to trust that this is going to work its way out.