I love my animals. Each morning I get up at 7:00 am and go outside to tend to their needs. Currently I have 11 chickens, 4 rabbits, 10 tilapia, about 60 goldfish, 2 bee hives, and 2 canaries. The morning goes like this…
The Big Picture Light on in the greenhouse, aquarium light on, feed the tilapia in the small aquarium, feed the tilapia and goldfish in the 300 gallon tank. Fire-up the pellet stove if it has died down or start a new fire. Grab the chicken feeder and take it outside to fill, get a container of chicken food for the chickens that live in the tractor coop (my chickens are separated 7 and 4, they have harmony issues), top up the scratch container and walk into the main run. Seven handfuls of scratch for the big group, attach their feeder, let them out. Feed the chickens in the small run and let them out. Go on to feed the bunnies. Scoop of food, timothy hay and a few scratches or cuddles. Back into the house to waken the birds.
Details of Chicken Routine I open the big flock coop, also known as the outhouse coop (it looks like one). I help one of my chickens get off the roost as she has a bad leg and jumping down is hard. I clean out the nests because they don’t care if there is poop in their nest but I do, and generally tidy up. If I leave the main door open the hens will try to get out and go into the tractor coop area. The big flock bullies the small flock so I only do this on occasion hoping they will eventually get along. So far this hasn’t happened.
This Morning A red hen was headed for the open door so I pulled it almost closed. Thinking she would sneak by me I pulled it a little harder. That’s when it happened. The latch fell over and locked! I was locked in. I’ve wondered what chicken life is like from time to time. Is it satisfying to peck around, hang out with your girlfriends and give birth everyday. I don’t think I had ever contemplated the experience of being locked in. Now I was getting the picture and I can’t say I was ready to accept my fate.
I laughed at my situation. I tried to get out. Laughed some more as I realized this was going to take some thinking. I didn’t have my phone in my pocket, no easy rescue. A little digression… Neil, my husband, has been in Hawaii for 2 weeks enjoying sun, beach, and freedom from work. I’ve been home care-taking our small urban farm. I’ve enjoyed my time alone as I know he has been blissed-out being in warmth, snorkeling, hiking, and swimming in the ocean. He’ll be home today but I considered this happening on one of the previous mornings when no one would be looking for me. Could I acclimate to life as chicken? This all came to mind as I contemplated the thought that I might really be stuck short of breaking out by tearing the chicken wire off the window. What if I couldn’t get out? I imagined his return, wondering where I was (a little irritated that I wasn’t there to greet him) and finally coming outside to find me, hearing my calls – and freeing me. Would he think this funny?
I thought I could crawl through their chicken door into the main run but then remembered I would be locked in there as well. What if I got stuck in the doorway? This might be cute on Winnie the Poo but I doubted I would have the same appeal. I searched my pockets for a sturdy object that I could use to flip the lock. Pieces of paper. There is a loose piece of wood in one of the boxes, I tore it off but it was too short. I search the coop floor, nothing but sawdust. I tried tearing the chicken wire screen loose so I could stick my hand through but realized it was possible but would be a drag to have to fix. One choice…
I got down on the floor and began maneuver through the coop door into the run. I couldn’t just muscle my way through. It wasn’t build for human bodies. I managed to get my upper body out and realized I might find a stick in the surrounding dirt. It has been interested to see what a flock of chickens will unearth. Found one, squeezed back through. Wonder if I’m getting covered in chicken shit? Yes I am. Stick was too fat and several attempts at really trying to make it work convinced me I had to keep looking. Back on my knees, through the door and fishing around eventually produced another stick, thinner than the last. Back to the door and voila it opened – I was out.
Still laughing I noticed how relieved I felt to be free! What a story this will be to tell I thought, that is, after a good shower and all my clothes in the wash.
This being Christmas and the spirit of goodwill towards men (does that include chickens?) should I now, knowing the experience of confinement, let the chickens run free from time to time? This might happen, but more likely I’ll make a permanent holder for a long thin object inside the coop (I left the stick there for now), I will carry my phone without fail, and close the door to the run before I start any coop maintenance.
More reflections. I appreciate the suffering of my chickens plight in life. It isn’t a life I would readily choose and maybe they didn’t either. So on that note, I think I’ll examine the ways I lock myself in coops of the metaphorical sort, and be more diligent to have a toolkit ready at hand to free myself. I’ll remind myself of my good fortune and do my best to always choose compassion for the circumstances we find ourselves in.
AND, I just might let the chickens run free in the winter when it’s dark in the run and they can’t do too much damage to the garden beds. Merry Christmas friends, animals and people everywhere.