While we did have some periods of nice weather in January and February that lulled us all into wishing for an early Spring, these last couple of weeks have been resolutely wintry. Remember The Big Move? Yeah, it was 28 degrees in the coop that morning, and we’ve had plenty of similar mornings since then… and when it hasn’t been that cold, it’s been rainy or snowy or windy or hailing or some combination of all of the above. It’s been cold, and grey, and wet. Not exactly ideal weather for letting the babies outside to free-range. As I’ve mentioned, I wanted to get them out as soon as possible because apparently the earlier they start, the better they will be at foraging and the less likely they’ll be to want to spend all their time indoors getting fat and lazy on chicken feed. They can start as early as the first week of life if the weather is OK. That’s what they would do with their mama, if they had one. However, the little guys are highly suceptible to chills and it’s not a risk most are willing to take. You get my point. They’re approaching 5 weeks old and I’ve been (im)patiently waiting for an opportunity to get them outside.
Well my friends, today was the day. After wind and snow/hail/sleet/rain yesterday, we woke up to heavy fog early this morning that burned off to glorious, bright sunshine by about 9:00am. Blue skies with hardly a cloud in sight. This is the weather we had back before we got the chicks and the coop was being built and we were planting fruit trees outside in T-shirts. It was wonderful. And even though the actual temperature today only barely approached 50 degrees, it was very warm in the sun, and the breeze wasn’t too strong. Also, the babies have only been using their lights mostly for sleeping at night. Even when it’s only around 40 degrees inside the coop, for the last week or so, they have been hopping around happily, oblivious to the cold.
So, today, Brian and I decided to use our lunch break to talk the chickies into giving the outside world a shot. It wasn’t like opening the door for an eager puppy. It was more like trying to get them out of that box and into the coop during The Big Move. It took a while and a lot of convincing. And yogurt. It took a lot of yogurt. In the end, no chick can resist yogurt…
They were skeptical at first.
True, they were scared at first, but like I said… no chickies can resist yogurt…
Then the first tentative steps were taken toward destiny…
Those first steps somehow seemed to signal everyone else that death wasn’t lurking immediately out the doors, and others soon followed (trust me, it took a long time to get to those first steps).
At first, they all tried to stay jammed on the open door and not go any further, and they kept flapping their wings in attempts not to fall off.
Then, slowly but surely, they started considering taking the plunge off the door.
Without shame, we continued with our plans to lure them out with treats.
And finally, it happened.
After that, of course, more followed.
Please notice that JB, the Marans still on the door in this shot, in all his glorious tough-guy-ness, was again his usual weeny self and hesitated to jump down long after many others had already done it. He can’t fool me with his macho act. He still squeaks like a girl and runs away at top speed if I move my hand near him. Tough guy indeed.
The others still needed some convincing, so Brian worked on that.
After that, they thought about it…
At this point, you may be wondering about Lady B and why I haven’t mentioned her yet. Well, I never would have guessed it, but she was actually officially the last one of the fifteen chick to come out of the coop. I haven’t a clue why. She’s the one in the first picture at the top of the post, looking out the door. I first went in the coop to get some shots, and Brian opened the chicken doors from outside. As would be expected, Lady B was the first to head over and look out the door and consider the yogurt offering. But, after I went out and into the run, she stayed inside and it was the Marans boys that came out first. Then the Buff Orps, as you saw. All of the Ameraucanas were last. Even Mystery Chick came out before them. Crazy but true.
I am sad to say that at this point, my camera battery died and so that’s it for the pics. But, I will tell you that they all made it outside eventually and they had good fun scratching in the dirt and nibbling on weed and grass seedlings. They even found a few bugs, which were very exciting. I will also say that Lady B made up for her poor showing in the initial coming outisde by being the first and only chick to venture out the open door of the run and out into the greater yard. She didn’t stay very long, but I think she did it just to prove a point: she’s still the star of this show and she’s still the first to do everything important. After this, she proceeded to walk behind me and run up my back (I was sitting on the ground in the run) and onto my shoulder where she scratched and pecked at my hair, which REALLY tickled. She’s my girl, and don’t you forget it.
Anywho, after a while, I left them all there to play and scratch and I went back inside to work. I went out to check on them periodically and some would be inside and some out, and they seemed quite content. A favorite activity was to lay just inside the open doors of the coop in the rectangle of sunlight they let in. This is the same thing our dogs do… they’ll find the patch of light let in by a window and lay directly in it. It seems sunbathing is a favorite pasttime of many animal species, not just humans.
At about 5:30pm, I went out to check on them, wondering how hard it would be to get them all back inside so that I could close them in for the night, but that were al ready all inside, just settling down for a nap near the heat lamps. So, I bent down, brushed the extra shavings off the doors (solution to that problem to come soon), and stood up and cracked my head on the bottom of the window, which I forgot was there. I can’t believe I didn’t knock myself out. I hit my head REALLY hard. I mean really, REALLY hard. I bet you don’t know one person on this earth more able to hurt his or herself with inanimate objects than yours truly. I am highly skilled. Oh but don’t take my word for it. Ask anyone who knows me.
OK, back to the chickies. So, all in all, it was a great success and they are well on their ways to being free-range chickens. The weather is supposed to be the same but warmer tomorrow, so I think I’ll go open the doors for them as soon as the fog (which I’m sure will be there in the morning) burns off. I’ll keep you posted.