28 June 2013

Nature 2, Eithne 0

If things had gone according to plan, I would be getting ready to put four less-adorable but by no means less awesome chickens into their new home this weekend. I would have had a sturdy coop built, complete with a run. I would have pictures of how awesome this coop was, how it blended in with the neighborhood, how safe it was from our natural urban predators of ally cats and chicken hawks. I would be regaling my neighbors with how awesome chicken poop is for the garden and teasing them with promises of fresh eggs.
The plans I paid for. Do you see how serene everyone looks?  I was going for serene. And chicken poop.

If things had gone according to plan that is.

Things did not go according to plan.

The arrival of the chickens went as smoothly as could be expected. We had issues with temperature control once I got the peeping balls of adorableness back to my house. Within two days I had lost the first Australorp. As near as we can tell the stress of the two moves was too much for her and it did her in, despite my trying to nurse her by dipping her beak into sugar water. I should have known when she stopped protesting my picking her up that it was not going to end well.
The Four before All The Bad happened
So then there were three: An Australorp, a silver laced Wyandotte, and a gold laced Wyandotte. Three birds is an acceptable city flock; our city says we can have up to four in town so long as there are no roosters. Things were going mostly well - they were messy and loud and were absolutely determined to kick their poo into their feeding bowl - but they were otherwise adorable. I had read up on intermingling my dogs with the chickens and was determined to get everyone working together. I even thought I was on the right track when Brody, our youngest dog (aussie shepherd/shar pei mix) defended the chickens from the then-foster cat Henry.
My dainty Australorp

One by one I would handle the chicks and let the dogs sit with me, getting close enough to sniff and lick if necessary. Brody was absolutely gentle, curious, and made the very funny move of dropping one of his fluffy toys into the bird crate one afternoon - his way of saying hey, lets play! Henry, the then-foster cat, would sit by the door to the room the birds were kept in with the intense expression of trying to make sure I understood he really just wanted to watch the birds at our neighbors feeder across the street. Really. Promise.

And then Skye.
My fluffy hunter to the left and a blurry Brody to the right
You see, we have had experience with Skye and chickens before. Our friend Ravyn had chickens at our last apartment and one very terrible afternoon the dogs went outside while the birds were also outside. The result was Brody trying to play by running through the middle and sending birds flying every which way and Skye doing exactly what her breed mix does best: going in for the kill. The short version is Ravyn had a very injured Guinea fowl and I had a hell of a time trying to figure out how to get the dogs to leave the birds alone.  I thought that *this* time, if I raised the chickens by hand and around the dogs, nurture would win out. Or even fear of me would win over Skye's natural instinct.

End result: Nature 2, Nurture 0

I came home to find the only trace of the silver bird was three feathers, two of which had been broken. Nothing else and this despite a crate lined in bird netting and wire - somehow it had managed to get out or Skye had managed to ... well. Pull it out. All this coupled with her sheepish look and slinking away from me anytime I went near the birds gave me the final clue in from the universe: She would hunt them. Period. This would not be a restful experience of going out and collecting their eggs for breakfast while the birds roamed the yard and Skye rested in the shade of a tree. A Disney movie my life is not.

The remaining birds were trucked back up to Ravyn's to be re-introduced to the rest of the flock from the same hatching. I couldn't in good conscience keep them knowing full well that they would be happy meals with wings for my fluffy hunter. I would resent Skye which ... was not at all part of the plan. She is a gorgeous, protective, sweetheart of a dog. If it's her or chickens, well. We keep her.

After! and still no coop!
So now there is no chicken coop of awesome. No chickens. My backyard is still pretty dismal despite the excessive labor of removing the tree, the old play shed, and straightening out our fence line. I'm told next year we might get a jacuzzi which might be enough to assuage my guilt of not having a urban farm... so long as there is wine and starlight with which to enjoy the bubbly joy with. Next year.

This year is no chickens and ... a kitchen remodel. Er. Gutting. Gutting first. But that will be a post for later.

If you're interested in all things chicken and where my little darlings went, check out The Ladies facebook page, aka. the most spoiled hens ever. Ravyn posts pictures and funny moments from all the critters in her household. 

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