Rules of the Roost

The better half and I had discussed getting chickens at some point in the hypothetical future. Such as when the kids were older, and the house was restored to order.

So, I was slightly surprised when a box of chicks showed up the week before Easter. Slightly more surprising: two ducklings appeared in the box of fowl.

Boerne, Texas, is actually a hotbed for the “chicken-as-pet” movement. Randall Burkey Company on Industrial Drive produces the Happy Hen Chicken Treats sold in Tractor Supply across the country.

Several friends of ours have entered the backyard chicken craze with varying results. The more rural their properties, the less success they seem to have. Evidently, it’s still the Wild West for white meat out there.

I was unaware. Unlike most men in the hill country, I have no motion-activated, Internet-accessed hunting camera in the woods.

So, hearing of hawks, foxes and coons, I planned for the worst as I planned my coop. Its walls would extend twelve inches into the earth. Its frame would consist of commercial grade pressure-treated two by fours.

And despite its name, chicken wire simply wouldn’t do. We would use half-inch steel-welded wire. I stopped just short of a reinforced concrete safe room.

As coop construction commenced, the chicks and ducklings roamed half a refrigerator box in our garage. We quickly realized ducks grow faster than chickens and that ducks have only one kind of stool: loose.

If anyone knows of a company that removes duck movement stains from a garage floor, I could use a recommendation.

After the first week or so, we began to let the youngsters get some fresh air around the yard. Of all the predators I had contemplated, “family dog” was not one of them.

But to a half-Labrador retriever, a chick is basically a ball that throws itself.

For a time, we fended off friendly fire from Hank, as well as from his partner in crime, the family cat, who seemed quite intrigued by the yellow mice that had taken up residence in the garage.

Then, having momentarily let down both our guard and the walls of the barricade the birds occupied, disaster struck.

In three days, Hank eliminated four chickens. The attacks weren’t mutilating bloodbaths. He’s too friendly for that. He basically just played them to death. He literally wrung their necks.

We buried the fallen chickens just days before they were to move into their poultry palace.

About this time, the ducks began sleeping in the yard. After a couple of weeks of safety, one fell prey to a more traditional predator. We’re not sure what it was, but it was at least kind enough to cover funeral expenses.

So, a quick recap of the fowl count: Seven chicks are now 3 chickens, including a rooster; two ducklings are now 1 duck.

Rather than the remaining duck soiling my pristine poultry palace, we released it into the wild at Cibolo Creek. There, we watched her face a predator of another type: a male eager to start a family.

Back at the coop, the young rooster has started to crow. It sounds more like a fog horn than the perky “cock-a-doodle-doo” I remember as a child. Accordingly, I have added an entry to the potential predator list: neighbor with gun.

 

Kevin Thompson can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

 

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3 Responses to “Rules of the Roost”


  1. 1 J. Kevin Parker, CIP (@JKevinParker) July 7, 2016 at 09:17

    Wow that brings back childhood memories for me. Of course we had a small farm, and our fowl multiplied to around 200 chickens and ducks. Until they eventually got lost or eaten.

  2. 2 Angie Thier July 7, 2016 at 11:46

    “But to a half-Labrador retriever, a chick is basically a ball that throws itself.”That is hilarious, Kevin!! And also true.

    Have you talked to Chuck today? After 4 attempts at trapping a raccoon, we finally caught one. Then we didn’t have the heart to kill it. Letting it out without getting rabies was quite the adrenaline rush.

    I’ve been researching getting a barn cat to eradicate / repel the rattlesnakes. Turns out, feeding a barn cat results in an abundance of barn raccoons as well.

    This country life is beginning to lose it’s charm… 😉

  3. 3 jessestroup July 7, 2016 at 18:02

    Oh, I liked this one too.  It produced several belly-laugh’s at the end of Thursday’s work day when I read it.  AND COCK OF THE WALK, HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!  I believe this is number 15, and we are so proud of you.Jesse  Jesse R. Stroup Director of Spiritual Care Lifeline Chaplaincy 1926 Chattanooga Pl. #B Dallas, TX 75235 jessestrouplive@yahoo.com


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