Leaving Chickhood Behind – The Hipster Chicks Move Out of the Woodshed

On Saturday evening, I went into the woodshed with the bag of dried mealworms.  The chicks know this bag of deliciousness on sight and gathered around for a treat.  Valerie and Squawky, who are not shy, ate some delightful treats right out of my hand while the others blissfully pecked them off the floor.  Then Valerie, as she often does, hopped right into my hand.  That’s when I closed my hand around her and shoved her into the cat carrier that my wife, Kathy, was holding.  I also nabbed Squawky before she could run away and put her in the carrier with Valerie.  Both chicks cried out continuous shrill peeps of fear and alarm, and the others scattered for the corners of the woodshed.  We carried these two little girls down the hill to the pole barn and released them into the new coop that I’d prepared for them.  The time had come for these nine-weeks-old chicks to take the next step towards henhood. 
Life So Far for the HIpster Chicks:  They hatched on June 6 and were put in a transport box - I picked them up and drove them to their new home.  Their first week was in the big blue bin - mostly under the heater.  Then they moved to the plastic kiddie pool, where they started roosting on top of the heater.  Finally, at about three weeks old, the kiddie pool went away and they had full run of the woodshed - until last Saturday!
 Sunbathing in the chicken gazebo on Friday - their last full day of living in the woodshed.
Valerie and Squawky were not sure that they liked the strange new place we had put them in.  They huddled together in a corner while Kathy and I went back to the woodshed for more chicks.  The chicks in the woodshed were not as easy to catch on the second trip -  they’d just seen two of their friends carried off, after all, and they fluttered around the woodshed in a vain attempt to escape the same fate.  We finally managed to corral Pippi and Paula and then carried them to their new home.  They joined the first two chicks cowering in a corner.  Finally, we brought Moe and Rose down.  Moe, who hated the idea of being placed in the carrier, now balked at coming out of it into this unknown, frightening place.  Kathy finally tipped the carrier and she slid onto the floor, then ran to join her frightened friends. 

The First Two Arrivals:  Valerie and Squawky nervously explore their strange new world.

Moe is unwilling to leave the relative safety of the cat carrier for the great unkown of the new coop.

After fifteen minutes of sad peeping, the chicks cautiously began to explore their new surroundings.  I sat on the floor of their coop and verbally outlined the benefits of their new home:  More space, a cooler coop shaded by large oaks, their own little outdoor run, and several roosts to choose from.  They didn’t seem enthused.  Why should they believe me?  I’m the guy who had just rudely grabbed them and shoved them into a scary dark container that smelled of cat?!  They weren’t even interested when I tossed some dried mealworms onto the floor.  Because, by now they had noticed that right on the other side of the fence were more chickens!  Who knew that there were other chickens in the universe?!  And these were very, very large chickens, looking right at them.  Moe guardedly approached the fence and pecked at it.  On the other side of the fence, Rosa the Red pecked back, forcefully, with a malicious gleam in her eye.  Moe jumped back fearfully. These babies will spend the next few months growing to their adult size and then they’ll join these other chickens and will have to work their way into the pecking order.  In the meantime, they’ll get to know these big hens through the protective fence. 

The chicks spend the first fifteen minutes in their new space huddling together nervously in a corner

Barbara Barred Rock thinks, "Hmmph...new recruits," as she watches Squawky and the other Hipster Chicks through the fence.
I spent the rest of the evening with the chicks and tried, to no avail, to get them interested in the roosts.  There were just too many other new things to explore.  Eventually, the automatic lights turned off, and the babies sat on the floor peeping in distress.  I decided that any attempt to put them on the roost at that point would only create more stress.  So I left them on the floor, crying themselves to sleep in the dark, strange coop.  I walked to the house feeling like a big mean bully.

The next morning, I hiked down to the coop at first light, earlier than usual, to see how my sad little girls had fared the night.  They were all on the roost.  Somehow, they had found their way up, and they didn’t seem sad at all. They hopped down when I came in and raced excitedly around their new coop, then they all simultaneously ran to their feeder and started voraciously pecking at their crumbles.  When I got out the dried mealworms they all gathered around and Valerie hopped into my open, treat-filled hand.  All, apparently, has been forgiven.  And the new coop really is pretty nice.  Onto the next phase of growing up!

The Next Day:  The Hipster Chicks in their new coop.

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