Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Chicken Wrangling

Sometimes the chickens win.

This is a powerful lesson, really.  There you are, with your opposable thumbs and your technology and your vastly superior intellect, assured of eventual triumph in the eternal struggle between poultry and primate.  You’re feeling pretty good about your odds.  But that’s the thing about statistics – they’re really good at telling you what is going to happen over the long haul, but individual encounters are much more chancy.

And the fact remains that those birds are pointy.

I spent this morning over at our friend’s farm, hauling chickens from one side of the coop to the other as a sort of one-man bucket brigade of poultry.  There are a lot of things I never thought I would say in my life, and I have found that Lauren’s poultry project is a continual source of new ones.  But if you want to show chickens at the 4H fair, you have to have them tested.

Tested for what, I’m not really sure.  Mathematical aptitude, for all I know.  The bottom line is that they had to be tested, so tested they were.

Fortunately, the guy who actually did the testing knew what he was looking for.

It was a grey and rainy morning here in Baja Canada when we all gathered at the farm.  There was an air of anticipation, or was that just the general funk of the chickens?  Who knows.  There should have been a tumbleweed drifting by, but no such luck, dramatically speaking.  We gathered up our equipment and set to work anyway.

Lois was in charge of gathering chickens.  They were her birds, after all.  Lauren’s are too young to need testing, it turns out, but Lois’ birds were old enough and the testing requirement applies to all birds on the property, not just 4H fair birds, so we were not excused.  She shooed them from the coop into the enclosed area on the south side, shut the little door between the two, and then corralled the birds with a handy fishing net, one at a time.

They don’t like to get caught, those birds.  Sometimes they’d escape.  Fortunately only one made a break for the outside, where a lifetime of playing defense on team sports served me well enough to nip that little plan in the bud.  That’s the joy of playing defense – I don’t actually have to do anything in particular.  I just have to stop the other guy from doing something in particular.

Score one for high school gym.  Mr. Kratzer, wherever you are, thanks.

I was on the outside of the enclosure.  When Lois would catch one of the chickens I’d open the big door and take it from her.  Chickens, it turns out, are mostly docile when you do this – they just sit there in your hands, clucking enquiringly, their little hearts beating staccato rhythms against your palms.  Most of the time.  Some of them were determined to go down fighting, or at least trying to escape.  They make quite the kerfluffle when they go down that path.

The slow, soft rain only added to the atmosphere.

Bird secured, I’d walk it over and hand it to Dale, who sat in the main entryway of the coop.  He’d pluck off a couple of feathers, take a blood sample and mix it with a reagent, which would turn from blue to purple.  This was a good thing, apparently.  Then he’d set the bird loose.

We went through 67 birds in about an hour.  They all seemed healthy.  So the farm is clear for a year, and then we get to do this again next summer if Lauren is still in the 4H Poultry Project.

Of all the things I thought I’d be when I grew up, “chicken wrangler” wasn’t one of them.  And yet, here we are.


TimBo said...

When I was young chicken catching was one of my favourite pastimes. I started when I was two years old simply by chasing my Grandmother's rooster with a big stick (it had pecked me when I tried to pet it and I never forgave it).

By the time I was four I'd graduated to catching my Aunt's chickens and enclosing them in my father's car. For some reason he disapproved of this behaviour and they restricted my chicken catching to butchering days. They never let me handle the axe though. I had a very restricted childhood.

KimK said...

I believe it's time to haul out Michael Perry's first book in which he describes hen hypnotism. :)

I hope Lauren thanked you all for the trouble you've gone too on her behalf.


David said...

Tim - well, restrictions can be good in certain cases. :)

Kim - Yes, I'll have to dig that one out again. I am the kryptonite to Super Chicken's powers! Avast, ye feathered fiend!