The chicks of spring grew up. They’re beautiful. Some of the tall ones turned out to be roosters.
I let them have their way all summer as they worked with the older hens, scratching the understory into fluffy, uneven mounds, scavenging for worms and sprouting grain I’d scattered there.
At night I tried to catch them and shut them in the coop with the rest, but about a dozen young birds continued to prefer roosting in the trees of the chicken run, just outside the coop.
I gave up trying to train them, but this week leaves fell and nights got cold. I headed out with a flashlight and ladder after dark.
About a dozen of them lined up on two branches huddled together 15 to 20 feet above the ground.
I stood on a cracking mineral tub for a few minutes reaching as high I as I could, pulling the lowest end of a branch with one hand and swinging a fishing net with the other. You see where this is going, don’t you?
They’re smart, chickens. They know that up there no predator can get them. But they’re stupid too, because it’s cold at night and they’re not going to last through a Saskatchewan winter in these sleeping quarters. One by one I brought them down and shoved them into the coop. I was to winning this one.
I’m smart because I have the bigger brain that helped build the fence, design the new and expanded greenhouse run packed full of worms, and sprouted grains and warm light on the south side of their coop, which will warm them all winter.
The last six birds were up on a higher branch I couldn’t touch with the fishing net. The ladder was needed here. I climbed it nearly to the top, bringing down each bird.
It wasn’t until the last one was in my arms that I fell and a sudden chorus of “You and Me Going Fishin’ in the Dark” by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band started playing in my head.
Only it was: “Here I am hunting chickens in the dark, Fallen from a ladder under the stars, Now moving slow...”
I am grateful there were no broken bones for either of us.
The universe has a sense of humour, as within days someone sent me a video link of Joel Salatin lecturing about chicken coop training.