Advanced Chicken Catching and Turkey Wrangling 101

I think it’s ok to admit that I have had a somewhat strained relationship with birds my whole life.

It all started many years ago, when someone deposited a Bantam rooster at my parents house, and I spent the whole
summer afraid to go outside because that ornery bird would chase me around.
And of course, the turkeys that would peck at my shoelaces. And the wild turkeys that used to peck at my window much later in life.

All in all, birds and I haven’t really had a great understanding. But I do enjoy chasing chickens.

The hosts at WWOOF farms must get endless hours of entertainment while interns struggle to deal with the animals. I am just glad Emma was the only one around to see my goat fiasco, when I forgot to latch the gate and they wound up munching on grapes.

One night, another intern, Nick, had to close up the coups on the moveable chicken runs. These runs hold a dozen or so hens and a rooster to provide fertilized eggs. They are also on wheels, so they can be moved. The chickens trim down grass and provide nitrogen for the soil.

The easiest way to move them is to simply close the door to the coup at night when they are all roosting. That was Nick’s job at night. In the morning, when the tractor was used to life and move the coup, the dozen chickens rushed the door and had, literally, flown the coup.

Turns out there is an extra latch that needs to be shut in order to keep the chickens in. Nick didn’t know, and the teenager in charge of driving the tractor didn’t think to check.

Time for a quick riddle. How long will it take 3 20-somethings to catch 16 chickens? The answer is about 15 minutes. Which is mostly due to Nick, a bird trainer in his real life, has magic instincts.

This also gets at the issue of the turkeys. The turkeys are in a temporary enclosure while they are awaiting their Thanksgiving destiny. As my farming knowledge becomes more nuanced, I am starting to understand “temporary” actually means “not very good.”

Adding to list of morning chores? “Get the turkeys back into the pen”. My first day, Emma and I had to flush them out
of the bushes and herd them back. Yesterday, I was left to get 7 of them back where they belong. 6 of them could figure out that I had food and simply followed me home. I had to catch one though and heft her halfway across the farm. I think she might have enjoyed being shuttled about.

The largest chicken pen has maybe 50-75 chickens that provide unfertilized eggs for market. (At $7 a dozen and they sell, I might add) We had to move the flexible fencing around this coup for the same reason as the other ones. My work buddy this time around was a teenaged boy, and in typical teenaged boy fashion, is not particularly patient. Which meant that instead of waiting for the chickens to go roost in their coup baited with food, we just moved the flexible fencing.

Ok, so now we have about 30 loose chickens, one over zealous teenager, and a not quite complete fence. It made great entertainment for Emma, who watched the whole fiasco from the kitchen window. I assume while laughing her ass off.

My method of catching chickens is somewhat of a mix between interpretive dance and snake charming. I make myself look as big as possible and slither about so the birds, as weirded out as possible, decide to run back to their homes. I try to cause as little trauma as possible. Not because I particularly care about the little dinosaurs feelings, but the more freaked out they get the harder they are to catch, and the less likely they will be to just follow you around.

Oh, crap. The turkeys are roosting in the green house rafters. Gotta go.

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