It had to happen eventually. The chicks went outside in the big crate for the day. This is the safest way to acclimate them at this size. They get fresh air, a little sunshine, and a chance to nibble some of the grass that pokes through the crate door. At the end of the day, Nicholas took a box to put the chicks in while he cleaned out the crate.
Silkies can’t fly very high, but one managed to get enough fluttering altitude that she escaped, ran into the long grass, and disappeared under the lilac bushes. I was summoned. This all happened – of course – while I was cooking supper. I turned off burners and ran outside.
Nicholas could not see the little black bird at all in the shadows under the bushes. Barefoot, I crawled into the lilacs, losing my kapp and muddying my knees. I spotted her and tried to push her toward Nicholas, but no joy there! She scurried deeper into the tangle. I crawled in further. (Mind, I am more zaftig than svelte.) I caught my hair in twigs and burdocks. Little Miss, feeling way too clever, darted into the deeper thicket, only to find she had outsmarted herself, and was trapped. I pounced, caught her one-handed and reached up through the lilac branches to return her to Nicholas. He took her inside while I picked twigs, moss and burdock globes out of my hair.
It only gets better! Nicholas had asked what to do with the pine shavings from the crate. I wanted them on the garden, thinking that since the garden plots will be strawberries next year, pine shavings and chicken droppings won’t hurt a bit. I put it to him just that way. So, while I was busy trying to rescue supper, which wasn’t quite ruined but had become a kind of burgoo of potatoes, carrots, green beans and fish cakes, he emptied the crate onto the garden. It was the tiny 1 foot by 3 foot herb garden by the front door. I asked in that wifey tone of voice, “What are you doing?” He said in that guilty husband voice, “But you didn’t say which garden!” I raked the shavings around the herb plants as a mulch and left it, hoping that nothing there wanted alkaline soil.
The fenced chicken yard is almost done. Nicholas can work maybe two hours at a stretch, but he is doing well with it. It will be a sort of small paddock for letting chickens get out, not exactly free range, but an access point to green stuff, real dirt, and fresh air. We have coyotes, fox and raccoons around, so free range is pretty limited if one wants to actually keep chickens and not just feed the wildlife.