Earlier today we moved the chicken tractors significantly to try and get them in more tree cover. This was to protect them from the hawks that loom, but they didn't know that and apparently were upset we moved their home.
For those that don't know what a chicken tractor is, just google some images and you'll get the idea - its a chicken coop you move each day. Most of the time you just leave them in there, but we let the chicks out most days.
Back to the moved tractor... You see, at night chickens return to their coops if its their established sleeping place. After they've gone in, you shut it up so coyotes and things don't wander in. Get the phrase now, "all cooped up"? Chicken Hawks in the day, coyotes at night - a lot of critters want to eat the things you want to eat, but they don't wait for big tender breasts to grow first.
Well, when I went out, none of them were in their coops. Not one. I looked around, since it was getting darker by the second, and they were all huddled up exactly where the coop was last night, two separate groups that is. Great, said I.
Here's what I learned about capturing chicks at night:
- They get slower as it gets darker, but they also get harder to see.
- They'll try and group together, so if they get scattered, give them a minute and they'll all come back together.
- Look for the ones that are bedding down next to each other. They seem to just be in utter denial that I am completely ravaging their secret hide out (which is in the middle of a field), and as soon as I take a few away, they went to the same spot to try and sleep again. If I were a fox, I would have confessed gluttony tomorrow.
- One at a time takes a long time. I'm not sure, but I think we have close to 90. I really don't know. Anyway, I started with one at a time. Then I was scooping two sleeping ones up together. Then I was tucking them under my arm. By the end I was so tired and could barely see so I was diving and just grabbing feet. That's the best way. I was just holding them by their feet, as many as I could carry.
The lesson? With young chicks, move tractors very gradually. Or don't move them with them while they're outside of it. Tomorrow, chicks are grounded. They're staying in the coop to think about what they did (and to remember where it is).