Humans are not the only creatures, so it would seem, that go through an “awkward phase.” Our broilers, and to a lesser extent our turkeys, are now deep in the throws of teenage poultry angst. They started out as cute, fluffy creatures, all downy and yellow and soft. Now, however, their adult feathers are coming in (patchily) and their down is disappearing (where does chicken down go??). Their legs and feet are disproportionately huge, and most of them are exhibiting pink, nearly naked chicken butts. Not their finest hour, I must say. The turkeys do not look quite so unfortunate: compared to the chickens they seem a bit shrimpy and skinny, but their feathers have left no gaping holes. Still, when they cock their heads, fix their beady little eyes upon some insectoid delicacy, and pounce, I am reminded of the velociraptors of Jurassic Park, and I’m grateful that the turkeys are not my size.
Like most adolescents, our birds are going through big changes right now. On Monday, we finally finished our three 10′ x 12′ pens and the feeders with which to stock them. We’ve been practicing “just in time” farming as of late, and the chicken pens were no exception. Andrew picked up his supplies on Friday afternoon and we stared building, knowing full well that the chickens would ideally go out the next morning. Unsurprisingly, first-time pen construction dragged on, consuming all of Saturday, then Sunday, and finally drawing to an exhausted close on Monday morning. Andrew then caught the chickens in handfuls of ten while I shuttled boxes of chickens from the brooder to our Volvo. At long last, we delivered the chicks to their new pasture home. The turkeys immediately began foraging in the grass, pouncing on microscopic bugs and nibbling various bits of greenery. The chickens, meanwhile, retreated to the shady back and acclimatized.
Within a day everyone had adjusted well to their new environs. They’re slowly learning to move onto the fresh grass as we move their pen (rather than getting bumped by the back of the pen moving forward). They leave in their wake a block of trampled, pecked, fertilized pasture, where I will plant cherry tomatoes in the spring.