Adventures with Avians

There are dinosaurs in our back yard. For a given value of dinosaur. “Feathered theropod dinosaurs” is what Wikipedia calls them (not to be confused with the celebrated therocephalian therapsid Purlovia Maxima). One is Troodon and one is Kryptops, and both are hens. Well, technically, only Kryptops is a hen. Troodon (pronounced Troo-don, not Tro-o-don like the original dinosaur) is a pullet.

Troodon (cropped)

And therein lies the problem. A pullet is a teenage hen, more or less, and Troodon turns out to be one of those rebellious teenagers who’s never seen a boundary she didn’t want to cross.

Well, that’s not quite fair. She’s never once tried to get over the 1m high chicken-wire fence that divides the chicken part of the garden from the non-chicken part of the garden. She has treated it with magnificent indifference. She’s been having too much fun with the other part of the fence: the 1.8m fence separating the chicken part of the garden from the next door neighbour’s garden.

The first evening we got her home, clipped her wing (to reduce lift and balance) and tried to introduce her to the coop. It turns out she doesn’t believe in indoor living, and she broke free to continue the important business of intimidating the cat. (On subsequent questioning, we discovered that she had hitherto been an entirely free-range chicken with no boundaries and no coop.)

We let her do her thing while we clipped Kryptops’s wing and introduced her to the coop – no trouble with her, though she did march up and down shouting about it for a couple of minutes before hopping up on the perch and falling asleep.

Not our tree, not our chicken. (This is a Barnevelder.)

Troodon then located the perfect place to spend the night: in a tree! (On which note: if you’re in need of a new earworm, try this.) Unfortunately, the tree of her choice belonged to our next door neighbour, who has a large dog. Said dog is an estimable creature in terms of the respecting of fences, but no dog can be expected to ignore a chicken sitting all fat and juicy in his tree like some sort of feathery low-hanging fruit.

Thank God for good neighbours! It was a three-person (0 dog) operation by torchlight, but we eventually got her safely bundled back over the fence and into the coop. She settled down for the night, and we went inside to tend my wounds.

We left the pair of them in the coop until the following afternoon, to give them some time to settle in and realize what the food and water containers were there for. Once the pop-hole (technical term for chicken door) was opened, out came Troodon, who proceeded to do the Right and Correct Chicken Thing, i.e. wander around scratching at the ground and eating stuff.

pullet in garden
Troodon briefly being a Good Chicken.

Kryptops, on the other hand, seemed deeply dubious of the whole concept of “outside” – possibly not unsurprising considering that she was used to life in an aviary. In the end, it was the threat of being offered fresh drinking water from a specially designed bird waterer (no, it makes no sense to me either) that made her decide to pop through the pop-hole. Once out, however, she too clicked right into the Right and Correct Chicken Thing.

For a brief moment, all was sunshine and lollipops. Then Troodon decided to look into the vexed question of whether the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence. One good flap took her up on to the six foot fence, and a moment later she’d sailed down the other side into our neighbour’s fully enclosed back garden.

Helpful neighbour, alas, was not home… so over the fence we went. (Can be done in an ankle-length skirt, it turns out.) Troodon didn’t want her fun spoiled, and was quite intent on not being caught. After a bit of running and squawking, we discovered that helpful neighbour’s estimable dog was home, and was interested in what all the noise was about.

Study in Black, Pink, and Green

Helpful neighbour’s estimable dog was also, it turns out, fairly helpful. Amazingly, though, even the presence of an excited dog with a footlong nose and a yard of tongue was not enough to persuade Troodon that our side of the fence was where the living was good.

Then the Kitten decided to hop over the fence to join us, apparently oblivious to both Helpful Dog and Rebellious Teenage Chicken in his desire to be near the Caped Gooseberry. (All together now: Awwww…Idiot.) Helpful Dog then decided that Kitten was more appetizing than Chicken – and in any case he wasn’t sure if he wanted to chase Troodon or run away from her – so a brief side mission to bundle the Kitten back over the fence was carried out (and then repeated, because sometimes he’s as thick as a brick).

Chasing a chicken is not easy, especially one who can (in the words of Dave Ingham), “accelerate like a Formula 1 and turn on a dime”. Eventually we were compelled to debate whether it would be appropriate to simply leave her to her fate, whatever that might turn out to be. (For the record, I was Pro and the Caped Gooseberry, a much more patient and kindly person than myself, was Con.)

White Greyhound (1748) - Jean-Baptiste Oudry
Cannot decide if running forward or back…

Omitting to cry “Havoc!” – though there was plenty about – we let slip the Dog of Back and Forth. (Dogs of War were unavailable.) This was not entirely productive, although it did free up a couple of previously dog-managing hands. The final breakthrough came when I stopped caring whether my clothes got muddy and/or torn and just crawled into the gap under the shrubs Troodon thought she had to herself and nabbed her by the leg. Much flappage and shoutage ensued, which attracted the excited attention of Helpful Dog, who had to be ushered away by the Caped Gooseberry.

Hat (plucked off by shrub) over chicken’s head; chicken into sack, sack over fence, and Helpful Dog was soon left to entertain himself. We clipped Troodon’s other wing (sources vary on whether this will help or hinder her, but one wing certainly wasn’t doing it) and bunged her into the coop again.

Kryptops, meanwhile, had reacted to the commotion (and the Kitten repeatedly popping into the Reserved for Chickens part of the garden) by inserting herself into a thick patch of tradescantia behind an evergreen, and effectively disappearing. As dusk approached we encouraged her out of there, caught her in a corner of fence, and returned her to her previously favoured status of Indoor Chicken.

Partridge Wyandotte hen in garden
Kryptops trying life Outside.

Unfortunately, a Troodon that can fly with the greatest of ease with one wing clipped is not likely to be an entirely earthbound Troodon with both wings clipped, so we are compelled to consider our alternatives. Tethering? Acquisition of an enclosed run? Of course, since Troodon is only a youngster, it is possible that she will, in the weeks before she reaches her egg-laying maturity, pack on the pounds to the point where she can’t get airborne.

For this reason, today we launched Operation Laddoo, commencing this morning with an appetizing hot mash, and continuing shortly before chicken bedtime with the introduction of a coconut oil “suet” ball, stuffed with all sorts of delicious and fattening things, such as peanuts and linseed.

What will the sequel be? Who knows? But if you have any tips on grounding chickens (or fattening them in a hurry) then help yourself to the comment section. I assure you I am all ears.

2 Replies to “Adventures with Avians”

  1. Very entertaining post! It takes about 2 weeks for chickens to know home and boundaries, and they usually need to be physically kept there during that time until it sinks in. Whether that’s attained by barriers or diet or scissors is irrelevant I believe. Good luck!

    1. Thank you! The last time Troodon was out she had a look around the rather damp garden and decided she was going back inside, thank you very much. So hopefully she’s had her fill of the other side of the fence!

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