There is pathetically little to say on the fin front. About ten days ago, I bought two shubunkin (a kind of multicolored Japanese gold fish that looks like a small koi). I let them float in their plastic bags on the surface of my pond for an hour, to get them used to the water temperature. Then I cut open the bags and they swam out and disappeared into the murk. I have seen neither fin nor scale of them since. I don\’t think they\’ve been eaten by a bird, since anything that would go fishing would be pretty big, and the dogs would have noticed. And if they\’d died, they would have floated to the surface. So I can only conclude that they\’re lurking in the depths, indifferent to the fact that I bought them so I could rejoice in their flash and sparkle.
The feather news is more exciting. A couple of days ago, worried that their mental development was being stifled by their close quarters, I moved the chicks out of their metal tub in the basement and into the chicken house. Not, however, in the same space with the hens, who would have pecked them to death in two minutes.
Fortunately the shed has three separate rooms, one where I store feed and tools, and two which are occupied by the chickens. I moved the hens to the end room, where they have access to the outside, and carried the chick paraphernalia into the middle room, shutting all the doors. I set up the mother hen/heat lamp, filled the chick waterer and feeder, and sprinkled clean wood shavings on top of the hay bedding. Then I gently decanted the chicks into their new home.
There was much bewildered cheeping at first. And no wonder–how would you feel if you\’d been living all your life in a studio apartment with seven other people and were suddenly dropped into the middle of the Astrodome? A couple of the chicks went to sleep right away, they were so overwhelmed. Pretty soon, however, they all started moving around, finding the waterer, pecking at the feeder. Although during their tub days they had only seen my head and shoulders, they seemed to take the rest of me in stride, and the boldest one came over and gave my shoe a tentative peck.
Two days later, they are masters of their domain. They roam all over, and every now and then they take off running and flapping their tiny wings, just for fun. Their feathers are coming in fast, so in the middle of the day I have started turning off the heat lamp. They look a little scruffy, with their mix of down and feathers, kind of like second graders who are losing their baby teeth and growing big ones.
When the chicks are fully feathered, I will retire the heat lamp and open the wooden doors so they can get plenty of air and natural light. But before they can go outside, we\’ll have to undergo a lengthy process of chicken acculturation. For each wooden door there is also a door made of livestock wire, which I will keep closed but which will allow the chicks to see and be seen by the hens. After about a week, I will open these doors…and hope for the best.
On the wilder side of things, yesterday my husband saw, from the kitchen window, not one, not two, but three pileated woodpeckers making a big racket at the edge of the woods.