Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sucking up to Chickens

I am the type of pet lover that totally obsess about their pets all the time. Not in a dress them up and carry them around all the time kind of way, but in the no one can take care of them better than me kind of way.

Faced with the choice between a family member or a pet of who I would try to save when they are hanging off the side of the cliff it would be a pet. My rationale is that, as a human being, you can do a pretty good job saving yourself, but my pup can't even make it on to the bed by himself, much less scrabble back over the cliff edge. So get climbin'.

Anyhow, we went away for the third trip in less than a month and had to again board the dogs and get a sitter for the cats and, more difficult, the chickens. Now the chickens are fairly easy to care for, but because it is a bit out of the ordinary it's kind of hard to get someone to come and take care of them. The folks we know who are used to chickens are dealing with more animals than we are (surprisingly) and can't help us. We typically ask the high school girl next store but they were out of town too. So we kind of had to scramble to find a pet sitter. I was actually to the point where I was possibly going to bail on the trip if we didn't like this person because I think it is more important to find someone we trust than go out of town.

I don't think we are that difficult in general to work for but maybe we just have too high of expectations. Maybe we're the problem, but as of yet, we have not found a professional pet sitter that we are 100% satisfied with. The girl next store is #1 in our book at this point.

We did meet and use a new sitter for this trip and actually felt pretty good about them during the first meet and greet. We took them through what they had to do for the cats (not much) and then took them through the chickens.

Granted, Napoleon is a pain in the butt. He's defensive and territorial and stupid (I love him, but he isn't bright). And he really needs to have his spurs cut. But he's like 12 inches tall and about 3lbs, so, if you're wearing jeans, boots and gloves you should be fine.

Anyhow, we take them through the process: arrive as early as possible, put out the food, open the coop door and let the chickens run out, go inside and shake out the buckets, pour in fresh water every other day and then leave. Ignore Napoleon until he leaves you alone. Not that hard really.

I think the biggest problem is that I didn't have her do a trial run while I was around, because after day one we got a call from the sitter that she was freaking out and scared of Napoleon. We immediately identified that she was going over way later than she should have. At that point they had been awake and locked in the coop for more than an hour and a half and were pissed off. She also was wearing my boots rather than the husbands so Napoleon was pulling on her pants and kicking her. Annoying, yes, but while you may get a bruise he can't really hurt you.

We gave her some advice for dealing with them and advised her to go over as early as possible so they are more sleepy and to just avoid Napoleon because he will eventually walk off to the two hens.

The next day we got another call saying she was scared of him still and that she was worried he was going to jump up at her. At this point I'm one of those horrible mothers who never thinks bad about their bratty kids and blames everyone else.

In instances like these I don't have much sympathy because, hello!, you're the person who opted to do this for a living. And I had never worked with chickens before a few months ago, so just get over it! We ended up telling her all she needed to do is put out the food and open the coop door - not change out the water or shake the buckets. But the whole rest of the trip, all I'm thinking is, sweetie, you just lost a job because we probably won't use the service again. It's too bad too because she managed the house and the cats pretty well.

So, luckily we had booked our trip back for Saturday. That way I was able to get the coop and pen cleaned up and I was able to let the chickens free range for a while on Sunday. It was kind of cold and overcast but they didn't mind. The played in the leaves and compost pile and watched me carry fallen branches to the burn pile. We also put a heat lamp on a timer inside the coop because nights are getting pretty cold around here. We still need to get them some more hay for snuggling into.

When I had cleaned everything up I sat down on the ground and Napoleon ran over to me and jumped onto my lap to be held and petted and cuddle. I even tucked him into my jacket and carried him around for a while. Who could be scared or such a sweetheart, right?

My new goal is to teach him to walk on a leash. Maybe. We'll see.

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