Tonight, for the first time, the girls are sleeping outside. They are 7 1/2 and 6 1/2 weeks old, fully feathered out, so there is no reason why they need to be inside anymore. It’s a little cold–will probably get down to 55 tonight, with wind–and they’ve gotten used to sleeping at a balmy 70 degrees indoors, so that will be a bit of a change.
Also, it turns out that as chicken parents, we were not nearly strict enough with the Torture of Darkness, in which the heat lamps are turned off and the baby chicks are taught to endure the terrors of darkness in 30-minute increments so they can get used to the concept. We did do some of this, but it got awfully cold and they were so miserable that we didn’t do it enough. And sometimes we just forgot. As a result, our girls get a little agitated as the sun goes down, chirping and squawking and refusing to settle down. (Chickens have poor night vision and fall victim to many predators who travel only at night–raccoons, possums, skunks–so their fear of darkness, like so many of their fears, is well-founded.)
But anyway. The last of the security measures are in place, so tonight we just decided, kind of at the last minute, to let they stay out there despite their (and our) agitation. We rounded them up into The Vault, locked it tight, and listened to them peep and chirp and howl. I just went out a few minutes ago to check on them and they’d settled down, all curled up a heap of poultry warmth.
I have a theory that one way that you can tell when your chicks are ready to move outside is by the size of their droppings. I may have mentioned that two or three times a day chickens release some droppings–called cecal droppings–that come from a different pouch in their digestive system. This stuff is seriously foul. This morning, before I’d even had my coffee, Bess produced cecal droppings in sufficient quantity to make me think that maybe the move outdoors wasn’t such a bad idea after all. But the fact is that I hate it that our downstairs bathroom contains not a single little bird anymore.
Off to bed. We’ll see if I make it through the night or if I sneak out there in a few hours and bring them all in. Couldn’t we install a roost at the foot of our bed and let them sleep there?
(I can just hear my nieces and nephews in 20 years: “Do you remember our crazy Aunt Amy, the one who had chickens sleeping in her bedroom?”)