Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cabin Life: Surviving The Chicken Tent

The Chickens InsideI can freely admit that I am not an expert in basically anything, but let me give you some advice:  Don’t share your four-hundred square foot anything with a dog, a cat, three hens, and a rooster.  Now, nothing against the chickens, but they are noisy.  And stinky.  And no matter what, the rooster will crow whenever he feels like it, regardless of your sleep schedule.

With temperatures predicted to be about thirty below zero without the wind chill, I decided that the time had come to let the chickens have a nice warm night inside.  Now, keep in mind that the chickens had not ever been inside my cabin.  Nor had Pico ever been separated from them by nothing more than a blanket.  Needless to say, I did not get much sleep last night.

For instance, did you know that roosters crow all the time, not just in the morning?  I did, but I did not realize how often Midget would crow.  I did not realize that every time he crowed, Pico would answer with a round of barking.  I also did not realize the scope or variety of odd, obnoxious, and just plain weird sounds that the chickens would make when they spend the night just a few feet from my bed.

It has been an absurdly cold winter, and even though the chickens had made it this far with nothing more than a little frostbite, thirty below turned out to be the line I drew in the sand.  I spent a few hours yesterday afternoon trying to decide the best way to house them inside my cabin.  Not having a dog cage or anything of the sort, I had to improvise.

I grabbed the large black sled I use for hauling firewood and brought it inside.  I commandeered an old blanket and draped it from the sink down to the sled to create a chicken tent inside my cabin.  Then I spent the better part of half an hour rounding up and corralling the chickens so I could catch them.  Midget and Brownie were easy, and even though Blondie tried to hide, she was still relatively easy to get a hold of.  Whitey, on the other hand, is sketchy.  I mean seriously sketchy.

I managed to get my numb hands on her after quite a while of trying.  She was not happy about it, but when I deposited her in the chicken tent she seemed to settle down.  There was food and an unfrozen bowl of water in the sled, along with her compatriots.  Midget however, was not so fond of the tent.  I could hear him clucking and occasionally crowing.  I could also see a small part of the blanket moving when he walked around inside.

Now, this tent was not set up to be a perfect place for them to live.  But it was a necessity, and managed to keep Pico and Herbie out, while somehow managing to keep the chickens in.  For a while.

This morning, I decided that I should put them outside, but not until the sun came up.  Unfortunately, even after the sun came up, it was still well below zero outside, like twenty below zero.  I had to run to town, and decided that Pico should come with me.  He’s not a killer per se, but I have no doubt that he would have found his way into the chicken tent and caused havoc.  Best case scenario if I left him home:  Chicken crap everywhere in my house.  It was not a risk I was willing to take.

So off we went, while the chickens camped out in the balmy interior of my cabin.  When we got home, I was torn on whether to put them outside.  It was sunny and deceivingly pleasant looking outside, but the temperature never really got above zero.  With Midget and Whitey showing frostbite on their combs, I decided that I would not subject them to the move from seventy degrees to ten below zero.  But that was before Blondie and Midget found an escape route.

I was sitting at the table chatting with my girlfriend when we heard some commotion and looked up only to see Blondie strutting around the carpet at the front door.  Midget popped out as I was watching, and Whitey was trying very hard to follow suit.  I shoved Whitey back into the tent and grabbed Midget and Blondie and put them back too.  The sounds that followed convinced me that they would benefit from some fresh air and freedom.  I may have also figured that I would benefit from them getting some fresh air.  I grabbed Midget and Blondie and transferred them outside.  After an hour or so, I figured that I may as well put Brownie and Whitey out too.

Now, I wasn’t trying to torture them or cause harm, but the outside space seemed to do them some good.  They got a few hours out in the sun, and I managed to round them up with less effort than yesterday.  Now they’re back in the tent, making crazy sounds and stinking the place up.  Luckily, the weather should be getting warmer in a day or two, because honestly, they are not good roommates.  I’m not sure how this reflects on me, but they are also not the worst roommates I’ve ever had either.  I guess I’d rather listen to a rooster crow at five in the morning than listen to some guy scream at a video game at four in the morning.  You know what, this doesn’t reflect on me at all.  At least this time I’m in control of when the obnoxious roommates move out.

 

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Having grown up in the southern Adirondacks, Justin has always been at home in the mountains of New York. After graduating from Paul Smiths College, he began his career in the environmental field working for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. After a brief five year detour to Florida, Justin returned to the Adirondacks to live off the grid in a small cabin with no running water or electricity.

Justin continues to work and play in the outdoors, and maintains a blog about living off grid, hiking, and being outside in the Adirondacks called Middle of the Trail.







7 Responses

  1. jim says:

    This is very touching, and funny. Thanks for sharing.

  2. John Jongen says:

    This has to be the survival chapter called ‘How to keep your food source alive’. So the jury is still out about who is man’s best friend when the temps are down? We love the description of your struggles.

  3. westernedge says:

    You have become such a good writer and your stories so
    interesting. Bravo, Justin! Keep up the good work and your resolve to hang in there.It’ll teach you more than you NOW know.

  4. Katht says:

    I love your stories. The decription of living with your chickens made me laugh 🙂 I really enjoy reading what you write. Keep up the great work, and good luck with those funny little roommates 🙂

  5. joanstreetman says:

    It is so funny the things you write. Do you have electricity? If so make them a tent outside with an electric light hanging down inside and that will warm them up. I cannot remember if you have electric. Can you put them in a chicken crate and then have them inside in one specific area.

  6. Brad says:

    Very nice story, gave me a nice morning laugh.

  7. Paul says:

    I think you need to get some heat lamps (if you don’t have electricity you probably need to do something else). Leaving chickens, even on a normal Adirondack winter day, without some type of heat source is probably a bad idea. Chickens are animals that have been bred from warm climate birds. They are not like dogs that are fine in cold weather.

    You should check with a poultry farmer but I think you need to do something.

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