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Chicks Dig Me

A few nights ago, Emily and I were settling in to bed, when we heard multiple chirps from our backyard garden. Living upcountry on Maui you get accustomed to the amount of feral chickens walking around, helping themselves to whatever you might have in your yard for them to peck at, but they are not usually awake at night, so the chirping was definitely an odd sound. I got dressed, grabbed a flashlight, went outside and found the culprit, or culprits in this case. Standing in the garden, huddled next to each other were four baby chicks, calling out for their momma to come get them.It was already after ten o’clock at night, so we decided that their best chance for survival was for us to put them somewhere a predator could not get to them. I grabbed some gloves, scooped them up carefully, and placed them in a big plastic tub, made more cozy with newspaper, clean hand towels for warmth, and a saucer of water. We covered the bin with a beach towel, left a corner slightly exposed for fresh air, and placed a few pieces of wood on the edge of the bin to keep any curious cats at bay.

Having survived the night, the next morning I placed the chicks back where we found them a few hours earlier in hopes that their mother would come back to where she had left them. I put a few small pieces of moist bread out for them and left them to their own devices. I even made an impromptu ramp so that they could help themselves out of our garden if it struck their fancy.

I had the day off from work, so as I did yard work and other chores around the house I could hear these cute little balls of fluff crying out again, but the only one listening was me. Eventually their crying paid off. From a distance I saw a rooster, and hen, and juvenile (but not as small as the four chicks) chicken come into our backyard. They made right for the garden…and proceeded to strut past the four chirping chicks right to the pieces of bread I had put out, which they devoured, they then walked right past the chicks as they left the garden and our backyard. The four chicks were even following the hen like you would see any family of chickens do, but she just kept going and never looked back. That act alone broke my heart. It also made me think that adult chickens are douchebags.

It rained later in the day so I grabbed some left over wood from around the house and made a very rough shelter for our new friends. I had hoped that the chicks would be reunited with their mom, but as the day wore on, I think Emily and I knew what had to be done. We waited until the evening and eventually put the chicks back into their plastic tub, gave them food, water, and soft towels to rest on and took the necessary precautions to prevent curious cats on the prowl. The conversation that night before bed was about what do we do with them now.

The next morning I was up earlier than usual before I had to leave for work because I was on a mission to make a safe outdoor area for our little chicks to explore safely. I moved a bunch of garden wall stones to make a little fence, mowed the grass, and pulled a bunch of weeds along the side of our house we rarely visit. Our kitchen widow opens up to this side of the house, so I took the screen off the window and we were able to stick our head out to check on the chicks.

This little sanctuary on the side of our house was perfect…for about eight hours. While Emily was doing schoolwork at the kitchen table, she realized she hadn’t heard from the baby chicks in a while, so she stuck her head out the kitchen window just in time to see a black cat on the low stone fence watching the chicks intensely. Her mother hen skills kicked into high gear and she was able to scare the cat away and round up the little ones and get them back in their bin in one piece. We both realized at this point that these little fluff balls were going to be in our lives from here on out.

I had the next two days off from work, so I began researching chicken coops, chicken runs, and the most important google search, how to keep baby chicks alive. Emily has a wonderful coworker who has probably raised, reared, and rescued more animals than the ASPCA, so she is a great source for advice. It took me two full days, three trips to the hardware store, a little sun burn, lots of swearing, more than lots of mistakes, but I completed a chicken run from scratch by myself.

Please note the rest of the photos were shot with my iPhone.

Initially, I was planning on putting the shelter where we had the chickens exploring, on the side of the house, but after getting the base and roof on the set up spot, it just didn’t work. So I moved it to option number two, a nice uneven area that we don’t use, against our side wall and backyard fence. I had transplanted some banana plants and planted a pineapple there awhile back just because we never used that space.

It was a good spot, until I laid down the base.

The roof. I used reclaimed wood from a shipping crate for the cross-beams.

Option number two. Uneven ground, banana plants creeping towards it, and one lone pineapple in the center of the pen.

A work in progress. The goats were not impressed.

Almost done. Note the pineapple is still there.

It was a satisfying project with a sense of urgency to keep the chickens safe. I certainly could have made it smaller, but I figured if these little ones turn into big ones, I will be able to make it into a real chicken coop.

Now that our family has grown by an additional four, you can expect my chicken aerial photography to become four times more proficient. We hope that all the little cheep cheeps become healthy chickens in due time, but until then we are enjoying playing the part of devoted hens.