May 24, 2013

On The Rebound: Operation chicken coop complete

By Mitch Howard
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — It makes me proud to see my children using power tools. I thought that would be a clever way to start this column. There was another option: So I was driving down the road with five girls, unable to carry on much conversation over the roar of the blow dryer.

We’ll get to that story, but first the power tools.

My oldest daughter, Maggie, had $30 in her pocket from grandma and grandpa. That usually means some type pet will be purchased.  In this case, it was poultry. She wanted to stop at Tractor Supply Company to find chicken wire to complete our backyard coop. We had traded with our neighbor for the wood to convert the swing set into a coop. He had extra wood from a deck project. I had an extra 20 gallon propane tank with no gas grill to use it with. The wood and gas were passed over the privacy fence and Operation Chicken Coop was in full swing.

Unfortunately when we stopped for chicken wire, there were two parking lot chicken peddlers at Tractor Supply. She loved the baby bantams. We country folk call them banties. They were colored like baby quail and full of personality. Another lady showed us her light brahmas, a fancy chicken with feather socks and a red carpet attitude. We added four new chickens to our flock, which had been down to two bantams after a mass killing due to someone not plugging in a heat lamp. Oops.

The only thing that shocked me more than the fact I agreed to raise chickens was the detail my two middle schoolers put into this project. They planned every inch from the bottom level chicken playground to the upstairs loft and nesting station. This from the only people I have ever worked with that know less about building things than I do.

I showed them how to measure the wood and mark your cuts with a speed square. There was a lesson on using a power saw and drill. They already knew as much as I did about a hammer. Hit the nail and not your thumb. They talked, planned and completed the task better than some crews I have paid.

The chickens seemed to enjoy their new home with one issue. The older bantam rooster took exception to the new fancy pants chicken. Whether it was a male or female is beyond me. It dresses like a girl, but I can’t tell a rooster from a hen until they crow or lay.

The bantam attacked the brahma like it was wearing a coat of worms. It pecked most of the feathers off its back. When I discovered what was happening, the brahma was cowering in a corner trying to become invisible.

I can’t stand a bully. I chased the bantam with a stick. “If you want to pick on someone, pick on me,” I shouted. Then we plucked him from the fabulous coop and placed him in solitary confinement. He paced and clucked without ceasing, but no parole is expected soon.

And now the blow dryer. The girls were so proud of their accomplishment, they invited a friend over. Then another and another. Five children for one night isn’t a problem. Getting them up and ready for church the next day is another story. I was still trying to herd them out the door five minutes before time for the service. That’s when I saw Cassidy’s soaking head of hair. She said it would take 20 minutes to dry.

So we grabbed the blow dryer and plugged it in to the inverter and had dry hair when we pulled into the church. And to bring the whole story full circle, we stopped at Kentucky Fried Chicken for a lovely Sunday dinner.