Almost as soon as I got my mother to get chickens, my mother called upon me to chicken-sit. At that point in time, it wasn’t actually that big a deal, as they hadn’t been put out in their coop yet. They were still in a cardboard box in my parents’ house. Of course, they had been in that cardboard box for about 10 weeks, and that box had seen better days. My mother complained about how often they knocked their water over, and I had visions of the 200 year old pine flooring under them being destroyed, and me taking the blame. Happily, when I went to pick up my charges, I saw that my mother was smart and had put a tarp under the box. Crisis averted.
I was not only chicken sitting, I was chicken sitting at my own house. Which meant I had to get these chickens to my house somehow. My mom had a box she thought would be perfect for transporting them. It was a nice box, formerly home to a microwave. However, not the most compact microwave, and I have a fairly compact car. Could we make it work? Yes, we could, but barely. The box filled the whole cargo bay of my car (if you can call it a cargo bay at this capacity), but it fit. That would at least keep them from sliding around. Or it kept the box from sliding around. The chickens were free to slide around inside the box as much as they wanted, or didn’t want to.
We loaded them in, and I told my son that he was in charge of monitoring the chickens on the ride home. This meant I got a report any time the chickens made a noise, or anytime the chickens didn’t make a noise. Many reports were generated on the two hour ride home. I would get nervous if there were no noises. If these things died on my watch, I’d be the next dead thing, and if I couldn’t even keep them alive on the car ride home, this was going to be a bad week. But thankfully the noises would always start right back up, because chicks don’t like to be quiet.
We arrived home fine, if a bit freaked out. Well, the chickens were freaked out. I was mostly just tired of driving. Right as I got home, my mom let me know that the original box they had been in had basically disintegrated when she moved it to clean under it. This put a lot of pressure on the microwave box. It was like their home planet was destroyed, and now they were colonizing the moon, or something. Except that they have a nice coop waiting for them once my parents get back from vacation, so maybe this is much less sci-fi than I’m making it.
I brought them in the house and wasn’t even sure where I was going to fit them. Have you seen my house? It’s a mess, even in the non-chicken parts. So I suppose sticking a box full of chickens in any available free space is not a big deal, so that’s what I did. It was near an outlet, so the heat lamp was all set, and in front of a door, so if I wanted to move the whole works outside, that was almost easy enough, except for the part where you had to lean over the chickens to push the door open, and then had to move the box out before the door automatically closed back on you.
When dealing with baby chicks, my plan is always to prop the food and water up on bricks to try to limit the amount of shavings that get into the food and water. My mother commented on how her chicks liked to sit on top of the feeder and poop down into it, and I haven’t figured out a fix for that yet, but raising things up at least handles the chips.
I figured I could beat the chicks at the knocking over the water game by putting a brick in the corner of the box, putting the waterer on said brick, and then taping the waterer to the corner of the box. It worked like a charm in the sense that they couldn’t knock the water over. It worked like a curse in that they somehow managed to splash water all over the side of the box, and every day the hole this made got a little bigger, and I put a little more tape over it. It then began to spread along the bottom of the box like a lava flow. I continued to apply tape to the weak spots. I assumed that soon they might just be in a giant cube of tape. I decided to focus on silver linings, and hope that all that tape would help catch some of the dust they kicked up. No one said silver linings had to be realistic.
My water bottle tape experiment was not to last though. About two days into their stay with me, I went in to check on them, and one of them had something weird on her foot. I picked her up to see what it was, and it turned out to be the tape I had used to hold up the waterer. And it was no longer in a nice strip like when I had applied it, it was now a knotted mass wrapped around her foot like someone had tried to mummify it. This was the worst mummy movie ever. Holding her in one hand, I slowly peeled, pulled, and cajoled the tape until her foot was finally free. She had managed to even poke one of her toes through several layers of tape. This would have been hard to undo if I had two free hands to use, and I only had one, but I finally did it. It was a miracle of patience both for me and the chicken. From that point on, the water stayed untethered, and I would keep the tape to the outside of the box, trying to contain the inevitable collapse before my parents returned.