A chick does a Houdini

I walked down to the allotment later this morning. There’s something about Monday mornings which, even in lockdown, seem to take more energy then any other day of the week. Upon my arrival I sat and had a chat with Geoff and Andy. Weirdly, there were very few people down on site given the sudden reappearance of summer.

After a quick drink, I pottered down to check on Leia and her chicks. As I got closer, I could hear Leia clucking away, chatting to her chicks. I was surprised to hear one chick cheeping really loudly. They don’t usually cheep loudly until they are much bigger. Seized with a sudden suspicion, I looked around the back of the coop. Sure enough, there was a small scared ball of yellow fluff wandering around the back of the nest box cheeping desperately. Inside the nest box, Leia was beginning to loose the plot. Quickly, I grabbed the chick in both hands and wrestled the nest box door open. Leia was anxiously calling for her missing chick and came at me like a manic as she spotted the chick in my hand. I thrust the chick towards Leia and slammed the door shut.

I left her for a few minutes to calm down before reopening the door. Leia was clearly still upset but more worrying was that I could only count 4 chicks. Had another one escaped?! After several tense moments, I spotted the fifth chick hidden behind Leia. Breathing a deep sigh of relief, I removed the food and water and went to refill them. When I came back I had to find how the chick had pulled a Houdini and escaped. I had built up the sides of the ramp to ensure they couldn’t get out yesterday, checked all the wire for holes and triple checked for any gaps anywhere else. So how on earth had it got out?

I walked around the coop, checking for any issues with the wire and finding nothing wrong proceeded to check for any gaps or holes where the run joins the nest box. I found a slight gap in the wire on one side and corrected it but it was too high for a chick to access. Kneeling in the run I felt around the ramp and the blockade. I discovered a small hole. I took off the ramp and removed some of the broken slabs that I had used to block the ramp sides. As I looked closer, I discovered a small section of the wire had come away from the nest box. If a chick had wriggled under the ramp, it could have easily escaped through that gap. Determined to seal it off permanently, I used a plastic grid to block the gap and then piled several broken slab pieces to keep it pressed flush against the nest box. Using some sticks and other broken pieces of brick I tried to build up the sides of the ramp but I couldn’t quite make it solid. Frustrated, I then went back to my plot and got a large slab of limestone, took off the wooden ramp and rearranged the whole thing several more times. In the end I was reasonably happy that I had blocked off any holes. As if to check my work, Leia popped out with a curious chick following. It didn’t get stuck while I was there but I decided I would pop back later to triple check Houdini hadn’t made another break for freedom!

By now, it was really hot. I filled a couple of watering cans and watered the bog garden which ironically was a little dry. I poured water down the hosepipe to ensure the base of the bog was still moist. The hose does seem to be working as far as the water goes down and stays down. Next, soaked the logs and branches surrounding the pond. The mind your own business has done well to take to its new home but it’s important to keep it from drying out. Continuing on the watering theme, Geoff gave me three lovely tomato plants which I put in a bucket with water to plant later when it was less hot.

I shut up the shed and decided to do a final check on the chicks. There was Leia, enjoying some fresh air by the nest box door, surrounded by four of her chicks with the fifth one sitting on her shoulder.

This evening, we will clear the greenhouse and patio area. It’s an overdue job that is quick to fix and it will make the top of the plot look considerably tidier. Also, we will be checking to see if all five chicks are still in their coop!

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