We have been considering getting new chickens for a while, so when my work colleague, also an urban hippie, said she was heading to a heritage chicken farm we agreed to tag along. Last time we got new chickens, the existing chickens killed one of the two young pullets, so this time I knew we had to come up with a bigger, but enclosed, yard for them to live in.
We began our day by heading to the chicken farm. We talked with the staff a little about the kinds of chickens, sorted out which two we were going to buy and which ones we were going to order and then spent a very enjoyable half an hour strolling amongst all the breeding chickens and discussing pros, cons and aesthetics of different breeds. The kids saw real roosters up close, some as big as Rhiannon, beautiful hens, discussed the physical differences between roosters and hens, care and keeping and design of coops. Before we left we also saw geese and ducks and watched the chickens kill and eat a mouse (so, yes, chickens are omnivores).
We brought the new girls home and let the loose in the greater back yard. Caitlin, our ISA Brown who believes she is a human and owns the greater backyard, came to tell us of her displeasure. Begin our first day of natural learning. I told the kids that we would be doing school today, Saturday is normally a school day, and waited for the groans. It was great to tell them that today our school would be - a chicken coop! Well, the frowns turned upside down! I put them in charge, explained what area of the yard we had to use and let them figure out how they would go about it. Rhiannon put herself in charge of measuring, Vince ran off to get pencil and paper and began calculating how many posts we would need.
I had to help Rhiannon in how to use a measuring tape. Vince also helped, using his good manners. In about 15 minutes we had discussed how to measure the perimeter of an irregular polygon, used the measuring tape, done the maths to work out the length of wire we needed and used geometry and division to figure out how many posts. Rhiannon and Vince both wrote part of the measurements down and wrote the shopping list for the hardware store.
On the way to the hardware store we stopped at the library. Vince and Rhiannon used the catalogue to search for books - Rhiannon for chicken books and Vince for the next book in a series he is enjoying. Anni retrieved the chicken books from the adult non-fiction section and Vince from the junior. Anni dived into the adult section books immediately and we had to pull her away to check out.
At the hardware store Rhiannon was in charge of shopping. She led us with her own cart and we organised the shopping list into types of items and headed off to the aisles in the order she set. Vince added thoughtful insights and came up with some good ideas on the fly for fixing the wire to the posts (we hadn't thought of this at home). By now I'm starting to get a bit tired and we head home.
When we arrive home I am shocked - both kids volunteered to get items out of the car, apologised for not doing enough to help and then, politely, argued over who was going to help with what. It took about an hour, but they both helped set up the new coop fence, rearrange the tractor, feed and water. It took a bit to catch Choc Choc, the new brown Leghorn, and put her in the coop - she is going to be a clever one!
Overall, a very successful day, more enjoyable and with much more learning willingly completed than a typical Saturday. I think this might just work out.