Restive in the cage.

By Margo True, Sunset food editor

Does any other animal grow as fast as a baby chicken?

Every morning our chicks look as if they’ve been replaced by larger versions of themselves. Larger, more energetic versions. They’re hopping around like Mexican jumping beans in there.

Especially the Ameraucanas, now at the ripe age of 5 weeks. They've developed long, glistening feathers, hawklike heads, and large blue feet with alarming nails. They jump on the water dispenser, onto the perches that Team Leader Jim put in to entertain them, and onto the other chickens. Which of course riles up the rest of the brood, and then they all start jumping. Every couple of minutes, the cage turns into a flurry of feathers and squawks.

Clearly these chickens need more space. You can practically hear them begging, “Let us out, for chirps’ sake!”

So that’s exactly what we’re going to do. They all have feathers now (some not as many, but they’ll catch up), and so can withstand the outdoors. Tomorrow morning, at 9 a.m. we will stage a ceremonial Chicken Procession from our brood’s babyhood home in the garage out to the coop. Each Team Chicken member will gently carry one chick through the offices to what will surely be poultry nirvana.

Not only will they have a handsome little house to hop around in (and, eventually, lay eggs in), but also a yard (aka playground), furnished with a fennel bush and patches of green clover sprouting through the straw. Endless hours of contented nibbling and pecking lie ahead. There’s even a miniature pine tree, saved from the yard’s previous incarnation as a koi pond, for those leaping Ameraucanas. The whole setup is roofed over and enclosed with chicken wire, to keep them safe from raccoons.

Will they be stunned? Ecstatic? Nonchalant? Check back tomorrow for a full report.

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