LAKE PLACID — The chickens at the Friedlander residence are more than just pets to 12-year-old Addie — they’re her passion.
Addie said she remembers the exact moment she fell in love with her feathered friends; it happened while doing her barn chores at North Country School in Lake Placid.
Assigned to chicken duty for her second barn chore, in September 2010, Addie became fascinated with the animals. The students go into the barn and bring the chickens out of the boxes very carefully so they can get some exercise and eat.
“Sometimes the chickens are still in the nesting box keeping the eggs warm,” Addie said. “I got to take one out, and the feathers were really soft. I was in love.”
Every two weeks, students at the boarding school rotate assigned jobs such as composting; tending to the farm’s horses, pigs, sheep and goats; and raking leaves to help take care of the facilities.
PERSISTENCE PAYS OFF
Addie said the hands-on approach gives them a lot of experience to learn about the environment and sustainability.
After falling in love with the birds, Addie wrote her mom, Trish Friedlander, a persuasive essay, pleading for chickens to call her own.
“I said absolutely not,” Trish said. “(But) Addie kept coming home with information” and proved that it could be real “and it wouldn’t be that difficult.”
Addie persisted for months, Trish said, until she finally caved and told her daughter she could have chickens. One need remained, however: a coop.
With help from Nip Rogers, a local friend and artist in the area, Addie and her mother began brainstorming plans to build a coop in the spring.
Using mostly recycled materials from the dump and leftover shingles from a roofing job that Rogers’ brother had recently finished, they all worked together to build the colorful coop for Addie’s chickens. But a few months later, they would find a small mistake in the construction plans.
The first batch of chickens, five New Hampshire reds, were acquired from a neighbor who was moving out of the area. The chickens met an unexpected fate in November last year when a fox swiped them from underneath the fence.
“Addie had gotten back from school; it was about 4:30 p.m.,” Trish said. “It was just turning dark, and she came back crying and said the chickens weren’t there and all there were were feathers.
“The next morning, we saw the hole where they (the chickens) were dug out and a trail of feathers. They are her pets. She was very upset.”
Addie did some research, and she said she knew it was a fox because all predators have different techniques for attacking their prey. She found that it was typical for a fox to drag their food away instead of eating it on the spot. She knew exactly what had happened when she saw the feathers leading to the woods.
Addie’s mom said it was only a couple of months before she asked if she could start over with a new batch — but this time she wanted chicks.
This past January, a local farmer and friend of the family was ordering a batch of Araucanas, or “Easter-egg chicks” because of the blue and green eggs they lay, and Trish added to the order for Addie.
Using her own savings, Addie said, she went to the bank and asked for a bunch of $2 bills, “just to make it special,” and ordered her seven chicks: Flappers, Tupelo Honey, Fluff-Fluff, Tica, Fenway, Hermione and Peep.
While waiting for the chicks to arrive, Trish and Addie attended a Cornell Cooperative Extension farming and agricultural forum at Heaven Hill, near Lake Placid, to get more education and prepare for the new babies.
“I was asking the most questions out of anybody there,” Addie said.
The forum featured a board of local farmers to answer questions, and Addie took advantage of the opportunity. She said she asked the professionals everything she could think of, including what type of chickens did best in the cold weather and how to protect them from predators using a different fence.
The board recommended building the fence around the coop a little deeper and in an “L” shape so the predators wouldn’t be able to dig directly under.
Her main question, she said, was: “Is there any reason why the chicks can’t live in my room?”
They said no, so “obviously,” Trish said, “I had to say yes, too.”
Once the chicks were too old to live inside, the family moved them to an enclosed porch for about a month.
“You have to be careful; they’re so little. Hawks or other animals will get them,” Trish said, adding that they were there for a month before being moved into the coop.
Addie said she loves her chickens because they’re different than cats or dogs.
She goes out to the coop and gives her pets a gallon of water a day and makes sure the feeder isn’t empty. She said she cleans the coop — including the poop — and said she doesn’t mind anything but the smell.
“I want to have chickens forever,” Addie said. “They make good friends.”