When stay at home orders were issued and schools closed in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Wheeler family had no idea that they would be cooped up with seven new housemates.
Lest you start clucking about unwanted guests, Lauren Wheeler is a preschool teacher at Wishing Well School in Los Osos where seven chickens are part of the education.
“Part of the curriculum starting in first grade is chicken care,” said Lauren. “The first, second and third graders will take care of them, clean the coop and make sure that they have water and food. Anything that they need as far structure, the upper grades help to build. The preschool and kindergarteners just get to enjoy, feed and play with them. It’s like a school wide event, chicken care is a very big part of our school.”
The hens normally live in a permanent coop on campus all year round at the school that serves pre-k through 7th grade students and follows the principles of a Waldorf education.
When schools abruptly shutdown and people were told to stay at home,
Lauren said a “kind-hearted, well-intended person kept coming by the school and leaving the run open, and we were worried the chickens may eventually succumb to a predator.”
Thus began the fowl furlough at the beach deemed “quarantine days by the sea” by the Wheelers. The birds begin their trip with a quick jaunt to their vacation home in Cayucos via tarp in the trunk of Lauren’s Prius.
“There was no cage; it was a rescue mission,” she said laughing. “They were a little freaked out at first when we put them in, but by the time we got back the cages and opened them up they’re all huddled in and cozy none of them really wanted to get out.”
This all took place at the beginning of shelter at home orders, so the Wheelers didn’t go out and buy wood or any other materials to build a coop.
Lauren’s husband found extra lumber and pieces from old sailboats around their property and built a coop. He also used sand that they had for the kids’ sandbox to limit trips into town to buy wood-chips. The So called Driftwood Inn was in business.
Should you think these chicks are cheap cheeps, they tip in eggs.
“We’re getting about five a day, so it’s a nice treat,” Lauren said.
The Driftwood Inn will not go out of business once the inaugural hens return to their roost at the school, but the no-vacancy sign will stay lit. The Wheelers enjoyed the experience so much that they got five baby chicks of their own to occupy the coop.