Dollops of color bobbing over the pasture and yard make me smile. These feathered punctuation marks pecking and scratching their way from one end of our property to the other are every bit as good as a tail-wagging dog to greet me at the door when it comes to making my heart sing.
Listening to their clucks, chirps, and squawks as they celebrate a tasty grasshopper or a successfully laid egg thrills my ear just as much as a saucy zydeco tune makes my toes tap and my hands clap. These are a few reasons to explain why I am the chicken lady even though it means breaking ice and shoveling paths to the chicken house in the winter or finding someone to look out for them when we go on vacation.
Even cracking their eggs each morning for breakfast or to bake a cake reminds me why I love free range chickens. These yolks are so firm and orange-yellow they don’t compare to an anemic grocery store egg. When we have guests who have never seen a “happy chicken” egg yolk, they marvel at the difference.
Lately, we’ve had some chicken stress on our hilltop. This summer a redtail hawk family threatened my flock, but they soon learned to take shelter when they heard that unique scree or saw those lurking shadows from overhead. After surviving that threat, something more insidious invaded our neighborhood, considerably diminishing my bright flock.
We tried calling in this critter, assuming it was a coyote. If it is a coyote, it is particularly wily and does not respond to a champion coyote caller’s expertise. We finally jailed the flock in their covered pen and set live traps, thinking we might lure the creature in with the thought of all those chicken dinners waiting on the roost. Nope, we caught a bunny that wandered through the door.
So far, this creature has outwitted us, which reminds me of a fox that once raided our chicken house to the tune of twenty-four hens before we finally nabbed it. We desperately tried everything that year, including putting trimmings from our haircuts and pouring the contents of our toddler daughter’s potty chair around the boundaries of the chicken yard. We locked the flock up behind a high fence and still that fox found its way over the fence to snag chicken after chicken. It gave me a new understanding of the old adage about a fox in a hen house. Nothing is safe.
I still don’t know what is preying on my girls, and it makes me sad to put them under lockdown when I know how much they love to roam through the grasses pecking and scratching their way to chicken bliss. However, until we find the culprit that would leave me with empty egg cartons, the ladies will have to spend their days waiting for kitchen scraps and layer ration in a chicken yard protected on six sides by predator-proof fencing. We did learn something from that fox.