If you’ve stumbled past ye old blog previously, you might recall that I have a backyard flock of poultry. Chickens are entertaining. They can also be expensive little buggers. My first flock came with the house – along with two cats – and one incredibly loud Guinea hen. We had about a dozen birds.
Then the neighbor’s dogs came a’visiting and we had seven. Then we had three. Already there’s a pattern developing, right?
Spring rolled around and we decided to renew the flock. We tightened pen security and visited the local feed store for chicks. We brought home thirty fluffy babies. Yes, thirty. It was hard to say no. Despite monumental odds, we ended up with only two roosters. Considering they were free-run (not sexed) this was remarkable. Our luck ended there.
Everything loves the taste of chicken. E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. Over the course of several years our flock dwindled. Chickens aren’t the smartest bird in the pasture. Some of them will walk right up to the coyote and squawk at them. You can imagine what happens next.
Over the last decade we battened down the hatches until the dilapidated little barn which currently houses our birds is a virtual Fort Knox of coops. Mostly. It’s been almost two years since Bald Eagles wiped out our flock the last time. You read that right. Turns out the symbol of our nation also thinks chicken is pretty tasty – enough so that they ate every last one.
The barn sat empty for a year because I couldn’t stand the thought of offering up more free meals. Coming up with a plan that provided protection for the poultry without turning them into prisoners required planning. I built our flock back up little by little, taking in the mature birds other folks were ready to boot to the curb. I collected six chicks from a friendly lady (not so friendly as it turned out since half of them were roosters) and Mystery Chicken who periodically shows up and moves in for a while but then disappears again.
We had a few losses (sneaky owl) that taught us to close up increasingly small gaps in the security but for the last year we’ve had nothing but natural losses. Until January of this year. The weather was cold so I’d taken to leaving the gate open for the chickens to come out and forage. The day it snowed I decided to lock them up and instead of sixteen there were only thirteen birds waiting outside the barn. Like the warden ordering a lockdown, the birds got confined for a month. No foraging time means bored birds. Bored birds are naughty birds. That means I need to provide extra amusement and feed. Now that we’re closing in on spring, they’re excited about the prospect of escaping into the yard but until the weather warms up and easy dinner presents itself somewhere else, our chickens are off the menu. Again.