The Mother Hen

On Thursday night the weather was quite nice and the kids were outside jumping on the trampoline. I decided to let the geese and chickens out of their coops and hang around the yard to keep them safe from the foxes. I haven't been letting the chickens out at all since last spring when they all became dinner for the three baby foxes who later ate the gosling. I don't usually let them out much in the summer anyway to preserve the garden, but a couple summers ago I discovered that I could keep them out of the garden if I was running the sprinkler. So I would try and let them out every time I watered. A sprinkler doesn't keep the fox away, however.

But back to the story. I let all the birds out. I even opened up the roost of the chicken coop and shooed out the hens that were up there hiding from the rooster. Little did I know....

After an hour or so, I rounded up the geese and then started working on the chickens. They don't herd as well as the geese and are not really trained to go back into their coop when the dog attempts to round them up. (We have had chickens in the past that would see the dog coming and high-tail it back to the coop!) These chickens are also new enough and haven't been let out enough that unfortunately, they didn't even know that the coop is the safest place at night and that is where they should run for shelter from the dog, the rooster, or even me and the kids wielding our "chicken sticks." After much effort, we got as many chickens as we could find into the coop and then I counted. There were only 8 instead of 10. I counted again. The hens that were missing were the ones I had shooed out of the roost. We looked around the yard, and looked some more. Fairly certain that they were just hiding and not eaten, we went back inside but came back out two or three more times as darkness fell.

As luck would have it, it was the best night to view the Perseid meteor shower so every time I went out to look for chickens I got to see meteors, until I finally gave up around midnight. I decided to get up early in the morning because I was nearly positive that those chickens were still in hiding and not the fox's dinner.

Around 5:30 the next morning I went outside in the near darkness and waited for the sun to come up. I walked around looking for the chickens, hitting bushes and trees with my chicken stick, trying to make one make a noise. Then I sat on the steps of the back deck and just waited.

I was reminded that we do technically live in a city by the helicopter and small plane overhead, and the sound of traffic a half-mile away. But I was also reminded that we live in a little pocket of country. As the light began to get brighter, I could hear an owl hooting in the trees in the distance. On one of my rounds of the yard, I looked up and less than forty feet from me was a young three-point buck, munching on the apples that have fallen off our tree. I could hear the apples crunching in his mouth, and now I know why Susan at Farmgirl Fare carries her camera with her everywhere she goes. There was no way I was going to move and try to go inside for my camera. That deer and I must have watched each other for ten minutes before he finally decided to take off. Then, in the distance, I could see four foxes playing in the field behind our house.

Then, all of a sudden, there was a chicken. I am pretty sure that she appeared from the same clump of bushes that she had disappeared into the previous night. The same clump of bushes that I had poked and prodded more than once with my chicken stick. She got spooked and flew into a different bush, but we were just glad she was alive. While I got the girls off to school my oldest son was on fox watch and when I was free again, the first bush I whacked with my stick was the right one. We managed to get the chicken caught and safely back into the coop.

For the rest of the day we kept looking for the lost chicken. The weather was gorgeous so when I wasn't outside, the windows were open. I was still almost positive that the last hen hadn't been eaten and that she was still in hiding. What amazed me was the fact that she had been so quiet and still for so long. I knew she would get hungry and thirsty eventually though.

By late afternoon I had just about given up on finding her. I did find a lost garden tool that had been missing for a couple of months. I thought that I had put it away in the shed but it was missing. I blamed a toddler for its disappearance and knew it would probably turn up eventually. And it did. YAY! It was my favorite weeder. Anyway, I was tired from getting up so early after getting to bed so late and spending so much energy on that silly chicken. But after the effort I went to get the breeds of chickens that I wanted, I was not about to just let the fox eat my hens. I was able to steal a few a minutes (and I quite literally mean a few...it was only three or four) to lay down on my bed in my dark bedroom before I had to start making dinner. The phone rang and it was my dad. I started telling him about our day and about how I had just about given up on the last chicken and one of the kids came in to my room and said that they had found her! I got off the phone and found out that she just appeared in the yard, just like the other one had in the morning.

It was quite an effort to get her back into the coop, one that involved an escaping rooster, the rooster cornered by the dog, using the hose to flush the hen out of the trees, and throwing the dog's spare blanket over a couple of different chickens to safely and calmly return them to the henhouse.

At the end of the day, I had ten chickens again. How lucky, that the foxes stayed out of the yard. How amazing, that those two hens could hide so well and not be found.

Once again, just another day at the farm.