(Original photo stolen from this site)
Caramel, the oldest of our hens at about five years, decided she had had enough of her hen house. Perhaps it was the frenzied attentions of the rooster, Chicken Dinner, who streaked across the yard at full speed to rape whichever hen was unlucky enough to catch his eye. (I never wanted a rooster, and you can read about how Chicken Dinner came to live with us here.) So about two weeks ago Caramel started hanging out under the bottle brush bushes outside my bedroom window. She could not be herded back, nor would she allow me to pick her up to move her. I worried that she would forget where food and water were (chickens have remarkably small brains) so the kids and Chas, with their somewhat larger brains, wisely set up special feeders for Caramel.
She then made camp on our front porch.
Every night for nearly two weeks she slept a few inches above the ground, on the step. I tried putting a 3-sided box over her for shelter from the morning dew, but she crawled out to sleep next to the box.
I worried about the fox.
While a fox would never come up onto our porch, even before dawn, I knew that Caramel would get an early start on the bugs and seeds in the yard and near the road, where the fox would dare to venture. One day Caramel would definitely wake up too early, shuffle out to the road, and meet the fox.
I thought that day had come Tuesday morning.
I looked out my window at first light to see if Caramel was on the lawn, and I saw feathers in the middle of the road. Fluffy downy feathers, the ones that are closest to the chicken's skin and keep her warm -- the ones you don't see unless a predator has yanked them from a hen and spilled them all over the road. I thought my hen was surely gone. But in the afternoon my mom called me at work to update me. "Caramel is at our house," said Mom. "She's been over here all day, and she's fine." Mom and Dad live across the road, about an eighth of a mile walk, hen house to hen house. That chicken had covered some ground.
"Oh, thank goodness," I said. "And she doesn't look beaten up -- like a fox took a chunk out of her?" I asked.
"No," said Mom, then added with a twinkle in her voice, "Your father said she showed up here with a dead fox in her mouth."
This is farm humor. I like it.
More tomorrow. You can't have too much chicken information in one day. You have to pace yourself.