I’m writing this up while I wait for my lunch to heat up in our half-dead microwave, so please forgive me if it’s more disjointed than usual, and forgive the lack of photos.
Last night, as dusk settled in upon us, I was in the driveway sweeping mulch remains out of my dad’s truck bed. Hearing a very odd noise from the chicken coop, I looked over and saw one of the girls fly up the chain link fence, hit the netting and fall back down. The odd sounds continued.
Concerned, I went quickly back and looked in. All five girls were there, making petrified little shrieking noises, sounding somewhat like they were being tortured. They didn’t calm down after a moment, so I went in to sit with them. Four of them immediately hopped up onto me, including Cricket and Chickenhead (two who ordinarily will only come near me if I have food, and never stand for petting.) Both of them wanted pets and all four cuddled as close up to me as they possibly could, emitting these tormented, piteous sounds.
Henry remained independently running around the coop, but was making the same terrified noises.
Gia, Nox, Chickenhead and Cricket were all absolutely inconsolable. I spent a good 15 minutes petting them, making soothing sounds, trying to calm them down, but to very little avail. After a time, I dislodged them from my bosom, shoulders, head and lap, and looked up into the tree branches to see if an owl, racoon or other threat were present. I couldn’t see any. I saw no signs of a fox or other critter having dug at the fenceline. I was flummoxed, but I believed them. Something was amiss.
The night before, I’d left the door to the chicken house open. It was a very warm night, and I didn’t want them to overheat, but also didn’t want to turn off the lamp in case it got chilly, as Michigan spring nights tend to do. I felt they were pretty secure.
Ok, PLUS, it’s still light out when I want to get ready for bed, and they simply don’t want to go into the house until it’s dark. So, it was practical and a bit lazy. Also, it gets light now at about 5:30am, and they want out when the sun rises.
Last night, though, with all the furor, I figured I’d better tuck them into the house. Chickenhead was nearest, so I gently carried her to the house and placed her inside. She wasn’t overwhelmingly excited about the idea, and stood very tall, making uncertain sounds, terribly alert. The other girls wouldn’t come near.
Usually, food is quite the enticer with this bunch – what can we say, they take after their mom. I rattled the food tray and the food storage can, and they came nearer, but not close. I was crouched directly in front of the door to the dog/chicken house, with the food tray on the bottom of the doorway. As I was about to pour a scoop of chicken feed into the tray, a plump, dark snake slitered out from under the chicken house, right in between my feet. Gah!
“Well, no wonder you ladies are all upset,” I said, as I did my best Crocodile Hunter impression, plucking the little guy up by the tail. He thrashed around, and bit my fingers repeatedly until I got a better grasp closer to his head. He still tried, but succeeded less as I carried him 200 or so feet back to the trees, where I released him.
I went back and soothed the girls some more. After a few minutes, they let me herd them into the house, where they all piled on top of each other in a corner, still peeping and clucking anxiously. They did not want to leave that corner – until I filled up the food tray. Then they came to their senses a bit, and pecked at the food.
They seemed settled enough, and just in case there was another, unseen danger, I locked them in and called it a night, unplugging the heat lamp so they wouldn’t swelter. Mike Neir the Engineir is working on a very slick little device that will automatically control the lights based on time and temperature – pretty snazzy!
I am very pleased they all came to me for safety (ok, not Henry, but she’s Different,) and let me console them. And I’m very happy I believed them when they said something was wrong, too. The little snake was probably a garter snake, and therefore after their food, or the shade under the house or any number of other things, but it was too dark to see it well at all. It in all likelihood couldn’t have hurt them, but I think there’s an instinctive fear of predator-shaped things that told the chickens it wasn’t a good thing to have in there. Still, it was scary to them, they didn’t like it, and I removed it for them. Yay, ChickenMom!
He was either there all along, or slithered in through that stinking 4-inch stretch of fence where the hardware cloth didn’t reach. It’s possible he could have been hiding in the tall grass and under the house the whole time, completely undetected. Either way, I hope that’s the last we see of unauthorized critters in the chicken coop!
The girls seem to be doing quite well. They are enormous and are making more grown-up hen sounds than baby peeps. They like running around and chasing flying insects. A few days ago, they got the frozen veggies that were getting tossed for staleness, and absolutely loved them. The corn and breaded okra were huge hits.
I have a patio chair set up next to their outside roost, and we hang out there together in the evenings. Gia, and sometimes Nox, will come perch up on my legs for pets and to take a nap, while the other girls will hover nearby. It’s nice. It’s peaceful and calming.
I love having chickens.