My chickens free-range. This means I let them out of the coop around 7:00 every morning, and they spend their days scratching in the dirt and chasing bugs. Around 6:00 in the evening, they put themselves back in the coop, and I close the door behind them.
They’re happy chickens, and they are very predator-savvy. We do have hawks, the occasional fox, and raccoons every night. We also have crows, who normally follow the foxes through the woods and call out a warning when they’re near. The chickens listen for this warning, and they’re quick to head for the coop, or for a tree, whenever it sounds.
Once in a while, a fox gets past the crows.
Frankie is fine, but a fox got her mom. I was right there, but it grabbed her so quickly, I couldn’t get to her on time.
Frankie was already pretty bonded to me, so now she insists on riding on my shoulder everywhere I go. She will sit in my pocketbook if she’s well-fed and sleepy. I feel like a poor Paris Hilton – a pocketbook chicken in place of a froofy dog.
I feel just awful about Frankie’s mom. She was a good girl – the hen who adopted another orphan chick last year. Most hens won’t do that, but she was a consummate mom. She’d take any chick and raise it as her own.
On her first day without her mom, Frankie went with me to coffee with my writer friends. Then she had a few hours in the yard, with me digging worms for her. And then, she insisted on being in my massage room while I had a (very understanding) client.
Tonight, I brought in the other chick. She, like Frankie, is weeks away from weaning age. But one orphan chick is a sad thing, and two, well, they’re already getting to like one another. And I think the other little chick is happy not to have to compete for her food.
They’re quiet now, both wrapped in little blankets under a heat lamp. And the other mom seemed happy to be able to sit all the way down on her perch rather than having to hover above her chick.
We’ll see how they do tomorrow. For now, all is as well as it can be.