Even though the temperatures remain mild, the morning darkness is a reminder of winter's approach. It's after 7 a.m. and still pitch dark! I don't want to let the chickens out until the sun is up. We are still 13 weeks from our shortest day, and I am wondering how I am going to handle getting to market on Saturdays and let the chickens out before I leave, without danger to them. I have found a way to protect them from the daytime predator - the hawk. See my blog Flies, Chickens and Hawks. But if I let them out too early, there are nighttime visitors that might find them and have them for an early breakfast. I still haven't bought the electric fence, but morning's darkness may push me to get it soon, expense be damned!
This is my first year to have chickens. If you've been following this blog, you know that keeping them alive is a bit of a challenge, living as I do in the country. It is pretty wild out here. The farm is surrounded on two sides by heavy woods. There is a small river running through the back, and a pond along my lane. All of these things support wildlife. That is good news and bad news. The good news, of course, is that this place provides a haven to many wild animals. They can find food, water and shelter here. But much of the wildlife that hang around this place look on chickens as a tasty meal.
To me, they are farm animals and future eggs, and I do not want to share them with hawks, foxes and raccoons. I also happen to like them. They are such sociable little things! I love to listen to their chatter. No mind that they might eat one another under the wrong circumstances - they are quite chatty with each other on an ordinary day. There is something very calming about listening to them.
It is a nice way to start the morning, opening the door to the Moop and watching them clamber out to greet the day. It is always quiet when I go out to the Moop, but as soon as the door is open, they seem to have much to discuss. Buster, the one remaining rooster, begins his greeting to welcome the day. He doesn't have a normal crow. Instead of Cock-a-Doodle-Do, he sings out do-Cock-a-Doo! My neighbors, Mayme and Verle, tell me that different breeds have different calls, and Buster's song is not going to mature into the normal Cock-a-Doodle-Do. They say that more than likely this is it, and he is singing out the particular call of his breed. This is news to me, this variation in rooster calls among chicken breeds.
There is so much to learn. I am thankful for my neighbors, who love to share their knowledge with me. They also told me that the hawks would get the chickens if I let them run free. They were sure right about that! But they learned something from me, too. They lose a chicken now and then to the hawks in spite of the trees around their chicken yard. They were entranced by my fish line cobweb over the yard, and they are going to try it at their place.
Last night, the count was 15 chickens, 3 calves and 1 cat, and all is well here on the farm.