If you’ve been following the blog, you know we have five girls – hens, that is. They are coddled and taken care of like they are part of the family. In return, they give us five eggs a day.
They have a beautiful coop, fresh water and plenty of chicken food. We visit them at least twice a day and give them a BOUNTY of chicken scratch and kitchen scraps (like strawberry tops, lettuce leaves, asparagus stalks, etc.). In the winter they get a night light and a heat lamp when it’s cold.
It was with a lot of anxiety the first time we let them out of the coop to “free range” for an hour or so. They strut and scratch at the dirt, gobble up bugs and peck at the leaves. They enjoy their time out of the coop, and Chris had pretty much trained them to a yellow, children’s size hoe. I read that in a blog somewhere. They used a yellow child’s hoe to gently corral the hens back into their coop, and over time, all they had to do was lift the yellow hoe and the hens would run back to the coop.
Our hens aren’t quite that cooperative. One scout hen usually returns to the coop, checks to see if their “treat” is there yet (a can of cracked corn), and then alerts the rest of the girls that it is time to come back in. Those other hens usually needed a little nudging with the yellow hoe to get them back in the coop, but we had a good routine going.
Until last Sunday.
We worked hard all day clearing brush on the hillside, took a shower and decided to settle in with a cold drink down by the chicken coop and let the girls have a run. And run they did. For the first time ever they headed for the hills into the thick, impenetrable (for humans) brush — overgrown bushes full of thorns, poison ivy and ticks. Off they went for an adventure.
No amount of calling, shaking the can of corn, begging or pleading would bring them back. Chris and I both made attempts to climb through the brush, got cut by thorns, whacked in the face with branches, and probably brushed up against poison ivy. Finally we called the search and rescue off and decided they would either come home, or they wouldn’t.
It was a quiet dinner that night while we mourned the loss of our chickens. Chris felt guilty for turning his back on them for a few seconds. I was busy trying to rethink what’s for dinner this week since we probably wouldn’t be having quiche on Tuesday night. And we kept taking turns getting up to check and see if they were back in the coop yet.
Finally, about 7:30, they came marching back, on their own, and went right into the coop. I figured they would, even though I worried that they wouldn’t. I mean where else would they get such tender loving care. There’s no place like home.
We’ve grounded them, at least for a while, or until Chris recovers from almost losing his girls.