When we dismantled the fence around our hen yard and emancipated our chickens last weekend we patted ourselves on the back for doing this very farm-y thing. We could do it, we reasoned, because we’d habituated our flock to the nesting box. We had attained ‘chicken people’ status.
Ha. In a matter of days the whole affair has unraveled and our wayward hens have become the neighborhood’s #1 Menace.
Our egg acquisition has dwindled from 7 to 1 per day. Yep, we’ve got a single hen bothering to lay in the box and lord knows where the rest are ending up. Judging by the dog’s expanding girth I’d say she’s got some idea. We came home last night to zero chickens – none – within eye or earshot. An hour later they began pouring out of the woodwork, literally: out of the woods, noisily pecking and pooping their way across other people’s back yards, and one even came scrambling back from across the road.
They were an embarrassment to the family.
Then this morning, as I sat in a sunbeam enjoying a mug of joe, the god-awful racket of chickens in distress shattered my kum ba yah. The dog and I darted out across the neighbor’s yard see what the probem was – trampling upon a freshly seeded patch of earth and leaving behind flip-flop and dog paw impressions (a cop lives there so forensic evidence will unquestionably link us to this crime) – to find the man about a quarter a mile down the road chasing three of my chickens with a stick. The hens were scattering and squawking, his bathrobe-clad wife was yelling for him to stop, and he was yelling back that he certainly would not because the damned things kept pooping on his patio where decent folk were trying to walk.
I do not for one second blame that man. Had I a stick I would have gladly joined him. Ever try to catch a freaked-out chicken? There is no dignity in that activity. This fence-less free-range business will not stand.
I’ve battened down the hatches on the coop and am systematically luring my hens home with bread. I’ve got four in lock-down and don’t have a clue where the other two are. All I know for certain is that they never showed up for breakfast and will probably come stumbling home around noon looking bleary-eyed and asking if there’s any coffee left.
Tomorrow we shall put the fence back up around the hen yard and begin collecting eggs again.
Just like real chicken people do.