Chicken Massacre

Two weeks ago I heard a commotion just outside my window and then watched as two brave hens stared down a beautiful, sleek coyote.  Its fur was the exact color of the ground this season; mottled brown like dry leaves and the gray of tree shadows. I sensed that had the chickens turned and run, they would have been irresistible prey, but as the scene unfolded, the coyote seemed intimidated by the fuss of the chickens. 

I’d seen the coyote before, working at a deer carcass on the other side of Sweet William’s field; its movements dance-like, light and lithe, going back and forth around the deer, then circumscribing an area around it, disappearing, re-appearing.  On the second day I noticed large black birds scavenging at the carcasse  – crows? turkey vultures?  Bill grabbed the binoculars and laughed out loud.  Thelma and Louise, our two bravest chickens happily working away at the deer remains.

During the Great Vigil on Easter morning, Bill and I noticed a coyote trot passed the chapel while the sisters sang.  And then, last night, just after Vespers of Easter, a sister said she heard the chickens raising an alarm.  Bill ran over to St. Aidan’s to find four dying chickens on the lawn.  Six were missing.   No doubt the coyotes came in a pack surrounding the hens.

In the early twilight the six of us spread out to look in the woods for hens we hoped might be hiding, but we found nothing.  Bill had slaughtered the mauled chickens right away.   We gathered again in the cold and gathering darkness to think about how it might have been to be thoroughly dependant upon our chickens for our livelihood and survival. 

Bill spent the day today moving the hen house and creating a new enclosure – the ice took down the last one.   The nine remaining chickens will have to stay in the pen unless we’re able to take the time to watch them scratch for bugs in the woods. 

chickenI never imagined my life would bring me to a place and time where I’d develop an attachment to chickens, even while warily admiring their beautiful predators.

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