Sunday, May 13, 2007

What a Funny Bird

I'm awake and writing at a rare hour for me--7 a.m. Anyone who knows me, knows I am NOT by nature a morning person. Though probably I need to start acting like one, as the weather warms up. I also am generally reluctant to go out to do farm work early in the morning this time of year because I don't like having cold wet feet from dewy grass, nor then ending up out in the garden in hot rubber boots a couple hours later.

It was barely after 6 a.m., still misty dawn, when Luna (spending the night in the entryway) woke me with ferocious barking. When I stumbled to the back door to let her out into the dog pen, I saw the source of her fury: the coyote, diligently trotting after a chicken in the chicken coop. I yelled, and he stopped in his tracks and looked at me. I yelled again, and he loped to the far end of the pen and sort of wafted to the top of the corner post in a a single, effortless bounce--5' high and about 10" in diameter. He stood there for a minute, watching me, perfectly balanced on 4 paws on that small circle of post-top, as motionless as a red-tail hawk along the roadside. Then he sprang down the other side and ran off across the neighbor's corn field.

A little later, a second time, drawn by more barking, I went to the window in the other bedroom (perhaps I should move into that room, and sleep with the windows open? A day of painting stands in the way). He was in the back yard this time, between the brooder house and the main coop, silhouetted against sunlit dew-drenched grass. I am suddenly very conscious of how tiny and defenseless are the lambs in the yard flock (all less than a month old). Pure grace, long-legged and slender, with a huge bushy tail angling down at a 45 degree angle from his back, and pointy ears and face at full alert, he stood facing me. When I yelled, he loped to the fence between the back yard and the east paddock where the rams are grazing. Without breaking stride he passed THROUGH one of the 6" x 8" openings in the middle of cattle panel, as if it weren't there. (Pam, my Border Collie mentor, has mentioned some BCs have this uncanny ability to shape-shift and penetrate cattle panels. This animal is leggier than a BC, but probably more selnder of body, so I do believe my eyes.)

A little while later, more furious barking. I went and yelled out the window again. The coyote was in the chicken pen again; as I yelled he stopped and stared me down again, then bounded out by way of the corner post, perching there for some time with bird-like grace.

Yet a little later, as I'm typing, the sheep all turned to watch a rabbit running non-stop (rare for a rabbit, for such a distance) the full length of the back yard. I'm hoping the coyote opted for a rabbit breakfast, after being denied his rooster three times.

In addition to arranging the chicken pen so that they can be secure without being shut in their tiny house (prone to ammonia buildup in wet weather when I don't have time to clean it--and their water isn't in there because the ducks and geese would keep the house constantly wet if it were), I think it's time to merge the two ewe flocks (early lambing and late lambing) together, so they can share the llama as a protector against the coyote. I've never lost a lamb to a coyote before, but it's something I don't want to start. A hen can be bought or sold for about $5-7. A lamb, reaching slaughter size, represents a cash flow of several hundred dollars...with a significant part of the expenses being the maintenance of the ewe during pregnancy, so these little ones are already a sizeable investment.

1 comment:

Wandering Coyote said...

Oh, those pesky coyotes. What can I say, we're wiley to say the least! Having a llama around is a good idea, though. I've heard they're great protectors against coyotes.