Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Anarchy in the Henhouse

I have surrendered to the "powers that be" regarding the main chicken coop, which houses the older hens, the ducks and the geese.

The one with the black snakes and coyote.

I supply food and water, and look on with curiousity and some odd blend of skepticism and trepidation. It's all out of my control.

The grey goose is sitting on eggs, 7 last time I checked. One night I found her off the nest, and a black snake was trying to get its mouth around a goose egg. I went and got leather gloves, and removed the blacksnake from the egg and carried it to the galvanized shed, all the way admonishing it to leave the nest eggs alone. The sight of it trying to swallow an entire goose egg was really quite ludicrous. Talk about optimism!

Both of the little female Muscovy ducks are sitting on nests. Usually there is a hen sharing each nest...they have each picked out a spot on the floor by the south wall. Now and then I try to pick up a duck and peek, but they hiss and strike so mostly I leave them alone. They are sitting on a random mix of chicken and duck eggs. The drakes are both non-Muscovy. It seems like I've heard that they don't interbreed, so I'm not sure if anything will hatch. Likewise, I'm not sure how old the male goose is. They are usually not fertile their first year (or was that the females?) But the sitting birds will not be convinced to do otherwise, so I just let them sit.

The snakes are robbing the duck/hen nests, of course. One afternoon I went out to check something, and a black snake was trying to get at the nest by the door. The valiant little duck was viciously stabbing the snake with her leathery bill, much to the consternation of the snake whose body is bigger around than the duck's head. The snake decided to try another path...straight towards my feet, about a foot away. I stood very still for a few moments, trying to decide what I would do it it started to climb my leg. On the one hand, that seems like a little too much invasion of my personal space, no matter how much I appreciate snakes. On the other hand, it would be interesting to feel what it's like to have that large a snake climb up a leg.

All in all, I think my knee would have been the utmost limit. But the snake curved around the wall instead of continuing its trajectory towards me, looking to find a way under to get at the nest from a protected side. Finding none, he doubled back and tried to go far enough around to escape the duck's relentless attack. Eventually the snake gave up and went off.

I am thinking more and more seriously about getting a cell phone that takes photos, for moments like that. They are so expensive...but the digital camera is bulky, and I rarely just carry it around all the time.

The other day I found the gate slightly ajar, and thought the coyote had grown an opposable thumb. What next? But when I searched the house for signs of a missing chicken, all I found amiss was that the feed pans were totally empty and tossed around. That didn't look like the work of the coyote. Then Eider, one of the "yard sheep", said "Baaaa"and stuck her nose in the gate, looking for seconds. No vegetarian coyote, after all! There is an extra latch on the gate now, since too much grain of any kind can hurt or kill a sheep by upsetting the intestinal balance of microbes, pH, etc.

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