Wednesday, December 01, 2010

A close call

Pearl safely back in the run.
Sibella and the dogs up the street had been barking off and on all morning. I figured one of the neighbors' dogs was running loose, but with Sibella on guard I decided to risk letting the chickens out for some free-range time.

They'd been out an hour or so when Sibella sounded the alarm again. When it escalated from a few concerned woofs to hysterical barking, I jumped up and ran to the door. Huddled together on the porch—outside the minimal safety of the fence—were the chickens, and loping casually up the driveway was a coyote.

Ordinarily a visit from a big predator would be cause for celebration, but the chickens have colored our attitudes toward them. We still love and respect coyotes, foxes, ringtails, hawks, owls, etc., but we're also well aware of the danger they pose to our girls. If ever a predator hurt or killed one, we'd have no one but ourselves to blame. That would be hard to live with.

I watched for a few seconds to see if the coyote would turn back toward the house, then opened the door to let the chickens inside and led Sibella into the bedroom (she's not bird-friendly). The girls spent an hour or so in the house, which they love, but could not be persuaded to go back outside, even for a delicious bowl of oatmeal garnished with shredded cheese. I finally had to carry them one by one back to the run.

I'm not sure the girls even saw the coyote. It's their habit to come stand by the kitchen door after they've been out a while, waiting for me to bring out their treats. When other things alarm them—big shadows overhead, quail flushing, etc.—they usually respond by going back into their enclosed run, hiding inside their coop, or taking refuge under the porch or the chairs on the patio. I'm also unsure whether the coyote would have been brazen enough to walk right up onto the porch with Sibella barking from inside, but they're awfully smart critters, and this one was fearless enough to be strolling around the neighborhood in broad daylight.

At any rate, Sibella is the hero of the day, the girls are confined to quarters until further notice, and I'm going to have a restless night dreading the coyote's return. —SW

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