If I wanted to keep my hens safe from sheep hooves, hawks and dogs, I'd lock them inside the chicken house.
The desire to stretch their wings, fly, scratch and peck, roam, is embedded in their DNA.
Each morning, I let them out of the hen house to go about their daily business of being chickens.
Each evening, after they return to roost, I lock them in.
But every once in a while -- about once or twice a year -- the number returning is one less.
That happened yesterday when I went outside to do the evening chores.
I spotted the hen immediately. Her lifeless body lay next to the fence that separated the ram and sheep pens. Apparently she'd flown into the ram pen and was unable to escape the territorial ram.
Picking her up, I took her in the barn where I removed the yellow leg band that signified a 2011 model.
Then, I scooped up some scratch grain and offered it to the remaining hens and roosters who cooed and scratched and strutted and delighted in the late afternoon snow.