Monday, December 18, 2017

A Haunted Chicken House?

Winter in Ohio means doing chores in the grey and the dark.

The grey was darkening as I closed the sheep gate a few days ago, and heard the pounding on a window. Glancing at the old chicken house, I saw a shadow.

The chickens moved out of the old chicken house months ago. They are now living in a house with windows that close and few, if any, drafts. After their departure, we closed the windows and doors of the old chicken house.

Pound, pound.

Something was definitely in the chicken house. I stopped and looked at the dust-covered window.

A bird, big and pale, with long tail feathers, flapped against the window.

A hawk? Could a hawk get into the chicken house?

Pound, pound.

He definitely couldn't get out.

I walked around to the chicken house door and debated my next move. If I opened the door, would he come flying at the opening and my face?

Approaching the door sideways, I unlatched it, stepped to the side and kicked it open.


I peeked inside.

The Cooper's hawk, or chicken hawk, sat on the perch, staring. He was neither going to thank me nor scold me for coming to his aid.

I left the door open for him and finished the evening chores. When I returned to the chicken house, he was gone. So, too, I realized, were the huge flocks of starlings and sparrows who had made the chicken house their home.

For more info on the Cooper's hawk, click here.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Trickster Goes Herding

Cold weather and short days make for a bored barn cat.

When Trick the Cat spotted Emma the Border Collie and me trekking toward the sheep pasture, he fell into line behind us. And when Emma brought the sheep to the gate, he stood smack dab in the middle and dared the sheep to walk by.

The ewes gathered around the 12-pound cat and sniffed him. One rubbed her nose against his back. The cat purred in delight.

Emma looked at me. I shooed the cat aside so that the sheep could pass and Emma could work.

As Emma drove the sheep around the wheat field, I walked behind her, and Trick behind me.

"You are so in the way," I told the cat who happily ambled along, enjoying his break from snoozing on top of the hay bales.

"You could spend more time catching mice," I told him.

Yesterday I spotted a mouse feasting on the Broken-Legged Hen's food. I scooped Trick up from his the hay bale and tried to place him in the stall with Broken-Legged Hen and the mouse.

He yowled and braced, claws extended. No way was he stepping one paw into the pen with Broken-Legged Hen.

I relented.

Trick the Cat has survived 10-plus years on the farm. No barn cat gets to be that old without being an excellent judge of character.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Things We Do...

For weeks we had our nightly ritual. After dark, I'd step into the horse stall, walk around the two Haflingers, scoop up the hen and carry her to the hen house.

"You are a chicken. You live in the chicken house," I told her.

She ruffled her feathers and returned to the horse stall every morning.

"Fine. Live in the horse stall," I said.

And, then the horse stepped on her and injured her leg.

"A horse stall is no place for an injured chicken," I said, scooping her up and carrying her to the hen house.

She stayed there for two days before she walked one-legged back to the horse stall.

So we compromised.

I put her in a horse stall without a horse, and agreed to bring her food and water every morning and night. She agreed to be waited on and to squawk her disapproval with me daily.

We're week 2 into the agreement and it seems to be working so far.