Notes From a First Time Front Yard Farmer: Free Bird

A couple of weeks ago my neighbor gave us her two chickens, Flash and Olive. She’s moving soon, and can’t take them with her cross country. I knew my flock would not take kindly to the additions, so I put the wall back up in the divided coop, and my husband built a little run inside of the larger chicken run so Flash and Olive could be out among the greater flock, without anyone getting hurt.  It was a good thing we did.

The first day Flash and Olive came out into the little run, Pops, our rooster, tried to attack.  His feet got tangled in the chicken wire, and there was an off and on ruckus for the rest of the day.  It calmed down the next day, and has remained calm for the past week and a half.  This week I decided it was time for Flash and Olive to truly be with the greater flock.  I let them all out together, and there were feet and feathers flying everywhere.  At one point, Olive sat on our Silky rooster, Dandelion. He totally disappeared under her bulk, until Pops flew over and knocked her off.

Today, they all seemed to be getting used to each other much better.  There was hardly any squawking or fighting, until this afternoon when the chickens all started giving the danger warning. My husband and our friend Pat, who was over for pie and tea, and I looked out the window to see what the problem was, usually it’s just a bird hanging out in a tree nearby. Pat said he saw something that looked like an albino rat.  My husband looked at the white critter bounding around in the swamp, and confirmed it was indeed an ermine (a short tailed weasel or stoat).

An ermine, or stoat in it's natural habitat. "Mustela erminea winter Steven Hintderivative work: Guerillero"
An ermine, or stoat in it’s natural habitat.
“Mustela erminea winter Steven Hintderivative work: Guerillero”

An ermine scoping out the chickens has put us and them all on edge.  If it gets into the coop it can go into a killing frenzy and slaughter all the chickens.  I have been looking out the window with every squawk this evening, which turned out to be a good thing.  Flash, apparently tired of his second rate status, had decided to fly out.

Flash standing on top of the little run after we got him back in, looking very pleased with himself.
Flash standing on top of the little run after we got him back in, looking very pleased with himself.

Honestly, I’m surprised he managed it.  I heard the chicken alarm sounds, and went to look out the window, only to see Flash strutting around the side yard, looking very proud of himself. My husband, son, and I ran out to try and get him back in. Owen stood by the run door, holding it open, and making sure none of the other chickens made a dash for it. Dave and I tried to herd Flash back in. I thought he would stay close to the house, but he headed down the hill into the swamp instead. I guess he wanted to meet the ermine, or the fox. We ran through the rose thorn thickets after him, crashing through bare willow tree branches, and climbing over logs. Eventually we chased him back up the hill, and got him back in.

Our swamp in the evening light.
Our swamp in the evening light.

After picking thorns out of my jeans and socks, it’s time for a relaxing book and tall glass of wine.  I can see I may be rethinking our fence strategy.

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