About Me

Twenty years ago I asked a Tarot card reader what would I be doing when I was 50. She replied, “I see you doing something so wildly creative, it defies a job title.” Only recently did I realize that was a slick way of saying, “I have no idea of what you’ll be doing.” But that prediction kept me charging ahead to the fifties with zeal and anticipation. Now that the future is today, I’m ready for anything!

Where Have All the Chickens Gone?

The poultry from Poultry & Prose have been missing, I realize.

When I take Jerry out before daybreak, I enjoy hearing and feeling the stillness in the air. After the sun rises and all chickens should be up, the stillness is still there, and becomes unsettling. There should be a lot more clucking and crowing.

Predators have definitely set up camp here. Half of the eight feisty chicks I called  The Birds  are gone. The new rooster crows from the flock  adopted by  Mrs. Duckfire  have dwindled.

It's the invasion of the chicken snatchers. With nine-year-old Watch gone and six-month-old Jerry too young to be out on his own, the invasions are becoming more frequent.

One of the snatchers is a fox that we sight every two weeks or so. The last time my husband Mike saw it he was able to squeeze off a shot at it, causing the fox to drop the chicken he was carrying bewteen its jaws. The chicken escaped and unfortunately so did the fox. Later that morning, Mike saw a bird with a huge wingspan perched in a tree a couple hundred feet away from our yard. He thinks it was an eagle or an owl, a protected species. In those instances, shaking one's fist and cursing is the only recourse.

And Mike is sure that the huge pawprints on the dirt road in front of our house belong to a wolf.

It's difficult to express to a non-farmer the sorrow felt over loss of livestock, animals that were going to meet a demise anyway by ending up on our kitchen table. But when that demise would happen would be our choice. Until then, the plan is for the poultry to live a long and contented  life. Sunning themselves, taking dust baths, eating juniper berries, scratching for bugs. Most of our chickens are too old for anything but stock when we finally decide to dispatch them. Chickens are at their most succulent when they're six months old. To me, that's when they're just starting to enjoy life.

I hate to think of the terror that a chicken or duck or guinea feels when spirited off by a predator. Nothing has taken our Embden geese yet. But one year something bloodied up the gander.

There's a belief that people in rural areas "cling to their guns." For all the rhetoric surrounding the topic, guns are part of the landscape. Not out of love for them, but out of necessity. It would take fifteen to thirty minutes for a county sheriff to arrive in response to a 911 call, one of the town volunteer firefighters tells me.

Weighing the loss of poultry to predators against a loss of freedom to poultry is a decision every keeper of free-range chickens makes. We have finally decided they need a coop. Mike is making a five-sided structure that he calls The Pentagon. Right now it resembles a gazebo without walls. When it's done it will have two picture windows and a fenced enclosure linking it to the 1960s-era playground monkey bars we have in our yard. In past summers turkeys would roost on it overnight. We call the structure Poultry Towers.

Where have all the chickens gone? We know where they're going. Into lockdown.


  1. i keep my chickens in at night and when I'm not at home. I have them in a 6x6 dog pen (chain link fence) with a tarp on the top to deter the aerial predators, which I have in addition to the fox and raccoons. So far so good, though the girls are only free range for a couple of hours a day. They don't seem to mind that and are happy to return to the pen at dusk.
    Carolyn H

  2. Hi Carolyn: I enjoyed reading your most recent post and taking in the scenery of your blog. What a peaceful existence you have!
    Thanks for pointing out your experience -- confinement is probably a bigger deal to me than it is to the chickens.

  3. The Pentagon sounds like a fabulous idea; I look forward to seeing photos of it. Perhaps some fake anti-air missiles turrets would scare the owls and eagles away!?
    If you put a conference table in the Pentagon maybe the chickens will be able to better 'plot' some late-night defensive strategies against those pesky predators. The CDC (Chicken Defense Cabinet) is now in session!

  4. I've taken pictures and will post soon!


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