CAN ANYTHING BE MORE SATISFYING than getting the last chicken into the coop as the sun is going down? About half of our chickens prefer to roost high in the apple tree, so we have to encourage them in all sorts of ways to come into the safety of the aviary. One big encouragment is, of course, food. I feed them some in the morning, then let them out to scratch in the yard and they snap up all sorts of snacks—bugs; greens of Dandelion, Clover, Queen Anne's Lace; Apples; the meats of Walnuts that have been cracked by squirrels or by being backed over by the car. In fact, the flock spends the bulk of their days quietly grazing, tails up, beaks to the ground, making satisfied clucking sounds. Still, when they see me walking toward the aviary with a big, galvanized metal scoop, they'll come running. And if you haven't seen a chicken run toward you, you should come out at feeding time.
|The flock spends the bulk of their days quietly grazing, tails up, beaks to the ground,|
making satisfied clucking sounds.
If we wait too long, half a dozen of the hens will be perched in the apple tree. A few will hop down when they see me coming with the scoop, but 3 or 4 will hop up a little higher into the tree. In summer, the leaves provide a little shelter from the weather, and hide them from predators. But now the leaves are falling. We have a variety of chickens, and though a sharp-eyed owl would probably see the moonlight glinting off of the beak of one of the brown hens, we have two white ones who like to roost in the tree. Even to my failing, human eyesight they look like bright neon signs that say “Free Lunch” to any nighttime predator. The flock has thinned since they began this habit, so I do my best to discourage it. Sometimes the ruckus below gets them curious enough that they will fly down and get caught up in the frenzy of snack time, but sometimes they pretend not to notice. That's when the garden hose comes in handy.