Coyotes and Chickens


On sunny winter mornings I come outside with my tea to let the chickens out.  I sit in a chair on the south side of the hen house to sun, if even for only a few minutes.  I sip the tea and watch the hens peck and scratch around.  The dogs wander over to lay at my feet.  I gaze around, across the meadow to the edge of the forest that borders the creek.  Years ago, when the dogs were younger, less experienced, or off on a dog adventure, I watched a coyote walk into the field and select a fat hen for breakfast.

I chased it across the field and was in awe of being so close to that magnificent, opportunistic beast - maybe twenty feet or so.  He or she did not drop the hen, but loped silently away with the squawking hen.  The coyote took her just inside the tree-line and ate her.  I found the feathers later.  These days, with the two big german shepherds, we rarely see a coyote in the meadow; They will stay in the shadows and laugh at us with a yelp and chuckle.  The dogs howl to let the coyotes know they are on watch.  It’s a game, I think, between wild and tame.

If the chickens venture too close to the meadow/forest transition, the are taking chances.  They do get eaten, but rarely.  Natural selection is at work and each year the flock gets stronger and wilder.  Almost every year a hen disappears, and after we put up a good search, we count our losses.  After we’ve forgotten her, she emerges with eight or ten new chicks.  We rarely find the nest and a new batch of wilderness savvy Buff Orpingtons enters out lives.

The wild and the domestic coexist here.

AND speaking of coyotes... my favorite read all year:  The Daily Coyote by Shreve Stockton