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