Flying the coop has consequences

Susan Manzke
Bonnie and her feathered friends were a bit suspicious when first let out of the coop this spring. Since then they've enjoyed exploring the farm.

There are hardboiled eggs in my refrigerator. There was a raw egg on the counter. I turned my back for only a moment and the egg ended up SPLAT on the floor. No, it didn’t roll off the counter on its own accord. It had help.

Car-E my cat can’t leave something as nifty as a raw egg alone. He simply jumped up on the counter and gave it a nudge, sending the egg to its doom.

Cleaning up a smashed raw egg can be a messy job. Good thing I have my dog, Sunny. He enjoyed helping me.

The pleasant spring weather meant I was able to open up the chicken coop and let my four hens out of their winter confinement.

Once in early winter, after snow had fallen, one of the hens tried to escape the coop. She raced past me in her attempt at freedom. Too bad for her, she found herself in the center of a snow-covered yard.

The hen flapped her wings frantically, flying chicken-style over the snow, and landed under a tree where it was still snow-free. In her panic, she didn’t know what to do. Mostly, she didn’t want to put her feet in the snow again. It took much encouragement from me to get her to fly back to the coop. After that, she didn’t attempt another winter escape. For her, inside was better than out.

Marble is one of four hens still living at Sunnybook Farm.

When I left the coop door open this spring, the hens were very suspicious. They stood inside thinking about going on an outdoor adventure. Eventually, they cautiously stepped outside.

The first thing they did when they figured they were free, was to run up onto the front porch to check if the barn cats had left any food. I guess chickens have a good memory, especially when it comes to food.

After a sunny afternoon, the hens met me as I came out of the back door. In one hand I carried a bucket of freshwater for them and in the other a pail with table scraps and popcorn—they absolutely love popcorn. I think it tops their treat menu, even above grapes.

Those four hens like to wander around the yard, but they don’t go far. I try to check on their afternoon whereabouts. Sometimes they are under a bushy yew or checking out the old barn. Mostly, they stay together.

The other evening, I went to lock them up for the night in their coop, but they weren’t ready to roost. In chicken-talk, they told me that the sun was still high in the sky and they weren’t ready for bed—just like stubborn feathered children.

Snowflake, joined by her co-hort Red, missed the chicken coop curfew and spend the night outdoors.

I went about my other chores. Sunny wanted his supper and so did the cats. After feeding my four-footed pets, I fed myself—I’m always last when it comes to mealtime.

The following morning I discovered the coop door open. Oh my goodness! I had forgotten to go back and close up the chickens after they went in to roost the night before.

As I neared the coop, I listened for chicken noises. It was too quiet, way too quiet.

Two hens looked up at me from the far side of the coop as I entered—Bonnie and Marble. Only two! Not four! My negligence had killed two of my birds!

I called, “Chick, chick, chick,” and looked around the barn and the yard. There wasn’t a sign of Snowflake or Red. I figured the raccoons had take-out last night.

Red checks out the yard after escaping her winter confinement.

Other chores needed my attention. Afterward, I went out to the coop again. All four hens were huddled together! Thank goodness, Snowflake and Red had returned.

Now if the hens aren’t ready to roost in the evening, I set an alarm to remind me. If some wild animal does invade and have a chicken dinner at least it won’t be because I carelessly forgot to lock the coop door. Live and learn.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;;