Susan's chickens leave home to roost in new digs

Susan Manzke

It’s on the way. No one can stop it. Winter will soon change the look of our Wisconsin landscape, turning it white.

I considered one particular change this winter, that concerning my chickens. For over a year, I was down to three hens. For most of the year, they gave me eggs, one or two a day.

During the summer, I’d watch them wander around the yard, picking up and eating bugs. Watching chickens wandering around the farm was one of the benefits of having chickens, even if only three.

Fuzzy Bonnie Raitt makes a run for it.

In the past, I had more. These three that were left successfully avoided a coyote invasion. In one quick attack, my flock went from eight to three.

I only discovered the missing hens when I went out to lock them in their coop for the night and only found three. It took a walk around the yard and barn before I found feathers.

The raiders had to have come close to the buildings via the standing corn.

After that raid, the three remaining chickens wouldn’t come out of their coop. Of course, I couldn’t blame them.

Last winter, I managed to keep my three hens healthy, even after they molted mid-winter. It wasn’t always fun, venturing out to the coop to feed and water them that January. When it was icy, I took great care not to slip. My cell phone was always in my pocket, in case I did fall and needed to call for help.

Eventually, we all survived winter. When spring arrived, the trio of hens warily ventured out into the yard again.

After keeping them in food and water last winter, I decided to transfer the trio to another farm before winter this year. My friends at ShaBock Farm Bed & Breakfast offered a space for them. My birds would become part of their flock that runs free all summer and is never made into chicken stew.

Jeb Bock liked the looks of my one fancy hen named Bonnie Raitt. With her extra leg feathers, she’d stand out from the average brown birds in his flock.

Susan's grandchildren christened this hen 'Snowflake'.

I had my hands full when catching my birds. Bonnie didn’t squawk too much when I grabbed her off the roost. Her wings flapped until I turned her upside down and helped her into my cat carrier for the trip to her new home.

Next came Snowflake. That hen wasn’t so quiet. Since she was second in line and knew I was coming for her. After I had her in my hands, I only had a bit of wrestling to contend with. As soon as she was in the cat carrier with Bonnie, she went quiet.

Number three, I couldn’t catch. Red evaded me, so I took the first two to ShaBock Farm without her.

Later, I thought I’d wait for complete darkness before going back for Red, but I was anxious to get her to her new home and went back to the coop for her.

Red wasn’t about to give in easily. I had her trapped in a corner three times, but she slipped through my fingers.

Red's wild streak came to the forefront when caught.

So went my adventure trapping Red. Finally, I had hold of her. Boy oh boy, did that bird scream and struggle. You’d have thought I was trying to wring her neck. Red was worse than the other two put together. I almost lost her when I was putting her in the cat crate. Red hit the door hard before I could latch it. Flapping the way she did, Red almost got away, but I managed to grab one of her legs and get her inside the carrier. I was exhausted, but lucky for her she didn’t lose even one feather.

My three hens are now all in their new home. When ice coats the ground, I won’t have to walk out to the coop to feed them this winter.

I do miss the eggs they gave me, but I’m done with chickens…for now at least.

FYI: On Nov. 26, I’ll be selling books at The Garden, 1814 Plover Rd, Plover, WI from 10 until 1. I look forward to meeting readers.

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