All night long the Duke was barking in his most authoritative voice. I knew something was out there he did not want coming around. It could be skunk, opossum, bobcat, deer (though he only half- heartedly warns them away), fox, or dog. Maybe an escaped cow. Or a coyote. Duke knows his wild cousins are up to no good, day and night. Good old Duke.
So, this morning, I was having my hot tea as I checked email and read the online newspaper. Duke was asleep on the front porch, having worn himself out from a long night on duty. I had not yet turned the chickens out for the day, and was feeling guilty about it. I could see them crowded around the door waiting to get started on their very busy day. They have soil to scratch, bugs to eat, seeds to peck. If they get too close to one another, there is squawking and pecking and irritability among them. I fully understand this. I do not want to talk to anyone at work until about eleven or so. On a bad day, I would appreciate it if I did not have to speak to anyone until about 4:15 pm.
Out my east window, about thirty feet from the house, I saw a coyote, crouching low, sneaking toward the chicken pen. I should have taken his picture before I knocked on the window. He looked at me but waited to see what I was going to do. I shouted at him, and he turned away. As I watched, he loped few short yards, then sauntered away. What a punk!
For once, my laziness paid off. That coyote would have picked the chickens off one by one. I fed the chickens in the pen, scattering milo throughout so they could scratch and peck for it. They have settled down now that they know they are not going to leave the pen.
A good farmer would have shot the coyote. Even though I love my chickens, I could not kill a coyote. Duke and I will have to work harder to keep the chickens safe, but they will always be under threat. I will keep them penned for several days but eventually I will let them out again. I do not know how persistent the coyote will be.
Coyotes are smart. They are also severely persecuted in Kansas. Stockmen claim coyotes kill their calves. I am going to commit blasphemy here, but I would have to see coyotes kill a healthy calf before I believe it. It would take a pack of coyotes to worry a cow away from her calf and bring down a big calf. I never see coyotes running in packs - never in my entire life.
I knew it was going to be a challenge to keep chickens. Everything likes to eat chickens, not only humans. Better to live free, scratching happily in the dirt, and be taken quickly in death than to spend an entire life in cages, on concrete, never seeing the light of day. Duke and I will do what we can, but there is only one guarantee in life. Party on, little chickens.