Monday, September 01, 2008

In the Dark of the Night

I usually share fun, interesting, and beautiful things here. But I have a farm that I try to keep as natural as possible. That means that everyone isn't always safely hidden behind wood and wire.

My chickens are entirely free range - they choose where to sleep and where to nest. Most sleep in the trees. My white hen gone bad nested just outside the fence, under some berry brambles. A well hidden lair.

Or so it seemed. For three weeks she guarded and trained her 15 chicks, losing only 3 to the many dangers for small, defenseless creatures. That's pretty amazing, since there are many ravens, hawks, cats, and other hungry predators around. And chicks are very small. 

And then. I was coming up the drive after dark, and saw an owl in the headlights. An owl on the road, with it's recent catch. Pulling and tearing, devouring a small white hen. My small white hen. 

This is a time of mixed feelings. I love owls. They are beautiful creatures who have an important role in the ecosystem. They are excellent hunters, and I am always in awe of their silent flight. They appear, and disappear, and I am lucky to see them. They are the most successful predator on my farm. Dogs have a difficult time guarding against a silent and swift winged predator.  It's amazing to me that I drove in as the owl was eating its prey - what are the chances of that? I only wish he'd been able to finish the meal, and at least go away full.

I am very sad to lose my sweet little hen who was such a good mother. Fortunately, it looks like her entire brood has survived. One chick has a limp, but I think I've counted them all. It's hard to tell. They do not hold still - as soon as they see me or the dogs they run as fast as they can to shelter. They hang out in groups of 4-6, but the groups are never far apart. I don't know where they are sleeping, it must be some place safe.

Life goes on. The cycle continues. Some live, some die so others can live. 

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