The nightly ritual question, “Did you lock the chickens in?” is no longer heard in our house since the day a ladder was left leaning on one of our trees near the chicken coop. That’s when they started getting back to their roots, once the opportunity presented itself up the tree they went, after all they are birds.
They started in the early autumn and we assumed by winter they would opt for the enclosure of their coop, but alas, nature won out and even though we did have one early snowfall, they were not deterred.
I like seeing them in their tree early in the morning or around dusk in the evening. The sound of them climbing up the ladder is quite sweet. To watch them go up rung by rung flapping their wings is an enjoyable few minutes in the evening.
Winter has been a non-starter this year. The early dusting could have been a warning of a cold white winter, but instead it never really happened. Our chickens were ready, and although we had no snow since then, the rain and cold nights never caused them to waver. All winter the leafless tree is where they called home.
We are no longer tied to making sure their coop is secured against the creatures of the night awaiting a midnight snack. The eggs kindly donated by our chickens don’t, as many have asked, come dropping out of the high branches, although in the early morning you need to watch your head from other detritus coming from above! The eggs are still laid out and about in a few places around the garden; the wood shed, our composting toilet shed or hidden in some of the hedges. Every day is like Easter, but without the chocolate.
My children have a pair of Guinea pigs which have taken a page out of their fowl friends’ book. One day they escaped from their outdoor run and plunged under the terrace in front of our house. We thought it might be short-lived, but alas no. They have been happily re-wilded as well. We hear them squeaking for food every so often, so we fill their small dish, but as they get bolder and bolder in their new home we see them out and about trimming down our grass.
Our two sets of animals have found their little niches in the wilds of our garden. Thus far they have escaped feeding the hungry night animals. It will be pretty much impossible to deter them from flirting with their natural selves, even with the possible lurking dangers.
Quite honestly I wouldn’t want to. We get the best of both worlds; fresh eggs without the hassles, and cute squeaky Guinea pigs, without the weekly battle to get our kids to clean the indoor cage they once slept in.
In the past our kids have come home to dead and mauled chickens and are quite aware of the possibilities that await their well-loved animal friends. They also have learned that life and death is the norm, and although sad at times is all part of the bigger picture. It’s nice to step aside and watch the symbiotic relationships form between them and the nature we are lucky enough to be surrounded by. We’re all learning from our experiences and respecting that force of nature more and more with every waking moment.
Okay, gotta go kiss the kids goodnight who just started sleeping in a cave in the woods behind our house!