Monday, January 27, 2014

A Dog, a Calf, Some Hens and a Hawk

     After two weeks of being confined in the dark shed, the calf has been granted his first freedom.  It’s a balmy 34 degrees this morning, the first above freezing weather we’ve had in almost two weeks, and the calf is strong now, eating grain along with his bottle of milk, so it is time for him to have a little frolic.  Last week, he was joined in his snug stall by an old ewe, who had gotten weak, and she ventures out with him into the snowy back forty.
     Luke, our rabbit beagle, loves the calf and he is excited to finally have a chance to play tag.  They skitter across the frozen ground and the calf ducks his head, spinning wildly.  Luke follows along prancing his joy.  Then, the calf  looks up and sprints.  He is running with his tail high, the way calves do when they’re warming up on a cold morning.  He whirls to face Luke who finds he must now dodge the enraged ewe.  She hasn’t paid much attention to the calf while they were in the stall.  He’s been more of an aggravation to her, butting her out of the way when he wants to steal some grain from her bucket.  But, this morning, her protective instincts take over.  The ewe lowers her head and, bam, she bowls Luke over.  He jumps up and circles to her backside, thinking she wants to play. 
     She spins, looking for him, but he is already back to the calf.  They are standing nose to nose and she stomps her foot in warning.  Luke knows what this means .  The last ewe who did that to him, got in a good kick with her front foot.  He backs off and runs over to the chicken house to see what the hens are up to.
I opened their door earlier this morning and several have flopped out into the snow.  They are pecking and making the little beeping noises they make when they are happy.  Luke bounds up, scattering them, but before he can engage in a game of “chase the chickens and watch them flap” I call him off.  I can’t decide whether to leave him out or take him back in the house with me.
     Yesterday, we found a dead chicken.  She was breast up in the snow surrounded by a neat circle of soft feathers.  Her chest and body cavity had been eaten out and there were no tracks in the snow around her.  I don’t think Luke did it.  I am hoping that he still thinks chickens hurt.( Luke's Lesson ) Hawks and eagles eat chickens that way, pulling out feathers and tossing them all around.  As I am trying to decide whether or not to trust him with the girls, I hear a hawk scream overhead.  It is riding the high winds, hanging motionless a half a mile above.  Another scream to my left signals a second hawk, who is slightly higher and flapping against the wind.  It seems to me that they are watching the brown chickens against the white snow. 

     That settles it.  Luke will stay out.  Maybe he’ll keep playing with the ewe and calf and the hawks will be frightened by the movement.  The chickens have just resumed laying pretty well, and I don’t want to lose another one.  I leave the door of the coop open so the chickens can duck inside quickly if they need to.  Then I go inside.  I will be haunting the windows today.

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