Letter from Birdland | My chicken can get a little squirrely

Letter from Birdland | My chicken can get a little squirrely

The light is coming back to Birdland, and so are the eggs. Most days, we still get only two from our three grown hens, but the days with no eggs or only one are getting fewer, and occasionally we find a third in the nest.

Minnie May, our little serama pullet, has become very interested in the little coop, which is still inside the big coop, after we let the chicks out into the world. I think she is scouting places to make her first nest.

She and the little cockerel, Emerson, are inseparable most of the time, so when I see him alone, I worry. But then I remember to look in the little coop, and there she is, pushing the leaves around. They will be fine parents.

The bigger roosters ignore her, which is good, because Emerson would be a fierce rival, and in fact, Minnie May don't take no guff from anybody.

Last week, I happened to look out the window to see one of our red squirrels digging in the backyard circle where the day lilies grow in summer. Now, a squirrel can look surprisingly like a rooster in profile, with the tall, arcing tail. Especially when he is standing, rolling a nut around in his hands, he has the same, upright posture.

Our squirrel would lean forward to dig and then stand up to examine whatever he had found, and suddenly a slice of motion caught my eye. It was Minnie May, head down, charging the squirrel, like a knight with a lance.

The squirrel started, then retreated to about 10 feet from the day lily patch. Emerson, who is somewhat smaller than the squirrel, even if they do follow the same outline, observed staidly from a safe distance as equilibrium returned, and Minnie May resumed her scratching in the yard.

But not for long. Apparently the day lily patch was prime real estate for digging, and soon the squirrel had crept closer and closer, until he was in the lilies again.

Once more, Minnie May put her head down and charged the squirrel with her sharp beak; once more, Emerson stood back and watched the squirrel retreat.

I watched the show over and over, until the squirrel thought the better and ran up the big maple by the barn.

Yesterday, I spent a pleasant afternoon raking up leaves with Michael's new contraption. My husband sent himself a package and spent time in the morning putting together his new leaf sweeper. His idea, I think, is to use the abundance of leaves in our yard as a natural mulch to protect the shrubs he has planted.

He swept back and forth over the lawn, collecting leaves, and then piling them on the young shrubs. Meanwhile, I was in the coop with a spading fork, digging the dirt that last month's deep litter of leaves had become.

The chickens' constant scratching and stirring up the mulch in their coop composts it along with their poop, and in the spring, we scoop it out and put it in the bins to age before spreading it on the garden.

However, already the floor was sadly compacted, thus my plan was to dig it up a little and spread it with leaves, if only Michael would let me use his new apparatus.

Digging was hot work, and the curious chickens followed me through the coop, methodically inspecting the upturned soil. I dug from one end to the other and then went inside for a quick drink of water.

When I came back out, I couldn't find Michael, or his leaf sweeper, so I ducked back into the coop, and there he was, dumping a pile of leaves into the coop floor. The curious chickens were already busy flattening his piles. I got ahold of the leaf sweeper and took off to collect more leaves for the deepening piles.

Sweep in beauty; scatter peace; blessed be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. You can follow Birdland on Instagram (@BirdlandLetters) and Twitter (@BirdlandLetters). Mary can be reached at letterfrombirdland@gmail.com or via snail mail care of this newspaper.

Sections (1):Living
Topics (3):Environment, People, Pets