I hope everyone’s staying warm in the second polar vortex of the season. We apologize to our brethren in the South dealing with the cold and snow, but now you have a better idea of what to expect in a typical New England winter.
It’s been a rather tumultuous few weeks in our chicken coop here at the Stanton House Inn. We’ve gone from nine chickens down to five in a matter of two weeks! How, you may be wondering? Well, let me tell you.
The girls still cannot really figure-out snow.
While raising hundreds of chickens on a farm up in Western Massachusetts (which I was doing before I returned to work in the family business), I lost quite a few chickens but mostly to inclement weather. I lost few to animals, however–one nasty old racoon sidled up to the side of our chicken tractor (big, covered, bottomless pens that we moved daily to provide the chickens access to fresh grass, bugs, and soil) one night and reached in to pluck the feathers off of one of our chickens. The chickens, being unable to see at night, were completely immobilized, and the girl died of shock from the fright by the next morning. We lost only one chicken to animal predators the entire season, despite the fact that Western Massachusetts is home to raccoons, weasels, mountain lions, foxes, hawks, owls, and black bears, among other beasts that I’m sure find chicken delicious. One black bear actually made a habit of stopping-by the chicken tractor almost every night to eat the spilled chicken feed left exposed when we moved the tractor–but never touched our chickens.
Here in suburban, densely-populated Connecticut, one would assume that the most deadly things one has to deal with are aggressive drivers. This is where I (and my girls) discovered how vicious nature can truly be. Within a few months I’d lost almost every chicken I brought down to foxes and a neighbor’s dogs.
I replenished their numbers last spring and we seemed to have stabilized at nine chickens. The girls appeared more than up to the task of recycling the Inn’s food waste into eggs and compost (chickens poop a lot, if you weren’t aware), mowing the lawns (there’s a special place in a chicken’s heart for grass, as well as hosta), digging (sneaking into vegetable beds to do so), and pest control (chickens eat a ton of insects when they’re out foraging–including ticks).
Even before all this trouble with the local menagerie, trying to get them to go outside in the snow was frustrating, to say the least.
The trouble started when the family made the trip to the Innkeeper’s Conference in beautiful Charleston, South Carolina in mid January. My brother, who is studying Southeast Asian history at Cornell University, returned to Greenwich to watch the Inn and take care of the chickens. Initially, our text message conversations noted no issues (name replaced with “bro” monikers to protect the innocent):
Me: How’re the girls?
Brosef Stalin: You mean, my harem.
Me: They were mine first. They doing alright?
Kurt Brobain: Wonderful. I feel as though I could stay with them a thousand nights.
I never bothered to ask how long he’d been waiting to use that joke. By the third day, however, I was getting intermittent text messages–due to poor cell reception–depicting a less rosy picture:
Broseidon: IT’S A MASSACRE!!!!!
Nancy Pebrosi: OH THE HUMANITY!!!!!!
Broald Dahl: What should I do?
I unfortunately did not receive these texts (including the gory pictures) for several days. My brother discovered one of the chickens lying in a pile of feathers just outside the coop and fenced yard missing her head. When I finally did get in touch with him, I advised him to keep the girls in their fenced yard and ensure they did not escape. My expectation was that nothing could get into their yard–though I was proven wrong, much to my chagrin.
The same day, another chicken went missing–later found by my brother firmly clamped in the beak of our friendly neighborhood hawk. My brother was so livid, he threatened to use this newly deceased chicken as bait to catch the hawk in order to exact revenge (though my parents and I advised him that that was not only brutal but illegal). Instead, he resorted to calming his nerves by petting Goldie Hawn, my oldest, largest chicken and the last survivor from the original Massachusetts batch, who actually loves to be pet.
The girls kind of accepted snow after a while, then forgot about this when a hawk swooped down and almost grabbed that white one in front of the camera. Fun day.
Upon our return and after all that moribund activity in the course of a single week, we all decided it best to keep the surviving chickens locked away in the safety of the coop for a few days–at least until their short memories forgot about the rather traumatic past events.
Jon Bon Brovi: How’s my harem?
Me: Looking good. They all seem to be indifferent to me since I got back. Goldie Hawn won’t even look at me anymore, or tolerate my touch.
BrO J Simpson: Well, I can understand why when you don’t even bother to respond when one of them gets MURDERED.
Me: Touché, sir, touché.