So the girls (Carmen included) moved into their colorful new gypsy wagon, and began learning to free-range while we waited for them to get big enough to lay eggs (about 6 months old). We learned many things that chickens like, beginning with the day I found a dozen red and green tomatoes in various stages of hen-pecked-ness. I threw the first few hollowed-out shells at them in a fit of anger until I got smart and salvaged the unpecked parts to make salsa! So Herb put up wire fence around the garden beds. We also learned that they like to sit on the loveseat on the front porch or the table on the back porch, of course leaving plenty of droppings all around.
They especially like to get up on the back porch and use it as a launching pad to hop up into the air, grab a rose petal in mid-air, and land on the porch to gobble up their treat. They do not, however, like being squirted with the hose. Being very smart, they used to start running as soon as I turned the water on; now they run as soon as I come out. They KNOW they are not allowed on the porches; they are just not respecters of the law! But they love grass, and we have lots of that around here, and there is something lovely about a flock of chickens grazing on the lawn.
I was not at all excited about having a rooster and dealing with fertilized eggs, etc. But an experienced chicken-person told me that the rooster will protect the hens, so I decided to keep Carmen for awhile. Good thing I did! We found out quickly that Zephyr was very good with the chickens, and not being much bigger than them, they weren’t bothered by her—even when she poached the vegetable scraps I give them! Kara’s dog, Hero, however, showed way too much predatory-like interest in the chickens, not to mention being over 50 lbs, so we kept him on a leash at first and then supervised him closely until we could see that he knew how to behave around them.
Having graduated to the supervision stage, Hero was close beside me one day when I turned to dig up a couple potatoes. Suddenly I heard horrible squawking, and I knew what was happening. Screaming “Hero!” at the top of my lungs, I raced toward the sounds of the chicken massacre in time to see Hero hot in pursuit of one of the hens. Just then brave little Carmen shot in between hunter and dinner, and Hero turned on Carmen while the hens ran into the woods. Still screaming at the top of my lungs, I darted after Hero, but Carmen zig-zagged so fast, I was never in the right place. Herb heard me screeching all the way down the hill in the orchard and came racing up the long hill, and Jenny & Jean-Marc (who were here visiting) heard me all the way in the house. With the reinforcements, we managed to corner Hero and grab him while Carmen made himself scarce. Hero had become the villain of the piece, and Carmen, the REAL hero of the day, had earned himself a reprieve.