Sunday, August 8, 2010

Backyard Houdinis

Lady the dog is already an accomplished Houdini. Whenever we open the front door long enough to ferry luggage to the car, or groceries into the house or, as happened two days ago, couches out to a pickup, Lady slips out and goes adventuring. Usually she only makes it down to the gazebo at the neighborhood park (good picnic leavings for munching). After playing with anyone who will notice her at the park she usually makes her way back home. Grace and I went swimming during the most recent door-opening--I couldn't bear to watch the couch wrangling--only to return home to find Lady patiently waiting in the front yard, Dave inside, blissfully ignorant of her latest escape.

Until yesterday I figured Lady was the only escape artist-in-residence. That is, until Dave came home to find all five chickens hanging out on the wrong side of the fence.

They look innocent enough, don't they?

Dave herded them back in, we looked for obvious holes, launching points (yes, we've seen Chicken Run, we're hip to all the various escape plans), missing tools, whatever. Nothing. A couple hours later they were out again. This time Dave didn't open the fence gate when he shooed them back. Amazing to think that these big balls of feathers can squeeze through the fence slats. Well, all of them but Martha, who is so big she must squeeze under the fence. Did they learn this manoeuvre from the cats?

We put up a board and made plans for thwarting future escapes. When I noticed them congregating around the fence yet again in the evening I put up even more boards. The situation being dire by this point I was happy to shut them up for the night.

This morning Grace and I set to work like real ranchers--we patched up the fence with what we had at hand.

Okay, it's a little cheesy and, as Grace mentioned many times, colorful. But the last thing I need to worry about right now are flattened chickens in the road or losing them to someone for dinner.

Oh, and did I mention that our chickens have also discovered an inner craving for rhubarb leaves? My lovely rhubarb, the first I have ever been able to grow, has become their salad bar. I know, rhubarb leaves are poisonous. Apparently chickens can eat the leaves without outward symptoms of poisoning. The talking heads on Google fall into two camps: chickens will eat only what they know they can eat, rhubarb leaves serve as some kind of wormer, etc. etc.; rhubarb leaves will ruin their kidneys, render their eggshells excessively fragile or even keep them from laying (no, no eggs yet, that's another story). Considering how much I love rhubarb, ripping the plants out was not an option. So here is our solution.

We won't win any prizes for beauty in the garden, but at least my rhubarb is saved and my chickens are deterred.

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