Friday, July 5, 2013

When chickens attack

Just a few weeks ago, I was happily weeding the flower garden with the chickens by my side; they were scratching around in the newly turned earth and snapping up some of the tastier (to a chicken) weeds I'd pulled. Today, I chased them away from the same spot - with a stick. Repeatedly. Whilst cursing their little chicken names. It was ugly. The impetus behind the stick-wielding chicken chasing? Cantaloupes.

 I love cantaloupes. They taste like the concentrated nectar of summer to me. I have memories of eating wedge after wedge on childhood camping trips, juice dripping down my chin. Every year we would wait for them to show up at the fruit stands and supermarkets, smelling each one to test for maximum sweetness. Last year we tried to grow a miniature variety and were thwarted by small burrowing insects who waited until they were nearly ripe to crawl inside and ruin everything. This year, we've got some plump melons in our garden, and I have been watching each one carefully.

And then, just as one was reaching softball size, it was discovered by some enterprising clucker and quickly demolished. I was heartbroken and vowed revenge. Or just to not let my chickens eat every one. But it happens so fast and they're not at all picky about size of level of greenness, they just peck and peck until all that is left is tiny bits of rind.


So how does one balance the desire for some fruits with the chickens right to free range in the yard? I clearly do not know yet. It was all okay with me for them to pick at some of the low-hanging tomatoes, and clean the leaves off of the amaranth where they could reach, but the cantaloupes are precious and few. I'm just not willing to share.

That's right...stick to the grass. If you know what's good for you.

I might try some sort of cage. It worked well to discourage full-on devouring of my columbine earlier in the year. We have a few spare milk crates that might work. I might leave the chickens in the yard only while I'm there to keep an eye on them and chase them with sticks. I could just keep them in the coop, but that seems sort of mean because they're so happy in the yard. We'll see. But I will get my cantaloupe this year. Oh yes, I will.

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