Halloween is clearly just around the corner, and not just because the calendar says so. Look who’s lurking in the chicken yard:
An Araneus diadematus, that’s who. Otherwise known as a common garden spider, but the Latin name sounds scarier. We all know these spiders are actually the good guys in bad pants, but still, when one is crawling in your hair, it’s hard to feel chummy. I’ve been doing battle with these spiders since Day One in the Chicken Kingdom – their webs are everywhere! I guess it’s actually more their real estate than mine, and they remind me of this daily by spinning their webs all over the gates, fence, lawn furniture and even in the plants. As long as they leave some bugs for the chickens to catch, I’m willing to cede them their share of the space. Not that I have a choice.
No sooner did I say my how-do-you-do’s to Mr. Spider yesterday morning than I was alerted to another intruder. The girls like to free range a bit while I’m cleaning their coop in the mornings. Their favorite activity is bug-catching, followed closely by runway practice. More airplane than catwalk, in their case. They heave their bodies forward in an awkward, ditzy run and a wild flapping of wings which pays off in about a 3-4 ft. off-the-ground sail for about twenty feet or so along the length of the yard. It’s worth the price of admission, believe me. But I noticed a sudden break in the action and looked up to see all four of the ladies standing stock still, necks craned toward something in the corner. I walked over to get a better view, and stood pretty still myself, because there we all were, face to face with – Rosie!
For the uninitiated, Rosie is our loner cat, known best for hissing and growling should anyone glance her direction. Everyone gives her a wide berth; Soho would sooner give herself up to the coyotes than cross the threshold to come inside if Rosie is sitting on the step.
I knew that if the chickens advanced, there would be trouble, and that if they retreated, Rosie might give chase, so there was a mildly tense moment until the chickens (smarter than they look, folks!) meandered off to the left side pretending they hadn’t seen this dark apparition and Rosie slinked past on the right. I opened the gate for her and she shot through, possibly never to be seen again in the Chicken Kingdom, as she seemed more afraid of the chickens than they of her.
Which brings us to Eureka. Remember the rooster I keep hearing up the hill? I’ve just been itching to find out where he lives, and now I know! We ran into a neighbor this weekend who mentioned (as chickenkeepers are wont to do) her shared partnership with another neighbor in tending twenty hens…and said rooster. Mystery solved! But not necessarily with a happy ending: the neighbor mentioned that the rooster may not be cockle-doodle-dooing too much longer as he is relentlessly pestering the hens and being a general nuisance. Come to think of it, I didn’t hear him this morning…
And just to round out the Halloween theme, yes, this IS a chicken in a witch costume: