This morning when I went out for chores, it was quiet and peaceful, as usual. When I was done tending to cows and calves, though, and headed out of the barn toward the house, I heard a hen cackling frantically. At six in the morning, it's never good news when you hear a chicken sounding the alarm. The three hens and rooster in the main chicken house had to be safe, because ever since we saw signs of something trying to dig into their pen I have shut them up inside the chicken house at night. So I was pretty sure Mama Hen had to be the source of the noise, and looked toward her little house. Sure enough, she was frantically walking around her little pen cackling for all she was worth, and the feeder and waterer had been tipped over. I set the milk bucket down in the driveway and hurried over there to see what had happened. There wasn't a baby chick in sight; I could see Mama Hen had put up a good fight with whatever had invaded her space, because she lost a lot of feathers in the process. I opened the side door to the little house they sleep in and at first saw nothing, but then up against the wall I saw a couple of chicks flattened against the floor not moving a muscle. That's what chicks do when they are frightened: They flatten against the floor or ground and stay still; later I found the rest of them actually burrowed under their straw bedding. After I took my milk inside, I went back to see what could have gotten in.
I knew I had to figure out something to prevent this from happening again, because the varmint has had a taste of fresh chicken and there's no doubt in my mind he will return tonight. Finally I came up with the idea of putting some wooden pallet-covers underneath the whole outside pen; there's a floor in the house, so it's dig-proof already. I thought perhaps we could secure the bottom to the wood somehow so that nothing could dig in. Cliff, though, had a better idea.
Mama Hen loves to scratch on the ground and call her chickens over to eat the bugs she finds, but she's going to have to settle for living on a board for awhile. I will probably start turning them out in the evenings before too long, and then they can make up for lost time.