There are many black bears in the Catskills. And this year, in particular, it seems more and more people are having close encounters with their ursine neighbors. Our good friend Sue Ann, for example, just the other other day looked out the window and saw a large black bear in her backyard. She’d seen bear footprints over the years, but never one in the flesh. I’m told they have a 25 mile range, so perhaps the one she scared away with primal shrieks (her words) was the same one Jen caught with its paw in our chicken feeder a few days later.
The chicken feeder hangs just inside the door at the top of the ramp the chickens use to enter and exit the coop. Here’s a picture of Geraldine and Lulu doing just that:
Jen was coming back from a walk in the woods when she saw what she thought was our neighbor’s dog near the coop.(Our neighbor’s dog killed 13 of our chickens last year, but that’s another story). It was twilight, when everything looks a bit shadowy around the edges and is hard to distinguish. As she got closer, what came into focus was a large 300 pound black bear with its meaty arm thrust through the chicken door. The bear ran away when it saw Jen, and left us with a galvanized steel feeder that now looks like this:
Bears apparently make rounds which means it will be back for more feed if it’s available. So we removed the feeder from the coop which gives us till winter to pound it back into shape. Our hens free-range all day, eating insects, worms, grass, and other good things that make their eggs tasty with deep yellow yolks that stand nice and high like the ones you see in old cartoons. In the spring and summer, they go through very little feed. In fact, it’s probably consumed mostly by Frenchy, the resident rooster who spends the majority of his time ushering around his girls and calling their attention to bugs and other crawly things that chickens like. To make sure he, and anyone else who wants it, gets their fill, we’ve decided to put out a pan of scratch under the tool shed where the chickens take their dustbaths. We just need to remember to take it in at night.
By the way, if you’re wondering what I mean about cartoon eggs…