Watching them like a hawk.
It appears that the hawks (or a hawk, who can tell?) have spotted our girls. We have seen a few glide high above us when we had the birds out free ranging, but today Scott saw one skim the rooftop and get a good close look. Fortunately, the birds are hard-wired to be terrified of anything that approaches from overhead, including airplanes, so one gave a warning chirp to the others (see how community-oriented they are? I love that) and they dashed for cover.
Anyway, it looks like the possibilities for them to be outside when we are not sitting right there watching for hawks are growing slim. I've read on the chicken discussion boards that a hawk will swoop in even when a person is just 10 or 20 feet away, so even if I'm out tinkering in the garden I'm not sure they're safe. (and if I did see a hawk, what would I do? Scream? Pitch a shovel at it? Throw myself between the hawk and the chick?)
Some chicken farmers recommend keeping a shotgun around to pick off predators; others use a slingshot to discourage raptors from lurking in nearby trees. Still others recommend a good guard dog, the kind who is used to herding animals, or even a rooster, who will, if he is a good rooster, lay down his life for the girls (in between mounting them incessantly and crowing at dawn. I wonder if the hens are ever sad to see a rooster go under these circumstances).
Yeah. Well. We may end up constructing a little chicken tractor, just so they can be out of their pen when we can't directly supervise them, but I don't see any shotguns or guard dogs in our future.
Ah, the expenses mount, and still not a single egg...