All at once, the chickens sounded an alarm. Cluck cluCK CLUCK! Edge and I looked at each other, and swung open the door, asking the dogs, “What’s out there?” But the dogs didn’t run out barking, as they usually do in response to that question. The distress from the coop increased, I threw on my boots and ran out, with Edge behind me barefoot and shirtless. All the chickens and Sargent Pepper, the rooster, were unhappily pacing in the snow.
“Woah, it’s an owl!” Edge said and pointed inside the coop. Peering through the chicken wire-windows, I saw the striped feathers and rounded head, and then he turned and stared up at us with deep black eyes, as if asking for an answer to all the uproar.
“He wants to eat them,” Edge said
“No, he doesn’t. He’s too small to catch a chicken.”
He bounced around inside the coop while Edge ran back to the yurt for his boots and coat. He wasn’t more than two feet long, and perhaps he could kill a chicken, but it seemed to me that if he were going to do that, it would have been done already. As I waited for Edge, I spoke to the owl.
“Hello, owl. We don’t want to hurt you. We just want you to go back into the wild. We want you to go back to your home.”
With a little bit of knocking on the back of the coop, we managed to push the owl outside, though he returned once and we had to knock some more before he left for good. He hopped out among the chickens, who were still clucking indignantly, and as I walked around the corner of the coop to see him, he opened his wings and flew into the darkness. My dim headlamp couldn’t follow him, but we heard a flutter towards the trees and he was gone.
Edge and I shuttled the chickens back inside the coop and closed the door for the night, though they kept on with their clucking for a few minutes more. Never had either of us been so close to a wild owl. What had it been doing in a lit up coop? Why had it come and seemed so calm under a lamp at night? It seemed as if the owl was asking us questions, ones that we have not yet figured out.
Now dinner is on the table, the chicken coop is quiet, and the owl flies or rests somewhere in the trees, and to it we say be well.