Jan and I went hiking around the neighboring cornfield today and when we were at the far side of the field, about 1/4 mile from our property, where the forest meets the field, we saw one of our chicks running in front of us! It hid under some brush but I was able to gather it into my hands and started home with it when I noticed that it couldn't have been more than a week old. Our last incubator run was a month ago! I didn't know our chickens went that far but I suppose it could have happened. When we first moved out to the country nearly 2 years ago, I woke up one morning and across the road in the soybean field there were about 7 deer being dogged by a pack of coyotes. Since then our Great American Cattle Dog and our Blue Lacy have been guarding our property every night -- all night long -- and its been a long time since we've seen any coyotes. A couple weeks ago when we were out looking for morels in that forest, a wild turkey took off flying from its hiding spot in the underbrush but other than that we've seen only pheasants now and then on our hikes. There is some evidence of deer (large spots in the brush that have been pressed down like they were sleeping there) but we don't see them around much anymore. Here's what I think is going on: Both our dogs are ranch breeds -- they have big territories they normally protect. They'll be out there most every night in howl wars with the coyotes. The coyotes keep their distance now. We lost a lot of chickens the first winter because we didn't know to leave the dogs out every night. That lesson learned, I think we may have cleared out a good territory around our property of predators -- enough to reach the far side of the corn field where there is good forest cover! Anyway, I was doubly surprised because I didn't know our chickens could brood successfully. They seem to leave the eggs alone too much to successfully incubate them. But then, our flock was started with an assortment of heritage breeds so it makes sense that some of them would be self-sufficient.