© Another Day in the Country
In our family households, we have two sets of chickens. They are separate sets because they are related by birth (or hatching date) and not thrown together by circumstance. In the Alpha House or the house in my back yard, live Mary’s small family of half Aracauna, half bantam type chicks that she hatched out (a couple of years ago) after having set for weeks and weeks (desperately) on a clutch of mostly unfertilized eggs after she was left as the one and only hen thanks to neighborhood dogs.
During February, this year, Dove, one of her chicks decided to set and she hatched out five little fluff-balls but only managed to raise one — a strange, long-legged cock who became the house outcast.
In the Omega House across the street are the chicks that I got a year ago, August, after the spring-hatched chicks from my favorite hatchery had been offed by a neighbors dogs, yet again.
Ever since I was gone this summer and my sister stepped into the shoes of straw boss for the chickens, she has bonded with them, so to speak, and found that she is rather fond of interacting with chickens. She loves the fact that they look forward to seeing her, they come running when they are out in the yard, and she showers them with goodies in return — even going so far as to chop up veggies that are deemed “past their prime”, just for the chickens.
For a while, after my sudden exit to California, I was concerned about Jess and the chickens because King Tut, one of our roosters that I’d actually ordered, a regal Single Comb Brown Leghorn, (who was my favorite, by the way) decided he didn’t like Jess. We’d never had a mean rooster before, so I was surprised that this guy would attempt to “take on” Jess. He scared her to death, at first. One neighbor counseled, “kick him,” which she did “like a football,” she reported to me, “but he’d just come back for more.” They managed an uneasy truce, but we decided to give him, and three of his hen-friends, to Jay next door. Peace finally reigned in chickdom with Earl Gray, our Aracauna rooster, who’d been very much second in command, now head of household.
Home again, I take care of the chickens in my yard and Jess takes care of her Omega buddies. On nice days, when we’re around all day, we enjoy letting the chickens out in their respective yards. For us, seeing the chickens contentedly searching for insects in the yard or languidly dust bathing, is one of the joys of having chickens — that and gathering eggs. Since we don’t let them out every day and I tend to get distracted doing projects, Jess often asks in the evening, “Did you shut up your chickens?” Well, the other evening, she didn’t and I didn’t.
At 4 a.m. I heard a chicken squawk and my feet hit the floor. I’d forgotten to shut the door of the pen. I grabbed a flashlight and ran for the chicken house. The Alpha House was empty. I searched the yard with my meager beam and found a few feathers but no dead chickens until way out at the edge of the yard by the blackberry bush there was a white heap — it was Cocky-lock.
“I can’t just let him lay out here,” I mourned, picking him up by his feet, “I’ll put him in the chicken house and bury him in the morning.”
He was still warm, so this catastrophe really had just happened. I laid his body on the henhouse floor and shut the door — too little, too late. Then I played the flashlight beam once more around the pen — was that a chicken? I found two more wet soggy heaps of feathers with hens inside, immobile but still alive — their eyes blinked. My heart jumped for joy — all was not lost by my negligence. I felt so guilty. These poor chickens, scared to death, killed because of my forgetfulness — it was all my fault. I looked once more at the body of Cocky-lock, “Was he still alive?” He’d moved his head, I’m sure; but how badly was he hurt. I had a hard time getting back to sleep.
The next morning, early, I heard Cocky-lock crow. Looking out the window I saw him strutting around the chicken pen. Back snug in my bed, I rejoiced for the three still alive and mourned for the three that I’d lost. It’s terrible knowing something was harmed by my neglect whether that’s a person or an animal. I have to be more careful.
Later, as I watered the pots on the front porch I looked across the street and saw Mary and Dove cautiously coming out from under the big cedar tree.
Mary was cackling with alarm, “You have figured out,” she scolded with that certain look in her beady eye, “that you put us all in grave danger by forgetting to close that gate!”
I apologized profusely, coaxed her home, assuring her that she was safe here.
It’s another day in the country, and we only lost Long Legs in our brush with night-time raiders. We were very lucky and I have vowed to watch all things that I’m responsible for with a much more vigilant eye.