Somedays the J&A Chicken Ranch has more excitement than my feeble heart can handle.
This beautiful breezy morning I am waiting for the water well repair man as we have no water coursing through our pipes. The precious commodity, the life blood, the toilet flusher has seized for reasons unknown to me, but hopefully not beyond the scope of knowledge of the water well man. In today’s America, one does not realize how fortunate and blessed we are until one does not have running water. It is taken for granted, assumed that at the turn of a faucet, we can clean our bodies, brush our teeth, water our plants, or rinse our dishes. No less humble does one become than having to relieve themself outside in the middle of the night, saving that one last toilet flush for the inevitable morning poop. Forgive me, but as is life. But yea for the man who can repair the problem and I only hope he arrives before my bowel movement decides to.
When I first began dating J-Dub, I would ride with him to tend to his cattle. At the beginning of the trip, he would inquire, “Are you brush broke?” At first I didn’t know what that meant, but quickly learned when you are miles and miles from modern conveniences, there will come a time when you have to squat in the brush and piss in the pastures or you’re going to be very, very uncomfortable for a very, very long time. Yes, I am very brush broke.
I slept in a bit this morning but knew I needed to let my fourteen dear chickens out of their coop. Not until you’ve watched fourteen chickens come out of a coop, do you understand the true meaning of the phrase “cooped up”. The chickens have a coop that was an old metal garden shed with a sliding door. It sits in a side yard, up against the edge of the backyard fence, but not in the back yard. Surrounding the shed is a chicken pen, enclosed with chicken wire, and covered mostly over the top with protective wire. I keep the sliding door to the coop opened enough so they can come and go freely into the pen to get fresh air or take a dirt bath or something equally chickenish. Each morning, as early as possible, I open the door to the pen and let the chickens run out so they can free range around the yard and pasture. Our back yard and our two dogs, Drew Miller and Grace, are enclosed directly behind the chicken coop and pen. Never have the dogs and chickens come into direct contact. I fear it would not be a pretty sight.
When the chickens eye me coming their way, they get so excited. They know freedom is in sight. They will run to the corner of the pen, clucking and bocking, eager to get out. This morning, before I was about to open the door, I heard a commotion. It sounded like chicken feet on metal and I assumed a chicken was inside the shed, trying to jump on the metal nesting boxes as they sometimes do. With their chicken claws slipping and sliding and feathers flapping to maintain balance, it sometimes makes quite a ruckus. The next thing I heard was a terrible sound like nothing I had heard before. It was the sound of a chicken in distress. The clucking was rapid and high-pitched. I then noticed out of my peripheral vision, the dogs were agitated. Through a crack in the gate of the backyard, I saw 3 streaks of black running past, back and forth. First a black chicken, followed by Drew Miller, followed by Grace. My first thoughts went something like this: Is there a chicken in the backyard? how did a chicken get in the back yard? There is no way possible that is one of my chickens. It must be somebody else’s chicken in my backyard. Mine are all right here in the pen. With my hand on the door to the chicken pen, ready to push it open, I glanced over and did a quick headcount. 1-2-3-4…… 1-2-3-4-5……, 1-2-3-4 I began adding quickly: 4 Barred Plymouth Rocks + 5 Buff Orpingtons + 4 Black Australorpes = 13 total chickens. THERE’S A CHICKEN MISSING! And it is presently in grave danger. Immediately I began screaming NO DREW! NO GRACE! and with ninja like skills I flung open the backyard gate, grabbed Drew Miller by the collar and tried to get the whole party to settle down. The dogs were having no part of calming themselves, so I drug Drew Miller by his collar over to where his leash hangs, put it on him as he jerked about, acting a fool, and I tied him to a post. He is the dangerous dog. He is the porcupine attacker, skunk killer, possum murderer. He loves the kill. Grace, a heeler, doesn’t want to hurt the chickens, she just wants to herd the chickens as she slinks down, belly close to the ground, haunches shaking, eyes fixated. She doesn’t even wear a collar or has never experienced a leash. She is right by your side most all the time and if she wanders too far, a quick command draws her back to her spot. So there we were in the backyard: Drew Miller and the blue leash wrapping tighter and tighter around a post, a chicken petrified yet unscathed, Grace slinking beside me towards the chicken and me a little afraid to try to pick up this chicken who just might turn into a fighting, pecking, scratching defender. The little black chicken was behind the dog’s water dish. I gave her some time and space to see if she could find her way out of the gate on her own. I thought of trying to corral her out, but decided that might agitate her even more. As I reached down, she hunkered close to the ground, terrified, but allowed me to pick her up, hold her to my bosom, caress her little back. Her feathers were hard and stiff where Drew’s slobber had already dried on them. He obviously had his mouth clamped on her at some point.
It was a close call. Perhaps even a miracle. I think I’ll call her Lucky.
I still don’t know how in the world she managed to get into the back yard. I walked through the pen and the coop looking for holes. I can only figure that she flew out the small opening in the roof, walked across the wire roof of the pen, walked across the roof of the coop, which was the commotion of chicken feet on metal that I heard, and flew over the fence into the backyard.
Stupid chicken. I hope she learned a lesson. The next time she tries to escape, she better hope I’m squatting in the yard.