Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Madder than a wet hen

For any of you that aren't completely following our lives on Facebook, we are now proud chicken farmers. O.K., maybe it requires a bit more knowledge to be considered an actual farmer, but I am so excited about our three "ladies" that I almost ran out and bought a pair of Osh Kosh B'gosh overalls. Senia Mae and I find ourselves wanting to hang out in the coop and we've even built them their very own chicken tunnel for playing in the yard. Mommy Kim likes them too, but from a distance.

Every morning we are gently woken up by a "bak-bak-bak-kaaaa, bak-bak-bak-kaaaa(the end note is very highly pitched)." I am almost positive they are speaking to us saying, "I'm laying my egg! I'm laying my egg!" because when I go out there holding my morning coffee and dressed in my bathrobe, they have this satisfied look that almost says, "go ahead, see what's in that nesting box!" We pull up the lid and there are usually three eggs: a brown one from Brownie, a white one from Bianca, and a little egg from the little hen, Snowflake.(Senia Mae named her that even though she is brown!) It is so funny.

Sometimes I can't get Senia Mae out of the coop. She just wants to hang out and chat with the ladies, feeding them worms she pulled out from under rocks. One day she thought they needed a little more roaming space and let them out in the yard. Eventually we are going to let them be free range but I wanted them to get used to their surroundings first.

"Senia Mae," I shouted, "why did you let the chickens out?"

"They wanted to run around," she said, completely matter of fact. She gave me that look that teenagers give to their parents when they are certain that as adults, we obviously know nothing.

"What if they fly away?" I said. Suddenly a look of horror crossed my daughters face as a deluge of water filled her lower eye lids. Maybe my question was a little too direct, but I knew if something did happen to one of those chickens we would have a heart broken little girl. She loves those chickens.

"Lets see if we can round them up," I said, coming around the coop and cornering Brownie. I quickly placed both hands around her girth and tucked her under my arm, putting her back in the pen. The little one was pretty easy to catch, too. All I had to do was hold some grass in my hand and she came right up to me. But Bianca was really enjoying her freedom. I'd run behind her and she would scoot to the right, hiding and scratching under the cover of our 4x4 elevated garden. Even though it is raised two and a half feet above the ground, I was not going to crawl under there and get all wet and dirty following a happy chicken. After several more rounds of "chase the chicken," all of which Bianca won, I was frustrated, flustered, and about to be late for work.

"This is all my fault," Senia Mae cried, sitting on the ground Indian style with her face hiding in her hands.

"It's going to be just fine," I said. "We will just open the door to the coop when it gets dark and Bianca will go in with the others to roost." I had heard that was what chickens did and hoped that would be true this time. "Lets go in the house and give her some space." Bianca was staying in the front yard, happily pecking in the grass. Once inside, Senia Mae crawled up on the stool by the breakfast counter, still looking distressed.

"Hey guys, why is Bianca running around in the grass?" Mommy Kim said as she walked through the front door. Senia Mae laid her head on the counter, face down.

"She kind of let the chickens out unknowingly and now thinks she has ruined everything," I whispered to Kim.

"Well, I need an ice cream, does anybody else need one?" Kim opened up the freezer and pulled out the box of Blue Bunny chocolate dipped mini cones. Senia Mae lifted her head from the counter.

"That is the only thing that is going to make me feel better," Senia Mae said with total relief, graciously taking the cone with a napkin.

"Maybe we should watch an episode of Monster High and get our minds off the chickens," Kim said, turning on Netflix and plopping Senia Mae down on the couch. I left for work, leaving Kim in charge of the chicken fiasco.

After an hour and a half I had gotten a text from Kim. "You won't believe this story, call if you have a second." I called her immediately.

"What's going on?" I asked.

"Well, Bianca was perfectly happy in the front yard until I forgot she was out there and let Luna out." Luna is our 2 year old Cocker Spaniel who lays outside of the chicken coop daily, gazing at them with a yearning so primal that it could only come from a bird dog.

"Oh, no."

"So Luna is chasing Bianca around the front yard and then around the side of the house. By this time I hear the fluttering of wings and Luna is howling while headed towards the lake. I am yelling frantically and after five minutes get both dogs back in the house."

"What happened?" I asked. "Please don't tell me Bianca drowned in the lake."

"Well, I wasn't sure. I was looking out the window and saw a white fluff ball in the weedy bushes by the edge of the water. I told Senia Mae to stay in front of the T.V while I went down to the lake to check on the chicken."

"She stayed in the house?" I couldn't believe it.

"She wanted to come with me but I didn't want her to see anything gruesome so I let her stand by the window," Kim said. "I walk down there and Bianca is perched on a small limb, hanging about four feet above the water. her bottom feathers were wet and dripping. You could tell she was totally freaked out and in shock, the poor thing. I felt so bad for her. The limb she was on was too far out over the water, I couldn't reach her from the land and there was no way she was moving. You could tell she was holding on for dear life."

"What did you do?" I asked.

"Well I got in the kayak and paddled over to her."

"What?" I was hysterically laughing now.

"It gets better. So I paddle over to her but the bush is so thick that I can't get all the way in to touch her. I'm wondering how I am going to save this scared chicken... then the answer just comes to me! I took my paddle and held it out by her branch. She looked at me, then marched right up the paddle. I took her in my arms and rested her between my legs as I paddled back to the shore."

"No way," I said, unable to believe the crazy chicken rescue. "Why does all the good stuff happen when I am at work?" I laughed.

"I don't know. I wished someone would have been taking a video. It was unbelievable. I was still kind of afraid that she was going to start pecking at me, but I had to get her back to the coop, so I tucked her under my arm and started walking up the hill. Her bottom side was completely sopping wet."

"You mean to say the term 'madder than a wet hen' is real?"

"I don't know if she was mad or just paralyzed with fear, but she let me carrier her up the hill. She didn't even move when we ran into Hazel (our neighbor's Labrador). I shifted my body and hid her behind my chest and Hazel didn't even notice that I was carrying a chicken!" Kim sounded so pleased with herself.

"That is an unbelievable story. I am so sorry that I missed it."

The moral of the story is: chickens can fly and chickens can swim, but if your hen is mad and wet while perched out on a limb, you better rescue her in a kayak!
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