A Chicken in the House

Garfield stares down at me from the balcony, his meow abrasive and cutting.  He can’t relax, he says.  Have I lost my mind?  Do I not see that there is a chicken in the living room?

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“I see it,” I say, and gesture toward the cat carrier on the coffee table in the window containing the new Ameraucana hen a neighbor’s dog delivered squawking and flapping to her backyard two days ago.  “I smell it, too.”

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The neighbor, a young mother who came from maybe a mile away, had been checking with any neighbor she could find.  She was wracked with guilt that her dog had gotten out and snatched someone’s chicken.  “It’s not ours,” I told her, but I offered to take it off her hands just so she could get back home to her kids.  It looked spry enough, and it clucked and chortled charmingly, despite a nasty wound.

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The cat doesn’t blink.  His eyes are wide and accusing.  His objection is absolute.  He’s stunned that the Bearded One is going along with this outrage (frankly, so am I).  He sends a message to my brain — It’s a chicken, for God’s sake, get some perspective here, Woman.

“Don’t use that tone with me,” I say to the cat.

Our nurse daughter smiles from where she sits in my rocker.  She’s been sleeping all day after her night shift and has just gotten up for dinner.  I show her the hen’s wound, which the Bearded One and I cleaned thoroughly with hydrogen peroxide and then coated with Neosporin.  She says, “Look at the proportion of exposed flesh.  That has got to be a terminal chicken wound.”

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“I’m a death-with-dignity person ,” I argue to the nurse and the cat.  “You know that.  I’d be the first person to pull the plug.  She just doesn’t seem like she’s dying.  Listen to her.”  We listen to her brrrk brrrk brrrk from the cat carrier.  I wonder, though, what kind of a lonely life I have saved this chicken for, separated from her own kind.  Other chickens target any obvious wounds unmercifully.  She’d have to be part of a whole separate flock to really have much chance.

“Do you think I’m drawing out the inevitable here?”

“I don’t know,” says the nurse.

“It’s been two days,” I say.  “If there’s no real progress in the morning, I’ll get the ax.”

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The nurse nods, and Garfield gives me the stink eye.

In the morning, the dog-bite gash in the hen’s left thigh, which fortunately is well-hidden by her wing, is covered by a solid membrane, a kind of scab but very thin.  She has no tail feathers left at all.  She is standing and clucking softly.  This is clear progress.

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We name her Sweet Tart because the word “Tart” is written on the cardboard box she came in, and we move her out to the hoop house, but I know she can’t stay there forever.  She’ll scratch up the plants.  Somehow we must acclimate the other chickens to her.  As a single new bird, that can be rough.

Then on Monday, Sweet Tart’s second day in the hoop house, the Bearded One and I are filling potholes on the road when a neighbor stops and offers us a chicken.  Just like that.  “We’re down to one,” she says, blaming coyotes for stealing an Ameraucana three weeks ago.  “And now Maybelline is alone.”

“You’re missing an Ameraucana?” I ask, dazzled.  Could it be Sweet Tart?

I tell the story, we trek back to the house, but no, Sweet Tart is not hers.

The Bearded One and I take Maybelline, though, and Maybelline accepts Sweet Tart with a single peck to her head.  The balance is struck, and all the humans cheer.  They’re a flock.  Two will be a lot easier to introduce to the original flock, plus Maybelline is huge.  Not even Leah will mess with her.

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Garfield sits in a sunray on the deck and stares hard.  He still hasn’t quite forgiven me.

“Do you think we’re in for an early spring?” our neighbor asks as she’s leaving.  It’s cold but the sun is out.

“Well, it sure is pretty today,” I say, and we both are smiling wide.  “There’s a chance.”

“I think so, too,” the neighbor says, rubbing her arms with the chill. “I can feel it in my bones.”

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13 responses to “A Chicken in the House

  1. Garfield will have to get over it. I love this story. I love Sweet Tart – and thank God for Maybelline. YAY!!!

  2. “SQUEEEEEEEE” A Farmlet post! :)…I am having flashbacks to Pingu in Steve’s music room…charming chortles may have gotten past your “cutesy” defences but Garfield isn’t impressed ;). Maybelline! She looks like our “Blondie” who is currently fostering 2 new babies but who is HOPELESS at mothering and does nothing but cover over their food and water all day in a vain effort to find them worms on a concrete floor…it is true, some hens have very little brain activity :(. I hope Maybelline isn’t true to type ;). The best possible way to introduce Maybelline and Sweet Tart (although they ARE big chooks and that tends to give them a heads up in the pecking order from the start) to your existing chook run is to put them on the roost at night. We were told to do that when we got new chooks and it works…they all wake up together and even though it might be a bit wary at first, they tend to accept the new hens if they wake up with them :). You are a very caring soul Christi and hugs to the B.O. for catering to your chicken lovin’…Garfield, you are outnumbered! Get over it! 😉

    • I had forgotten about that great trick, Fran! Thank you. We did it over a year ago when we added the Ameraucanas and Wyandottes and Leah the Rhode Island Red to the existing banty family. Sweet Tart limps, but I think she’s almost ready to go on the roost. We have another Ameraucana (Cheetah) who for some reason is afraid to fly off the roost so I set her down each morning. Maybe she’ll hang out with Sweet Tart ’til I get there. Garfield’s stuck in the house today while Maybelline and Sweet Tart get out of the hoophouse and explore the backyard. Will his torment ever end? 🙂

  3. I just love the names…Sweet Tart and Maybelline.
    I am sending you good chicken assimilation vibes for the hen house crew.
    You are an earth mother all right.
    lolololo – Garfield…”His objection is absolute.” lolololol
    Hugs,
    C

    • I love the name Maybelline, too, Christine, and laughed out loud when I heard it. The Bearded One started singing the Chuck Berry song, and I had memories of the Maybelline black long-lash mascara that I wore for years. Love you, too, fellow Earth Mutha.

  4. Oh, how I love this vignette and slice of life! Oh, you and Garfleld–so close, so understanding of one another and yet you are the boss! Oh, how the humans and the animals share space–not only in the house, but in the neighborhood and in the bonds of people who live there.

  5. My high school pal Eric sent me here. I am a fellow chicken lover too. Glad he told me to stop by!

  6. kudos for the care of small and obsolete critters.

  7. WOW! The most amazing things happen at the Farmlet! So much love and caring…

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