Saturday, April 22, 2006

We Have a Troll

No, no, she’s not a troll – a troll is too ogrely.

Maybe we have a fairy.

Hmmm. No. She’ not a fairy either; fairies are in the air like Tinkerbell, aren’t they?

Maybe we have a gnome. Except, well, she doesn’t have a beard or hat.

Well, suffice to say that we knew there was something living under the chicken house but we were uncertain just what mythological type creature it may have been.

…Until late yesterday evening.

I had a large pot of all too well left over homemade chicken noodle soup; our chickens love leftovers and I felt that they would graciously overlook the irony of being served, well, chicken noodle soup…..

While the chickens were feasting just before taking roost for the night, the boys and I were taking in a little “Chick T.V.” A feasting flock of poultry is quite the entertainment package.


Our three cooped roosters (awaiting their own chicken noodle soup futures) were making the oddest cackles when my oldest son said, “Mom, there’s the wild chicken sticking her head out – I told you I think she’s stuck under the chicken house.”

I walked over to the rooster coop that sits right next to the chicken house and every few seconds or so, this hen (a chicken that was hatched last year by one of our own, but would never remain with the flock and only roost in the woods – thus named “the wild chicken”) was sticking her head and neck out of a small gap from under the chicken house trying to eat sprinkles of scratch that the roosters had slung out of their coop. Her behavior reminded me of some of the games at the fair where you’re trying to bonk the little critter sticking his head out of the hole too fast.

We knew that during the day, she would go under the chicken house, but at night – rather than roost with the flock, the wild chicken would roost in the woods. The best we could figure was that something must have gotten after her one night and out of panic, she wedged herself up under the shallowest part of the chicken house - now unable to exit.

The gap that she was trying to eat through provided no expansion because of the 4x4’s supporting the foundation of the barn on that particular side. Oddly enough (but fortunately for us), the same construction did not mirror the foundation on the other side……….uh, because, well, a Momma and her sons built the barn themselves, maybe?

Well, it’s still standing and functions, doesn’t it?

My younger son ran and retrieved a shovel so we could dig out a spot on the opposite side and then we baited the opening with some scratch. My oldest son had a long beaver stick and along with a large spotlight, used it to “shoo” the hen from the rooster coop side, hoping to send her to our baited exit.

Sure enough, she did so.

During all this drama and rescue activity, the main flock had finished their evening meal of leftovers and moved inside to their roost with the occasional alarmed clucking over our attempts to rescue the flock’s outcast ~ the rogue hen. I could just imagine their conversations on the roost among themselves:

Ethyl (our Barred Rock hen): “I don’t know why they are making such a fuss over that stupid girl – she was never one of us. And besides, does she lay any eggs for the Jacobs like the rest of us?…”

Maddie (our Buff Orpington hen): “Now Ethyl, we need to be compassionate for the less fortunate. After all, she was one of Ms. White’s children – may she rest in peace….”

Dixie (one of our Speckled Sussex hens): “She has never been happy or cheerful or wanted to do anything with us. Why wouldn’t she want to hang out with all of us – we’re so much fun to be with….”

Pearl (Ms. White’s surviving sister – a White Giant hen): “Oh, the shame of it all. One of my only sister’s offspring….how will I ever face the ladies at Hen Circle?...”

Lilly (one of our Black Giant hens): “I agree, Pearl. I would just die if one of my sister’s girls rebelled like that. But you know she’s never been quite the same since her momma just keeled over in the chicken house that day……”

Elvis (Head Rooster – a single-combed, Brown Leghorn): “Ladies, can we remember who we are? We are above idle gossip; now let’s settle down for the night….”

While the flock continued sorting out the details of the evening's rescue events among themselves, we stood at the back of the chicken house and waited for the wild chicken to finally come all the way out from underneath the barn. When she did, it was obvious that she had been, well, stuck in that area underneath the barn for some time. She was rather hunch-backed – but not as slim and undernourished as I was expecting. She eagerly ate the scratch feed and drank from the outside waterer walking and scratching about. And while she remained a bit skiddish, we were relieved that she was able and willing to come out……..the thought of having to crawl up under there to retrieve her gave me the willies. I knew all too well that that would be the exact moment when one of the local rat snakes, in his wily humor, would decide to come slithering through……..

Mission accomplished – one wild chicken on the loose again – the rogue rebel of our farm’s flock.
Harriette Keen Jacobs
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South of the Gnat Line