April 8, 2010 in Washington Voices

Chicken is roosting comfortably

By The Spokesman-Review
 

An update: I wrote here a few months ago about the free-range (feral?) chicken who arrived at our home just before Christmas. When I drove into the driveway, there she was, pecking at the crackers my husband was tossing out to her. Inventive people that we are, we named her Chicken.

We never found out where she came from. She took up roost under our deck, and thus began the daily ritual of appearing out front for food, then retreating to wherever vagabond chickens retreat to during the day. We feed her daily, as does our neighbor, Marilyn. Although we’re puzzled that Chicken has hung around so long, my husband points out that the chow, service and accommodations are pretty good here, so why move on?

We put some straw out back to see if she would like that, and we now see chicken-butt prints in it where she’s customized the arrangement to suit her fancy. She scratched out a little burrow near one of Marilyn’s arborvitae plants, where she spends part of the day. When we do see her – other than at feeding time – she tends to stand among some saplings just over the low block wall at the side of our property.

Other neighbors inquire about her, as do friends who’ve never seen her, including family living far away. A number of readers of this newspaper have taken an interest in her, too.

I mean, why is that? She’s a chicken – potential dinner, if you think about it – not a puppy or a kitten. She doesn’t even provide eggs, just a pile of poop on the front walkway after breakfast. All in all, she’s pretty useless. She’s aloof, having made clear she’s not one of those pet-me chickens. And if we’re not out soon enough with breakfast, she vocalizes haughtily until one us of appears with feed in hand. Kind of demanding, if you ask me.

But still …

She is pretty entertaining. The other morning she stood patiently on the lawn nearby as a squirrel ate up the remainder of the previous day’s feed. When the squirrel scampered up a nearby pine, she nonchalantly stepped forward for the fresh feed my husband then put out for her.

When I first wrote about her, a reader who identified himself as a chicken geneticist (who knew?) informed me that I had misidentified her breed. After I sent him a picture, he told me she was a hatchery stock dark Cornish chicken because of her “small pea comb, blocky head, stocky build, close feathering and a poor quality double laced pattern.” Gee, I thought she was kind of cute.

The writer, named Michael, informed me to take care, chickens are addicting. He started with one and kept adding, and now he has 100, of all types.

A reader named Kathy living on Five Mile related a story: “Several years ago my neighbor raised chickens and I have cats. Both would cross the fence into each others’ garden. One day I looked outside and saw my neighbor on her little tractor tilling the garden. Behind her all in a row were 12 chickens, happily picking up bugs, behind them, all in a row were my four cats! I think they thought it was a parade!”

Another woman wrote of one special chicken who, every time she was ready to lay an egg, would peck at the front door. When the door was opened, the bird would walk across the floor, hop up onto the recliner, make her deposit and head out the front door again. Day after day after day.

One woman named Joan expressed concern that Chicken could be vulnerable to marauding animals and made this offer: “I have 20 chickens, and each has a name, and many are on Poultry Social Security. That means they don’t have to lay eggs if they don’t want to. They have their own house with lights, enclosed yard, as well as a fenced free range area in which they roam on sunny days. I know you are enjoying Chicken just as much as I enjoy my girls (and one boy). However, if you decide to find a permanent home for her, just know that our coop door is open and she would be more than welcome. Along with that offer comes visitation rights.”

Thanks, Joan, but this funny little bird has really become a part of our lives. We do worry when Chicken is not out at her usual time in the morning. We assume she’s dining elsewhere but are relieved when we see her again. And while we think Chicken is pretty safe, I will keep Joan’s e-mail address handy, just in case things turn risky in the neighborhood, predatorwise.

Meantime, Chicken makes us smile. Perhaps she’s not so useless after all.

Voices correspondent Stefanie Pettit can be reached by e-mail at upwindsailor@ comcast.net. Previous columns are available at spokesman.com/ columnists/


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