June 17, 2010 in Washington Voices

Stefanie Pettit: Fame found in borrowed feathers

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Back by popular request – Chicken.

I’ve written about her before and hadn’t planned on writing so soon again about this barnyard bird who appeared in our driveway around Christmas time and set up housekeeping under our deck. But things have changed. For one thing, everyone I meet wants to hear about her. And for another, she has gotten to be a bad, naughty girl and I don’t know what to do about it.

So here’s the update, in reverse order. In the spirit of full disclosure, I, a city girl, know nothing about chickens, so when this one arrived from wherever free-range chickens free-range from, it was make-it-up-as-we-go at our house. She has delighted us with her behavior and we have fed her, cared for her as best we could and worried over her these past six months.

When warmer weather rolled around, she began moving all over the property, clucking as she went, excavating roosting semicircles in the soft dirt behind bushes and – as always – leaving a hearty pile of poop on the front walkway to let us know she’d made her rounds.

And then she disappeared for a week. We were concerned. My husband checked all around the house to see if he could find her – or evidence that something had happened to her. Meantime I hoped that, it being springtime and all, she had heeded the cock-a-doodle-do of a distant suitor and would return eventually, perhaps with a little smile on her beak.

Well, we don’t know where she went, but she did come back, her behavior, eating schedule and roosting sites markedly changed. OK, no matter, we were just glad to see her again. As the season progressed, I planted flowers along the front walkway, as I always do. Because it’s shady there, it’s hard to grow anything colorful, though geraniums have defied the odds and actually managed a few blooms. This year, I put in a row of impatiens.

They look beautiful. Chicken thinks so, too, and has begun devouring them. A friend suggested she needs more greens. Done. I also moved her feeding spot up the driveway, away from anything but lawn. She goes right to it, smart girl, but when finished with chicken chow and table scraps, she saunters back to the flowers and munches away, ingesting blooms and stems alike – right down to the ground. Apparently she likes her salad really fresh.

I’m not always home when she makes her daily appearance, but when I am, I watch carefully. When I shoo her away from the flowers, she vocalizes long and loud (good thing I don’t understand chicken speak) and circles around, waiting, I expect, for me to leave. But I don’t, so she finally moves off, none too happy about it.

I have now replaced eight plants – and dark thoughts are creeping into my brain. Although Chicken is a full-size bird, she could still probably fit in our Crock Pot. My husband knows I’ll never actually resort to that, but I find release when I do my own vocalizing and threaten her with a trip to the slow cooker when she approaches my flowers. As I lecture, she looks at me rather blankly, poops (I know an editorial comment when I see one) and strolls away leisurely. That’s one confident, self-assured bird.

She doesn’t know it, of course, but she has become quite popular. I’ve been stopped at the grocery store, at the bank, in restaurants, at medical offices, everywhere. People I don’t even know ask the same thing – how’s Chicken?

I came home one day and a man operating a backhoe was digging a trench in my neighbor’s yard close to my driveway. He called over to me and asked if this is where Chicken lives. He said he saw the bird and even tried to follow her between my house and my neighbor’s, but Chicken would have nothing to do with him. I told him not to feel bad; she has nothing to do with me either unless I’ve rung the dinner bell.

He said he couldn’t wait to get home to tell his wife he worked next door to where Chicken lives!

I’ve gotten a lot of advice about Chicken, but no one warned me that chickens could possess the stuff of which celebrity is made or that they were garden assassins. Though she is definitely a bad, naughty girl flowerwise, I have to admit we’re still pretty fond of her. Most of the time.

Oh, and there’s one other thing. She has finally graced us with an egg – just one – possibly a good faith gesture to keep her safe from Crock Pots, just in case I wasn’t really bluffing about that. I told you she’s a smart girl.

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


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