More misadventures with chickens
The last post on Randy has reminded me of our longest-lasting chicken, Henrietta. As I mentioned before, we frequently had abandoned critters dumped at the packstation, as we called the acreage we rented from BART. It was bounded by the freeway on one side and the frontage road on the other, and had a creek running through it with a flood plain covered with oaks and the remnants of a walnut orchard. If the poor dumped animal was a dog, something that would suffer and starve, we called the pound. But for the usual run of chickens, ducks, rabbits, hamsters, and even cats, we let nature take its course. There were plenty of hungry fox kits and owlets whose diligent parents would put this easy food supply to good use.
Every time some hens got tossed over the fence, Randy would get so excited. He’d strut and crow for a day, and then the next day, there’d be nothing but feathers. (That’s just a matter of speaking. In fact, there were many other unappetizing parts left behind, most of them quite gruesome to anyone but my biologist friend, you know who you are.) Poor Randy would droop around, all alone again.
I was on a feed run when I saw a farm sign that said ‘Bantam Hens $10’. Now Bantams are legendary for being survivors – being neither bred for eggs nor meat, they have a lot of the ‘wild sense’ left in them—and I figured that $10 was a cheap price not to see a drooping rooster. So on the way back, I stopped.
The farmer led me to a large enclosed chicken run and told me to pick one. I pointed to the one who was roosting highest, on the theory that she would be most likely to outlast the predators. My guess was confirmed by how hard that chicken was to catch. But eventually, he snagged her with a pool net. I thought he’d put her in a cardboard box for the trip home (about two hours) but to my consternation, he merely stuffed her in a feed sack, knotted the top, and handed it to me.
“Quiets ‘em down,” he said. “It’s the dark inside the sack. Chickens go to sleep in the dark.”
I gingerly accepted the agitated package and set it next to me on the truck seat, hoping she would be asleep by the time we reached I-5. Perhaps the bag wasn’t dark enough, because Henrietta showed no signs of drowsiness. As I pulled the loaded trailer up the on ramp, she figured out how to get up in the sack, and it started to jerk around.
And then the sack started to move in my direction. I was concentrating on driving a fully-loaded stock trailer in a stiff breeze and didn’t pay it much attention until she got over next to my thigh. It was a hot day, and I was wearing shorts.
A chicken can peck through a feed sack with remarkable ferocity.
I knocked that bag onto the floor of the passenger side, possibly with more force than intended. At which point Henrietta subsided, and the rest of the journey home was broken only by the occasional resentful cackle.
At the time, our house doubled as a transition home for women and children. We had one school-age child and her mom staying with us, and I got to thinking how much 11-year-old Gertrude (not her real name) would enjoy seeing a real, live chicken. She would be getting out of school soon, so I swung by the house before going over to drop off the feed.
And therein hangs a tale of a chicken, a CPS worker, and a toilet plunger.