Thursday, June 9, 2011

Terrible, terrible freedom

Genevieve had her first sweet, slimy taste of freedom last night (I'm pretty sure that to a chicken, freedom tastes like all the worms you can eat). We didn't intend to set her free, it just happened.

At first, it was kinda cool. We turned up pieces of sod (there's a huge pile skulking in our driveway-- it's the sod that came off my vegetable garden) and watched her scratch and gobble up all the crawlies underneath, with utter aplomb. Worms, sowbugs, millipedes, grubs, snails, slugs, earwigs: she loves them all. She also loves pecking the seed heads off the dandelions, and eating ant larvae.

I mean, come on, wouldn't you?

I'd spent a good part of my day doing some scratching and pecking of my own-- on the internet, turning up plans for modest chicken coops. Like this one. Someday, there will be a small coop, and a small flock to live there.

She's remarkably tame. She'll even come to us, if it strikes her fancy, when we rustle in the weeds. I feel wholly and inexplicably pleased, watching her scratch and peck. She's fulfilling her chickeny desires-- but it's so much more than that. It's her purpose-- the complete and total reason of her existence, to eat grubs and fluff and so many more things that are useless to humans, for the production of precious and celebrated eggs. There's no such clarity in my life, no purpose as plain as consuming bad and generating good.

When the heat started to be too much for us (it was 97 yesterday), and it was time to start dinner, we began trying to persuade our charge to return to her cage. Naturally, the harder we tried, the warier and more flighty she became. Though we were tipping over sod-rolls and feeding her worms out of our palms minutes ago, to Genevieve we had suddenly morphed into Evil. Evil rake and blanket-wielding captors. She went so far as to fly across the street and up onto the telephone line to elude us.

An hour later, two extremely dirty, sweaty, and exasperated chicken-wranglers made their catch. Suffice to say, she won't be getting out again any time soon.

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BeckyinVT said...

The good news is if you wait for dusk she'll go right back to her home all on her own.

The bad news is waiting for dusk so I can shut the chickens inside their coop cuts into a lot of my evening plans.

Kristina Strain said...

I know a flock will return to home each night, but I was unsure as to whether a single chicken, especially one lacking the guidance of a rooster, would return home. Also, there's the worry of neighborhood cats, cars, and hawks. A solitary chicken seems pretty defenseless.

Becky said...

I understand your worries. Probably would be better at getting home with others along for the commute. You don't need a rooster though - unless you want biddies.

Anonymous said...

As the other Becky said - you definitely don't need a rooster. And even one hen will go home on her own just like a dog knows where his dog-bed is and a cat knows which windowsill is best for napping.

But you're right, all those other neighborhood dangers can happen before dusk and a lone chicken doesn't have any friends to help her keep watch.

Kristina Strain said...

Thanks for the advice! By this time next year, Gen will have "friends" and the flock will roam free... I hope safely!

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