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- With Heart and Hands: Michele Bilyeu (blog)
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Chickens A La Carte
Little did I realize that helping out my BIL after his open heart surgery, would involve more than Making a (Cardiac) Heart Pillow , a quilt to keep him warm, visiting him in the hospital, and lots and lots of good thoughts and well wishes.
We somehow ended up taking over 3 of his chickens! With little time to build a coop or make other preparations, we had just enough time to make do with what we had, and make what we could in a hurry...simply, because we had to.
And of course, we never realized just how much of a commitment chicken ownership ends up being. It's not just letting them in and out of a coop each morning and evening, feeding them, cleaning up after them, or fetching eggs. Oh no, chickens are also trouble! Where do you think the word 'penitentiary' comes from? From chickens and chicken pens! And penitent? From being sorry, we ever agreed to adopt them ;)
Getting their coop ( which I jokingly called the 'Chicken Shack' in direct contrast to Judy L's purple 'Chicken Castle') loaded onto a garden wagon (now known as 'chicken a la carte') and into our back yard went quite well, until one of the cats came up to the fence and the zoom on my camera...well zoomed...both at the same time. You would have sworn a coyote jumped into the pen with them! I don't even know which one of us screeched first!
All three chickens 'flew the coop' and out of their temporarily fenced pen...all three at once!!! What an uproar!!!! It was something out of Keystone Cops! We didn't know which way to chase down which chicken first! Within seconds, Matilda had flown into the air, headed North to freedom, through the wire fence onto the neighboring acreage, and then continued on her way... for two more properties over. Sophie headed West.... and Penelope ran East.... and hubby and I ran every which way but the right one! Oh, the squawking that went on... and on...and on.....and that was just hubby and me!
We managed to run down Sophie, now a great deal closer to being known as 'Original Recipe', and managed to herd her into corner and capture her, but Penelope ('Extra Crispy') took...true to her nickname.... quite a while longer to herd and to capture. I felt like a tightrope walker as I wielded a big stick on either side of me to close off her path and it was definitely balancing act, catching her without further frightening her, or me!
But Matilda, dear Matilda our little three-tone 'Crispy' one, went on a waltz that lasted all afternoon, all through that night and into most of the following day. I searched for that darn chicken for a full hour and a half...just the first day.... trespassing on neighbor's property and calling 'chick, chick, chick' til the cows (but no chicken) ever came home. Then, I worried when she didn't come home at night, and all the next morning into the late afternoon.
Oh, I was so sad! I thought we'd lost her forever! And we'd only had her in our yard for less than 15 minutes. No chicken in sight and the wealth of blackberry brambles made it impossible to search as well as I needed to! DH basically said, "if she doesn't come home (and remember, she didn't know this was home or anything about it) tonight, we've probably lost her forever."
However, all good dances come to an end....even the slowest and best of all waltzes. And even by someone named Matilda! And by mid-afternoon of the following day, I caught sight of her white tailfeathers across the fence. With great care, stealth, and fine deliberation...I managed to corner her into a dead-end and grab her. She flapped and screeched so loudly I didn't grasp tightly enough and she escaped again. Oh the wailing and breast beating that went on then...and again it was me and not poor Matilda.....who only wanted to be free of this crazy, demented, chicken chasing, wailing woman who went 'chick, chick, chick' and 'cluck, cluck, cluck' for hours on end!
Off I went, this time determined that it was" now or never!" I had to catch her before she was lost for good! Aha...I cornered and caught that little she-devil and clasping her so tightly to me, I was determined that no matter what happened to me, she was NOT getting away again!
I held onto her for dear life, was just gingerly crossing over the break in the barbed wire fence and clamoring over a dirt and bramble pile, when DH came home and into the yard looking for me ...and he actually managed to catch my epic and triumphant return!
Some feats feel almost as good a finishing a quilt...in this case six little chicken feets back on safe ground, penned up all around, and with a newly created wire top to keep them all in!
And in spite of everything, they'd been through, each little lady left us a gift...three lovely little eggs! And of course the end of that story...three eggs cooked to perfection...original recipe, crispy, and extra crispy..... served with some freshly fried red potatoes !
Ah, it's good to be a chicken farmer after all ;)
Shown here: Sophie (white), Matilda (white with black and brown), and Penelope (black) or as my husband jokingly calls them: "Original Recipe, Crispy, and Extra Crispy" See below:
It's a hard, hard fact of life. But if you raise chickens, even if you will never, ever, eat them (as I refuse to!) they are still a form of our lives that serve as meals for many of us. And as my children remind me, you can't do conscious raising of any life form, without conscious awareness of gratitude for all that is given to us that comes in the form of food.