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Another Day in the Country

The duke is dead

© Another Day in the Country

It’s been a while since I’ve given you a chicken update.

Well, the Duke is no more. He bit the bullet, and he’s gone to the great beyond. (If there is such a place for chickens. I mean, why not?) He’s pushing up daisies — although really, something ate him.

There were a few tail feathers by the little chicken hatch — that’s it. And it was a shame because he’d molted earlier and had just grown in those new feathers. He sacrificed himself for the greater good, in my book, since the hens are more useful.

What really happened, on a dark and stormy night in the country, was unfortunate; however, while spending the night in a nest box may be cozy it also makes you the first item on the menu if a hungry predator gets into the hen house.

The hens are smarter and maybe more paranoid because they do not sit in the nest boxes or on the low riser roosts. They are up in the peak of the roof on a time-tested, secure 2x4 joist. It’s pretty safe up there in the dark of night.

With only two hens left at the little house, I decided that basic wisdom, and winter coming on, called for consolidating hen houses to make less work for myself. So, late one evening, after they were sound asleep, I put Elisabeth and Helloise in a chicken crate, and Jess and I hauled them over to the Big House.

My theory was that the other hens would get used to having them around after a few days; but I underestimated the hostility of my black hens — it’s the Astralorp that rule the roost and they are a very dominant breed. Several Astralorp are on patrol, striding in and out of the chicken run, heads up, beady-eyed, and rather ruthless.

The Easter egg hens have been in molt, and for some reason the Astrolops are resenting them, too. Usually, it was just Dixie and Trixie, the two white Polish Topknots that were bottom of the pecking order — it’s like racial profiling. All one of those Nazi-looking commando hens has to do is look at Trixie and she squawks. She’s becoming a nervous wreck. 

There’s been a lot of unrest in the Big House. I thought maybe it was because a hawk had swooped down and snagged Lucky Lou — who was seriously unlucky. And the hawk had the audacity to not only kill the chicken but proceed to eat it right there in the yard — until I came around the corner, that is. The Astralops have been on high alert ever since. Me, too!

The A-Troup checked out the chickens in the cage and seemed to pay no mind. The caged girls had their own food and water — what’s to fret? And then after a couple nights, I opened the cage door so they could choose to go out into the bigger hen house.

They were confused. “Where’s our high roost?” Helloise asked Elisabeth, the queen who was staying in the cage.

“I can’t figure it out,” she squawked, tossing her head feathers.

The patrol hens got on their walkie-talkies, “It’s move-ins,” they called in alarm. “What’s Pat doing out here in the dark of night?”

Lucky they didn’t have night vision goggles!

“What will be, will be,” I said to my sister.

But I was concerned, so the next morning I brought treats out to the hens in the Big House — something to amuse them, I hoped. Elisabeth, who used to be queen, was still in the cage ignoring the open door. Helloise, the Duke’s handmaid, was just gone! She’d literally flown the coop!

“She’s a goner.” I mumbled to myself.

Days went by. My integration techniques were way off, and the hens in the Big House were upset and restless. I was feeling guilty for disrupting their world.

Who can blame them for constantly calling out, “Stranger danger!” when bad things have been happening, the Duke being offed, and Lucky Lou’s demise, along with the continued persecution of the Polish girls.

Jess got a call, “One of Pat’s chickens is loose in your back yard.”

Then my sister called me. In Ramona I often get messages the long way around.

“Which one was sighted?” I wanted to know, because Goldie, one of the Easter-eggers is a high flyer, too, like Helloise. All the other hens stay in the 10’ high fence. Not Goldie — she flies in and out at will.

“She knows she’s on her own if she flies out,” I said. “But every time, so far, she comes back inside pretty quickly.”

I scoured the yards around our houses looking for signs of Helloise, a very distinctive black and white Polish Topknot. No sight of her.

“It’s been three nights,” I told Jess. “How could she make it through a night without being eaten? She isn’t used to roughing it.”

And then, last week I walked out the back door, and there was Helloise in the yard. When she caught sight of me she came running. I thought she’d jump into my arms, she was so excited. I opened up the little house, the place that used to be her kingdom, and let her in. I brought food and water. Now, what do I do, on another day in the country?

Last modified Dec. 3, 2020

 

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