© Another Day in the Country
Usually, I’m not a gun advocate. When people carry on about someone taking away their right to bear arms, I usually say, “Yeah, right.” However, this past week, I really wished I had a gun.
There was a knock at my door, while I was happily going through a box of old pictures at the kitchen table. It was someone who lives up the road and they said, “I was just driving by and saw this black snub-nosed dog in your yard that just killed one of your chickens.” I went flying out the door and, sure enough, there was my sweet little rooster, Dandy, lying dead in the floor bed.
“Oh, why did I let them out of the pen,” I mourned. It was a lovely sunny day, the chickens were pacing up and down their fence line, begging to come join me in the yard, and I thought to myself, “I’ll just let them out for a couple of hours. They deserve a little freedom.” And, I so love seeing Dandy strut around the yard, calling the girls, Mary and Dived, to come see what he’s found for them to eat, leading the flock of only two, now, to their favorite dusting spots under the trees. It soothes my spirit just to watch them.
Just an hour before I’d let them out and had gone across the street to the other house and let them out as well. The people whose dogs were most troublesome had left town. The relative newcomers down the street kept their dogs contained most of the time — unfortunately, not on this day.
While I was trying to alert the dog owners, their dog, having already killed the three in my yard, headed for the chickens across the street. It caught yet another hen and dispatched her as I came running across the yard yelling. Boy, did I wish I had a gun, something louder than my hollering, more effective than a stick. I managed to chase the dog out of the yard. Earl Gray, the rooster for this flock of a baker’s dozen, now minus one, kept calling the alarm.
When Jess came back from running an errand, she found me guarding the remaining chickens, under some trees at the side of the lawn. “Oh, Pat, I’m so sorry,” she said. “Me, too,” I answered. Why had I let those chickens out? Why had I succumbed to the abandon of seeing them happy in the yard when I knew the track record of my neighborhood.
It took both of us to get the remaining hens safely back into the hen house and I went back inside with a heavy heart, sorting these old photographs scattered on my table. “They’re only chickens,” I mumbled to myself, “but they had names, they came when I called, they were someone to talk to.” It was something to look forward to as I gathered Dove’s one blue egg each day — Mary was old, no more egg-laying for her. She was in chicken menopause. It’s surprising how much I miss their company.
The chickens across the street, which I managed to save, are an independent lot. Earl Gray is the only one with a name — even he gets impatient with these hens who don’t come when they’re called, don’t do what they’re told, and have minds of their own.
I read somewhere that when chickens are molting that cat food (protein) is good for them. Dandy and his crew loved cat food treats. He’d bring the hens to the back screen door and peer inside to see if I was around to throw a handful of cat food out for them. “C’mon girls,” he’d call, “she’s coming with treats…” and they’d come expecting the door to open and chicken candy to miraculously rain down.
I took some cat food over to Earl Gray’s crew, across the street, as a thank-you for their cooperation coming back into the house early. We’d already enticed them with grain, so they looked at the cat food disdainfully, as if it were strange inedible bugs. “What’s that?” they asked one another, “Have you ever tasted it?” Then one of the hens said, clear as day, “What we really want is to be able to go outside, scratch in the dirt, dust our feathers, on another day in the country.”