Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Red Hen

At my former farm, the house faced a fairly busy road. My chickens roosted on a trellis at the end of the carport, in full view of the road. One day a pickup stopped, disgorging a man and his young daughter. "Would you be willing to take a couple more chickens?" he said.

I've had past experience of people giving me chickens, usually without my consent. The meanest rooster I've had appeared one day and took over the farm, attacking any person foolish enough to set foot on it. I'm now a bit wary of free fowl.

The little girl hugged her dad's leg and looked sad. "Our landlord insists we get rid of the birds. They’re my daughter’s pets." So I took possession of 2 red hens and a duck. A duck that thought she was a hen, and was totally devoted to the larger, darker hen.

The light hen drowned herself in the creek the first week; not used to so much water, I suppose, or perhaps trying to follow the duck. The dark hen and the duck lived happily with me for years, the hen roosting on the trellis, the duck sleeping in a crate below it.

The coyotes eventually made a snack of the duck, but the hen moved with me to the new farm, where she happily combs the woods and fields for bugs. And then one day she lost all judgment.

I have two livestock guardian dogs who live in a large dog yard, instead of out with the livestock. Tor, the Pyr, is there because he is a rescue dog who would try to kill my working Pyr if he was loose. Berna the Anatolian spends her days there instead of patrolling the farm because she was raised by a Border Collie, and loves to chase birds. She isn't nearly as intense or determined as the Border Collie, but she is a quick and thorough learner, and chase is what Border Collies do best.

When I came home from work Tor was at the corner of the pen to greet me as usual. Berna was not. Odd behavior. As I went in the gate I leaned over to see around the shelter, to see why Berna wasn't greeting me. Berna had cornered and was "playing" with my red hen.

For some unknown reason, the hen had decided to go into the dog yard. There is no grass in there, and not much in the line of living plants. Just two big dogs. I've no idea how long the hen was in the dog yard. The poor hen was missing a fair amount of feathers, and quite a bit of skin where the wing connects to the body. I consider the limited injuries as a good sign that Berna may one day be trained to ignore the birds; she could so easily have killed the hen.

The red hen spent a month living inside getting medical care, and one day decided she was well enough to go back out. She can fly up into the trees to roost and looks just as good as new. Maybe I should get her another duck.

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1 comment:

Semavi Lady said...

Nice story. I hope the hen is around for a while and Berna also learns poultry rules. Seeing chickens on my friends' blogs is like eyecandy. :)