Our plumber Mark came over yesterday morning to fix a shower valve in Sienna’s shower. He wasn’t here all that long. A few hours later I heard a knock at the door. As I opened the door to the garage I saw Mark standing there.
“Did you forget something?” I asked.
“I brought back your chicken,” Mark said with a grin.
He waved me outside and not really understanding what he meant I walked with him out to his truck. Mark rolled up the big white door on the back and pointed up into the shelves. There was one of my chickens, Sunny, looking down at us. Her expression was almost one of annoyance, like we’d disturbed her.
“I was all the way up in Alarka at another job when I realized she was in there,” he said. Apparently Sunny decided she liked Mark’s truck enough to become a stowaway. She had a nice trip all around Bryson City, including a long stop at the BBQ Wagon.
“She found herself a nice nesting box,” Mark said as he climbed into the truck to hand my chicken back to me. I was so shocked. I guess I could have climbed in the truck to get my own chicken, but he was happy to do it. Sunny looked mad and annoyed, like she didn’t understand why she couldn’t just stay in the truck. Mark just shook his head and laughed. I thanked him over and over for bringing my chicken back.
It’s funny, because when Mark had opened his truck I already knew which chicken I was going to see. I knew it would be Sunny. The thing about Sunny is that she’s always trying to find the perfect place to lay. She tries to get up in the window sills and she paces the garage for high perches. She’s even laid eggs on Brett’s workbench. When she paces it’s almost like she’s in a panic…she runs around with this uh-oh-I’ve-gotta-go-look. A few times she’s jumped on our utility shelf and eyed this deep woven basket that sits there but it’s always been filled with wood. She tried to make it work, but she just couldn’t figure out how to maneuver her plumpalicious little body into it. I guess it’s no wonder she quickly made herself at home in Mark’s truck. He has all these little wood shelf nooks that are Sunny’s idea of egg-laying Shangri-La!
This afternoon as she was pacing and panting outside I decided I would finally clean out that basket for her, just make it “Sunny’s basket.” I picked her up as she ran by, so quickly that her feet were still running in mid-air (she doesn’t like to be caught.) I placed her in the basket and she was mad at me at first, until she looked around to see where she was. Her demeanor changed immediately and her expression read, “WHERE did this glorious nesting box MAGICALLY appear from?!” I quickly turned my back to her and walked away, heading right back into the house. I watched her from the door window. She stared in my direction for a few seconds in disbelief, like she couldn’t fathom that she’d finally scored the basket-on-the-high-shelf as her own. Then Sunny nestled in right away, wriggling around and scratching at the bottom until she was settled.
Every once in a while I’d see her peeking up over the edge of the basket and if I made eye contact with her she quickly popped her head back down. Sunny happens to be very prideful, and I don’t think she wanted me to see how thrilled she was. She sat there for the next hour as I went back to working around the house and finally I heard her squawking at the top of her little chicky-lungs which means, “HEY EVERYONE! I LAID AN EGG!” Once she was sure that everyone in the nearby vicinity had heard her, she hopped up out of her basket and went back to happily foraging in the yard with the other chickens.
This evening we had another workman at the house. As he was getting in his truck to drive away, I yelled, “WAIT!” He stopped. I asked sheepishly, “Do you mind checking the back of your truck for chickens?”
“Um, okay,” he said, a little confused obviously, and walked to the back of the truck. Of course I had to tell him about the stowaway. Good news: we didn’t find any chickens in his truck. I guess Sunny’s new basket took her the need for adventure right out of her, at least for now. I don’t want to have to do a search on every visitor’s vehicle. Brett’s the chicken whisperer, maybe he can talk some sense into her:
It’s been a drama filled few days because another one of our chickens went on an adventure last week too. It was late one night and we couldn’t find Henrietta. It wasn’t the first time we’ve had to find her. She’s gone broody, which means if she’s allowed to sit on eggs long enough she’ll sit there forever (and they will never hatch because we don’t have a rooster.) We found her sitting on almost nineteen eggs at one point under the depot. I couldn’t get to her, not that I’d want to…every spider in Bryson City lives in that crawl space. She wouldn’t even get up to eat or drink, she was slowly wasting away. Brett was finally able to move the wood steps and pull her out along with the eggs. She went back to normal for a few days…until one day we left the eggs too long in the coop and when I opened up the nesting box to grab them Henrietta was sitting there. She hissed at me when I reached my hand in. Henrietta is a quirky chicken. (I told you about the stalking, remember? And how she needs glasses?) Anyway, we’ve been much better about getting the eggs early now, but then she went missing again last week. We searched in all the usual places but it quickly got too dark to see much of anything. We searched the woods for her but eventually had to turn in for the night. We hoped that she would just hide somewhere, and hide well, so that she wouldn’t get eaten by a fox or raccoon.
The next morning Brett opened the garage and there was no sign of her. We thought she might be gone for good, maybe she’d been snatched up by a hawk or worse. A little while later, our friend Kyle who lives up the street was walking his three dogs. He usually walks two of the dogs on a leash and the third, Charley, is trained well enough that it stays very close. Except for this morning when Charley the dog must have caught whiff of a rogue chicken! Kyle texted Brett and asked, “Are you missing a chicken? Charley just chased a chicken in between the houses up here.”
Brett went quickly up the road to search while I checked on the other chickens in the coop. It was then that I realized that it wasn’t Henrietta that was missing, it was M-Lo (apparently all chickens look the same in the dark). M-Lo’s name stands for “my little one” because she’s always been our tiniest, sweetest chicken (besides Fo-Shizzle of course). She was the runt of all the chicks. Just look at M-Lo as a baby chick…she was dreamy:
So you can imagine how devastated I was that Brett didn’t have any luck finding M-Lo up the road. When he got home, I quickly got dressed and filled a gold pan (because I am a serial-hobbyist and prospecting sounded fun too) with some chicken scratch and carried it up the street shrieking my chicken call: HERE-CHICK-CHICK. HERE-CHICK-CHICK. It’s a really annoying call, and really kind of embarrassing. I wish I’d come up with something better now like: SUPPER! But now it’s too late so I’m stuck with it. Anyway, I snuck through a few back yards with my hand dramatically stuck over my eyes, which is the universal symbol for “SEARCH PARTY” just in case anyone saw me. After almost giving up hope, out of the corner of my eye I saw some movement in our friend’s yard. As I climbed through a few bushes and crossed over to the other yard I found M-Lo cowering under our friend’s sheep wagon:
I had to lure her out slowly with food, but it was like she didn’t even know who I was. What kind of awful things happen in the woods during the night that could erase a chicken’s memory?! Eventually M-Lo timidly snuck closer and closer eating the scratch that I dropped. My legs burned from squatting for so long and every time I stood up M-Lo ran the other direction and we had to start the process all over again. Finally she came close enough that I could easily grab her. She squawked only once when I finally had my hands around her. I tucked her like a football under my arm and slowly walked home wondering how she’d made it so far in the first place. It was a long way for such a little chicken! I proudly marched home. The neighbors I saw along the way home congratulated me on finding our rogue chicken. “Yay you found her!” “Glad the crazy neighborhood cat didn’t get her.” “Phew!”
I never imagined there could be so much excitement in chicken raising. I never imagined I’d be searching under sheep wagons, owning actual gold pans, and carrying chickens like footballs. I never imagined that I’d have to have to search for stowaway chickens and brave a hissing, broody, far-sighted, stalker hen.
As long as I have chickens I guess I will never have a shortage of stories to tell.
I’m happy to report that all the chickens are safe in the coop tonight.