Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The great escape

Zora and Edna levitated the other day and shot out through an opening at the top of their pen. Remember, they are bantam Moderns—light-bodied and able to fly high into the trees. Not knowing they were out, I walked outside with the dogs and, oops, there were dogs and hens goggling at each other in surprise. The dogs charged after the chickens, I charged after the dogs, Edna flew for the coop, and Zora zoomed into the trees bordering the yard.

She landed somewhere on the other side of the fence and, despite much searching, I did not find her. I searched the surrounding yards at intervals throughout the evening but had no luck. When I finally gave up and went to close the door to the pen for the night, Zora had rematerialized and was pecking and scratching like everyone else.

I didn’t wring her neck. I don’t know how and it’s something you need to get right on the first try.

The next day she decided to go walkabout again, even with no one chasing her and all the hens together in the yard. I left her to her fate until evening when I heard her in the yard that backs onto mine. There's no gate between yards.

Fetching the container of meal worms in case I needed a bribe, I ran down my street, around the corner, down that street and around again to the other house. Knocked on the door. A young woman came out and I explained the problem. We searched around in her yard--no Zora, not a rustle or peep. It was time to leave her to fate or the neighbor’s Great Dane, whichever came first.

A half-hour before dusk I heard the musical sound of two young women’s chatter and uncontrollable laughter. It reminded me of nights in the college dorm. I wondered....

So I was not surprised a few minutes later when they appeared at my front door, all three—women and chicken—slightly out of breath. The women were grinning and giggling as they handed Zora over. Dodging and darting after an erratic chicken can be pretty fun.

“She’s like a little furnace,” one said.

Zora was indeed over-heated but that was her own fault. I gave the women some eggs. When the chicken books comment that keeping chickens is a way to get to know the neighbors, they are referring to eggs, not escapees.

I clipped Zora’s wings.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bulk mice

I ordered 40 jumbo mice for Matilda, vacuum packed and delivered overnight in dry ice. They come in styrofoam trays of 20, neatly lined up in rows like a tray of sausages but pearly white instead of those unappetizing sausage colors.

Last week I had only one adult mouse left, so I knew she'd be hungry. I thawed out a jumbo and brought it to her. As soon as I dangled it into her tank, she struck, grabbing it at the side and in the same movement, coiling her body around it. I've seen her do one coil before but this time she was wrapped all around it as she maneuvered her mouth up to its head.

A snake strikes faster than our eyes follow, so it's a beautiful and dramatic thing to see--as long as it's not a venomous snake striking at Moi.

Friday, June 13, 2008

what chickens know

Why is it that chickens know where you want them to go so that they can head off in the precise opposite direction?

They're tucked up for the night and you hurry down to the coop to shut the door. That's when they decide they'd rather do some more foraging. They hop off their perches and scatter in six different directions. After all, if you're out, there must be some reason for them to be out.

Four chickens return. Two have forgotten where the door to the pen is. They hurry back and forth at the wrong end of the pen, thrusting their heads at spaces in the wire. ("It was around here somewhere...I swear that door was right couldn't have gone far.")

The least effective thing to do is try to herd the errant hens in the direction of the door because, of course, they'll run all around the pen along every side except the one where the door stands open. If you walk away, they'll find their way back into the pen, at which time the other chickens will hop off their perches to see if the newcomers have found something interesting. After all, if they're out, there must be some reason not to go to sleep yet....

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

chickens rule

Yes, Olivia's chicken video won $1,000 worth of books for her school library and $500 worth of books for her. She won because there's a large, devoted, literary chicken community in cyberspace as well as real space.