Chickens come and go at Tipsy Toad Grove. Usually when they go it’s under the influence of something larger – a coyote, a fox or a trip to freezer camp. When they come, it’s a result of a trip to make a purchase or 21 days of finger tapping while the incubator hums away in the spare room.
Sid Vicious was a blue Australorp. He wasn’t friendly like the other Australorps, but he was one of my favourite roosters anyway. His light grey feathers with the bluish sheen and his enormous stature gave him real presence around the yard. Unfortunately for Sid, Supafly is the cock of the walk in these parts. That may have played a role in Sid’s disappearance a little more than a month ago. Whatever occurred, it was strange indeed. Usually when a bird goes missing there’ll be a telltale pile of feathers so we know it didn’t just up and leave. But with Sid there was nothing.It was like he just walked away and never looked back .
We let our chickens free range completely in the warmer months. Sometimes, if I hear howling nearby, I’ll go down after dark and shut their little hatch. More often than not, however, they are free to come and go as they please. Chickens put themselves to bed at dark, and the roost in my coop is a ladder to the ceiling so I’m fairly certain that even if a coyote or a fox entered the coop, the chickens could get high enough to stay out of harm’s way. Raccoons are a different story, but I think the dogs keep them at bay.
Because of the freedom afforded to my birds, I am at a point where I don’t know exactly how many I have. I do count from time to time, but there’s no telling if a few might be hiding under the coop or roosting in the trees. I think it’s better this way – I’m less likely to get upset if it appears one might have gone AWOL. This is the reason that I didn’t notice Nancy’s (apparently lengthy) absence.
Nancy is a splash Australorp. Sid, Nancy, and Siouxsie Sioux were a team. They wandered the yard aimlessly like feathered addicts, seeking out a buggy fix and garbling punk rock crows at the top of their lungs. When Sid disappeared Nancy and Siouxsie fell in with the more mainstream crowd, a much larger contingent where individuals go unnoticed.
This evening I came home from work and went about the usual routine of pre-supper chores. Once the chickens were fed, the goats and llamas brought in, the hay feeders topped up and the dogs let out to pee, I started thinking about supper for us human types. I grabbed a stainless bowl and headed to the garden to scrounge some leaves of lettuce from my waning summer supply. As I stepped over the netting that keeps the chickens out, I noticed Nancy crouching beneath the squash vines. “Damn you, chicken!” I cursed, waving my arms frantically to chase her away. Nancy held her ground and didn’t budge until I reached down to grab her. She let loose with a fury of pecking and nipping – quite unusual for a normally placid Australorp. I repositioned and grabbed her, pinning her wings against her body. As I lifted the crazed bird off of the ground I saw a scurry of movement where she’d been sitting. My first thought was “Mice!” but then the peeping became clear. Nancy was sitting on a clutch of chicks, and by the looks of things they were no more than a day old. No wonder she was pissed with me!
Shocked, I gingerly returned Nancy to the squash patch and scrambled to come up with a plan. I couldn’t leave them outside or something would eat them for sure. The brooder was full of meat birds, so that was out of the question. If I put Nancy in the coop, the multitude of other chickens might inadvertently harm the little ones. Finally I decided to move the new family to the old coop – the one I originally built for my first 3 chickens. I scooped up the chicks in a box and carried them with their mother across the yard to the penthouse. In seconds they settled under her again and as darkness closed in, everything returned to normal.
Chickens come and chickens go. I suspect I’ll never see Sid again. I know logically that Sid’s been gone just a little too long to have had anything to do with this batch of fluffy butts. Still, there’s something too coincidental about the whole thing – Sid leaves and then Nancy shows up unannounced with 6 surprise newbies. Maybe Sid Vicious is still alive out there somewhere after all.
If a rooster comes out of this batch, I think I’ll name him Kurt. Cobain. He’s still alive, right?