Saturday, January 21, 2006

Attack of the Feral Chickens

I once headed an organizing department for a non-profit where the media person, the guy in charge of public relations, claimed that he had once worked for the tabloid Weekly World News.

You know the paper, the one that, on off news weeks, runs a banner headline about space aliens abducting the President.

Then they’d have a front page picture of the current President standing next to an off-the-shelf space alien.

I remember going down the hall to the PR director’s office where he’d have examples of WWN headlines taped to his door.
headlines like:
Origin of Species found in Alabama cave (with, of course, an accompanying picture of a dinosaur)

Abramoff reveals all ‘Space Aliens made him do it’
(picture of Abramoff and the same alien that had previously kidnapped the President).
or
Cure for Climate Change discovered by 98 year old Grandmother in attic (grandmother holding mysterious looking box)

The only reason I mention this, the PR director and his headlines, is because of this week’s newsletter subject.

FERREL CHICKENS THREATEN FARM

Now I don’t have a picture yet but I’m getting ready to grab my camera and open the window. They’re out there somewhere.

I’ve seen them.

There’s a dozen. Eleven hens and one rooster.

These are fowl that a long time ago escaped the confines of their chicken fence and for some reason stopped going home at night to roost in the hen house.

And, even, have stopped squeezing under the pasture fence to make a foray to the chicken feeder with its store bought laying mash.

Instead, they live ‘out there’ somewhere. Probably in a tree on the edge of the fields.

And in the early morning, when no one is looking, they steal up to the dog bowl and, with a minimum amount of squawking, quickly empty it.

And sometimes I also see them, these feral chickens, in the middle of one of the fields.

I'll stand there for a moment watching and thinking:

"Now's my chance. If I'm careful now is the time to catch them.'

Catch the feral chickens and bring them back to domesticity.

But lets stop right now and before I draw the picture of a grown man, wearing heavy boots and a stocking cap running across the field chasing little birds let me answer your first question.

Why do I care?

I mean, jeeze, what damage are a dozen scrawny little chickens going to do anyone? I mean, If the want to live in the bushes, why can't they live in the bushes. What harm are they doing?

Why worry?

Well, I'll tell you why.

Yes, I will admit, right now the feral fowl aren't doing much harm to anyone. Stealing a little dog food, scratching up a little winter rye. If I didn't know it was the feral fowl I wouldn't even notice the damage.

So I will admit, right now they aren't causing any harm to anyone.

But I'm not worried about now. What I'm worried about is this spring.

I can envision it well, too. A delicate row of broccoli, hundreds of baby plants. I've spent all planting. I work at my days work with satisfaction and park the tractor, walk back to the house, eat dinner, go to sleep.

And wake up in the morning and look out the window to see:

A dozen feral fowl ripping up my day's work.

Scratching!

Plucking!

Digging!

and finally, Eating!

Eating all of those plants I had just so painstakingly put in the ground.

By then I will be thinking SHOTGUN. Get the shotgun.

But it will be too late. Revenge does not bring back dead broccoli plants.

So, today, right now, I am thinking preventive detention.

I am thinking that it is time to catch those fowl before they get into trouble.

In fact I've been thinking about this for several weeks now. I've even prepared for the safari. I've gone to the big game hunting store over in Manassas (I bet you didn't know there was such a place).

Last week I went to that big box sporting goods warehouse. The place that had hundreds of rifles hanging on the wall. Rifles next to serious looking bows, Bows with sharp arrows. Handguns and bullets. Special scents and camouflage and tree stands and knives and even camouflaged boots for traipsing around in the woods so the wild animals won't be able to see your feet.

Last week I went over to this warehouse of special hunting equipment and I made my purchase.

I went in the back where they keep the elaborate fishing rods and tackle and I bought myself a large fish net.

The perfect weapon for running down feral fowl.

So here's the picture.

Me, running across the field, holding a nine foot pole up in the air, at the top of the pole is a large net, flying behind me, sort of like a kite.

And the chickens, all ten of them, one moment out in the middle of the field scratching and pecking. The next moment running in ten different directions.

Wings flapping.

Lungs screaming.

Little chicken feet running.

Running, the word I guess is scattering.

Scattering in ten directions, but mostly scattering toward the woods and into the briar patches.

Once in the briars they crawl into the deepest reaches. As far enough back into the thick of it as a little bird can squeeze. Places, I should point out, where nets can not follow.

There I am, net over my shoulder trying to get at these feral fowl and the deeper I push into the thorns the more I get scratched and caught up in the briars.

I stand there for a moment, caught up in the stickers, net in the air, chickens squeezing further away.

And then, and then I give up.

Admitting, once again, that the chickens have won. They have escaped the net and a life of quiet domesticity over in the hen yard.

Which gets us around to the question.

What am I going to do?

How am I going to capture the feral chickens before planting time?

Do you have a solution?

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