Monday, February 20, 2006

Hole in the wall gang

I don't know what to do about the dirty dozen?

Or should I call them the wild bunch?

Or is that the Return of the native.

Anyway, its that dozen, more of less, chickens that have gone wild.

These aren’t to be confused with the occasional wayward hen that has found itself on the wrong side of the fence and while it might peck around in a flower bed or eat out of the dog bowl it really longs to return to the henhouse, with the other hens, at night.

No, what we have here, what we are talking about is a group of chickens who do not want anything to do with civilization (except, possibly, to sneak up on the dog bowl, when unguarded, and steal a stomach full of chow.

Or maybe run over to the fed box if I’ve been so careless as to drop some grain on the ground.

This gang, almost a dozen hens led by one wily rooster do not want anything to do with me, or the hen yard or anything what-so-ever with tame domesticity.

I can see them out there now. They are out in the far pasture eating at the winter rye.

One of the gang is casually making her way toward the dog bowl.

The rooster is over by the old Alice Chamers, looking in the direction of the house, as though he is keeping watch.

And that’s just what he is doing.

If I went downstairs and walked out the front door the rooster would stop doing whatever it is he was doing before.

And he would become all eyes.

Attentive.

On the look out.

And if I walked in his direction, or in the direction of one of the hens,

He will stand up erect.

And if I walked closer,

He will give out a call, something in a language completely foreign to humans.

But completely intelligible to chickens, especially to the rest of the wild bunch.

I know this is true because they all stop and look. Look at me approaching.

And if I continue, and walk closer, the rooster will let out another command (I assume it’s a command, maybe its really just a strong suggestion) and the hens will start to move. Away.

And when I keep on approaching there will be another command and suddenly, everyone is running.

Running in all different directions.

But running away form me.

Under the forsythia bushes.

Around the stone wall,

Under the shed.

They run down the length of the wall,

But mostly, running for the woods.

Down through the herb garden and deep into the briar patch on the far end.

To a place where they know. They know. that I can not easily follow.

Now, I know what you are saying.

“Why worry? Why bother? It is, after all, just a bunch of dumb chickens. A dozen dumb chickens. Let them go native. What harm are they causing?’

And my answer:

“That’s not the issue.”

The issue is, well, the issue is they are running loose on my farm, having escaped their status as farm animals and they are now, really, if you consider it, outlaws.

Sort of like the hole in the wall gang or is that Robert Redford and Paul Newman.

They live in the wild and make raids on our farm. Stealing grain, damaging our crops and all the time, all the time, I know that somewhere, out there in the woods are large nests just full of eggs, this time of year, frozen eggs, but still eggs that humans could be eating.

What am I to do?

(this morning, just several hours after I wrote the above thoughts, while I was looking out the bedroom window. Looking down the hill at the forest behind our house, I saw something in the brambles and briars just beyond the house. Something brown in the weeds. I looked closer and there it was, a nest. A nest with over a dozen eggs. I wonder how many other nests there are out there, just like that one).

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