The Cybils Finalists, Round I

A Smaller Flock, and a Christmas Surprise

I never thought chicken-owning would be so, well, emotional. A fox, or maybe a coyote, got Bossy and Petunia the Barred Rocks just before Christmas. They had spent the day out free-ranging with the others just like they'd done many times, but did not return to the coop. I found one, no longer living, in the neighbor's garden, and saw something fox-like trotting away. Heartbroken, Junior and I sniffled our way through the next couple of days, indulging ourselves in the occasional maudlin moment—"Remember how they liked dust baths?" I couldn't even look at their pictures on the computer without getting choked up.

Because I'd found only one, I called our town's animal control officer, and reported a missing chicken, just in case one of the girls turned up somewhere. Wishful thinking, right? (Okay, "nutty" does fit in here.) We then went out of town and had a splendid Christmas down south, and didn't think about poultry for a few days. Our friend chicken-, cat-, and goldfish-sat, and we knew everyone was in good hands. When we returned home, there was a message from the animal control officer that a neighbor a few blocks away had our hen and would be in touch. Unbelievable!

The neighbor did call, and explained that a chicken had taken up residence in his garage about a week ago, the same time as the fox incident. We had a long conversation about when to pick up the chicken, which had dashed out of the garage, and decided to wait until the next morning when he would try to shut it inside again. For some reason, I said, "It's black and white, isn't it?" And he said, "No, it's really more brown." I thought maybe he just wasn't used to describing chicken colors; after all, how many stray hens can there be in one town?

And that is how we came to own our new chicken, Brownie, an adorable little thing. She was definitely brown, definitely not Bossy or Petunia, and since she looks quite a bit younger than the two big Orpingtons (who were unharmed by the wily predator), we are keeping her in a separate pen for now. Needless to say, nobody will be free-ranging without strict supervision.

Little did I know when I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which inspired me to start the flock, that I'd be in for such adventures. Even if we have to give Brownie back to her original owners, finding her so soon after our own pets' demise gave us great joy.

In an attempt to stay (barely) on topic, I usually mention a picture book when I talk about the chickens here at home. Today's recommended reading is a favorite of Junior's—Daisy Comes Home, written and illustrated by Jan Brett. It's about a hen in China who has her own great adventures and a little girl who rescues her.


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Oh Susan, I'm so sorry about your chickens. While I wasn't moved to start my own flock after reading Kingsolver's book, I did want to go out and plant rows and rows of asparagus!

And speaking of Daisy Comes Home, William brought it up yesterday when we were having a "finders keepers" conversation. He remembered the man who found Daisy and wouldn't give her back.

Gee, we've probably read and enjoyed as many chicken books as you have. Perhaps we should think about getting a few!

Best wishes for a happy 2008!

I am so sorry about the chickens!

Tricia, chickens are such sweet little pets. Get two hens, and you'll have plenty of eggs. (Fuzzy has not laid one yet, however.)

They make great picture-book stars, don't you think!

Kelly, thanks. Isn't that awful about the fox/coyote thing? Ugh. Right here in the middle of suburbia. I knew vaguely they were around but not so close by.

Oh, Susan!
My dad keeps birds, PLUS the Rhodies, and something -- huge rats? Something got in and ate the button quail. There were six of them, and they were so cute.

I couldn't help it, I had a great big cry; my father thought I'd lost my mind (I could just SEE him thinking, "She should have a baby. Soon."). I'm so glad Brownie's there to take a bit of the sting away.

Chickens. Such personality. Who knew?!

Oh no! So sorry to hear about Bossy and Petunia. And--you have chickens in suburbia? I need to look at all your archived posts about THAT, stat.

Thanks for the chicken book recommendations, too. We love Daisy Comes Home (the kids like to look for the animals in the mountains). Chickens do have a lot of personality, don't they?

So sorry to hear about Bossy and Petunia, Susan!

Thanks, TadMack, Anamaria, and Jen. We'll miss old Bossy and Petunia; they were characters. Watching chickens is such fun.

I wonder what life path brought your Brownie to your neighbor's garage. One thing that keeps me going in this life is that even though it's full of surprises I'd rather not encounter, it's also full of mysteries that bring us joy.

I would have been crying, too, and likely to call someone. I don't think that's overreacting at all. You raised these guys from when they were just little things.

I wonder, too, Adrienne. She's pretty tame, though scared, understandably. The kindness involved--from both the animal control officer and the neighbor--was really touching.

I'm sorry. I have cried for each of our chickens who has met an untimely death. Nature seems cruel when there are pets involved.

Did you come here?

Oh, Susan. So sad about your chickens. Glad Brownie found you. How did I not remember you raised chickens? Very, very cool.

Hope 2008 brings you and your family much joy and laughter.

Wisteria, you mean it doesn't get easier? Oh, no. I would be a terrible farmer, boo-hooing over the livestock.

I'm going to post a pic of the little chicken soon at Backyard Chickens; somebody there will know what breed it is. Yes, we were in Jackson, but only for a few days. I wanted to call you up and go see the Eudora Welty house, but there was not enough time. On the next visit, I hope!

Vivian, thanks for the condolences. We even saved a feather left behind by one of the Barred Rocks. I hope that 2008 is a grand one for you and your sweet girls, too. Now, it's onward with more Cybils reading, right?

Yikes! A tragic story...but a happy-ish ending. I just finished reading The Stolen Child, so I'm wondering if there are hobgoblins for chickens, too?!?!

Hi, Mary Lee. There are so many hobgoblins for chickens, you can barely count them. Poor things are vulnerable to dogs, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, owls, and hawks, just to name a few critters around here. Now I'll stay with them when they roam around and act as a scout. I don't want to point any fingers, but the big rooster, supposedly the flock leader and look-out, was hiding in his coop on the night of the incident. Maybe he did what he could, but I'll never know the full story!

I'm sorry for the loss of the chickens.

Thanks, Liz. Chickens. Who knew we'd grow so fond of them!

Oh, no, Susan. I'm so sorry about Bossy and Petunia. I've had such fun reading your posts about them, and hearing this makes me really sad. I hope that Junior is doing ok. I'm glad that Brownie found you, though, and if her owners never show up, I know that she's found a great home.

Hey, Sheila. Thanks so much for your nice words about the chicks. (I still have a tiny bit of hope that one might show up again.) Jr. seems to be doing fine; bringing home the new little chicken helped a lot. Can you believe it? A stray chicken. She's very cute.

It sounds like Brownie was destined to connect with you and Junior. Have you read EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS? It is by far my favorite book dealing with grief and loss, that one on a large scale.

Hang in there!

Hi, Rose. We are hanging in, and since we have the new chicken to fuss over, that's a great distraction. We think she is a Buff Brahma and several months younger than the other two.

Thanks for your nice words.

See, and I worry about letting my cat go out a few times a day. What if I had to think about the chickens?

Sorry about the loss of your pets. It's always hard to hit between giving them some freedom and protecting them from danger.

MR, even the cats around here have to worry! Dadblasted coyote. Thanks, though.

Susie! I found you! We were just in Jackson on the 31st for a day and stopped by your parents' as we walked the lake. They told me about your chickens...so sorry for the loss. We have a passel of poultry ourselves and have some stories to tell on predators...

Great to find your blog and will be in touch!!

Dana! How nice to see your here. I will email you. We love having chickens, as you can tell. A never-ending source of stories!

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