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.