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The Continuing Adventures of Bully Bird

September 23, 2012

Two couches were strapped on the back of the truck. The front was stuffed with cushions, a vacuum, toolboxes, and my weekend bag. There was just enough room in the extended cab for a cat carrier, and this is where I put Honey bird.

She wasn’t so sure about it. I played some soothing Alpha Blondy tunes and spoke calmly, reassuring her that she would soon be in ‘a better place.’ She clucked querulously as if to ask for details.

It was a three hour drive; before I passed Sandy, Oregon, the sun went down and Honey fell asleep. I changed the music and drank a coffee. I wondered how the rest of the flock was doing, back home. This was my first attempt at chicken husbandry; in nearly four months I’d gone from over a dozen eggs a week down to virtually zero. A stray brown egg found its way into the box every three days or so, often cracked. My only clue as to the cause was Honey’s constant bullying of Omelet, the runt. I felt she was terrorizing the flock and had determined to give her away.

We rolled into the farm around 9:00. Honey clucked softly when I took the carrier out. Her new coop was a country-style chicken mansion, but she didn’t budge from the carrier. We left her with food and water and bid her good-night. She was alone.

Next morning, by the time we made it down to check on her, the neighbor’s chickens had been ranging free over the farmyard for hours. Honey was in the run, pacing along the fence – as usual – but looked the slightest bit lost. We opened the door.

She crept out tentatively, clucking to herself. She began to explore the yard, so we walked back toward the house. Half a minute later Honey came running; she didn’t want to be left behind. For the rest of the day she grazed, waddled, and clucked her way around the farm. She found the pasture and pond. She met the neighbor’s flock.

The experience of being removed from her flock, put in a carrier for hours, and left alone for the night may have humbled that bully bird. Time will tell. But she wasn’t aggressive towards the others. She wanted to stay close to us. And at the end of the day she was very happy to be led back to the coop and closed in for the night.

Day two went similarly. Honey was glad to be let out in the morning and spent the day doing chicken activities. By the time I left, at 5:00 in the afternoon, she’d had at least one successful interaction with another bird.

Then I reached into the coop to reclaim my cat carrier. I opened the door to remove the straw I’d made a makeshift bed with. And there, nestled snugly in the middle, was a solitary brown egg.

When I got home the four birds left in my flock were roosting for the night. Omelet had all her neck feathers, unlike last time I left for the weekend. But there wasn’t a single egg!

I know so little about chickens. Though I’ve rid my flock of a bully, I haven’t solved the laying problem. Hopefully it’ll improve now that I’m back and can let them range out of the run during the day. Hopefully Omelet – aka Houdini – will stop jumping the fence now that her life isn’t habitually imperiled. There are no guarantees; I might have just given away my only layer. I might be stuck with a cage full of freeloaders. Now that’s a fowl problem.

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From → Journal

One Comment
  1. BD Mandoe permalink

    Good one, Bo. I like the last line. (Your Grandpa would have liked it too) love, Mom

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