Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Adventure Chicken

We have been tempted to call her Houdini, or The Escape Chicken, but her name is actually Speckles. She is a beautiful brown and white speckled chicken with a huge personality. Oh, yes she could be mistaken for an aggressive chicken, a chicken of questionable integrity, since she seems to need to peck at a leg or ankle. And she is sneaky, giving the peck when you least expect it after you’ve fed the chickens or tidied up the chicken yard. Then Speckles sneaks up on you and pecks the back of your leg. But let’s give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe this is just how she expresses affection or how she bonds with humans, and it doesn’t really hurt anyway. So we give her a break.

All the other chickens in the flock remain in the chicken yard safely behind the fence or in their even bigger yard behind their even bigger fence. But of course Speckles is different. She is both escape artist and Adventure Chicken. No fence can hold her. No yard can restrain her.

I watch Speckles as she minutely examines with her sideways chicken eye the mesh fencing material. She locates a weak point. She jams her chicken body into the fence where the seams overlap. Her feathers ruffle,  they catch and complain, but Speckles persists. She pushes with all her chicken might and then, Speckles is through the hole and on the other side of the fence.

What does a freed chicken do? She travels to have adventures with the neighbors. One of our neighbors has a relationship with the local foxes. One of them, “Foxy”, has been coming to visit this neighbor for years. One day Speckles came to visit him while Foxy was there. My neighbor feared for Speckles’ life. But the fox and the chicken miraculously were peaceful together. And Speckles got to landscape his yard at the new plantings.

Another neighbor reports that Speckles comes every day and rearranges the oak leaves in her yard, looking for worms and bugs. Speckles the landscape artist. This neighbor has an outdoor cat, but the cat is afraid of Speckles. She’s just too big a bird. The cat is now spending more time indoors. Our neighbor wanted the cat to become an indoor cat anyway so this is another Speckles triumph of social engineering and pet repurposing.

We look out our window every day and there she is eating the bird seed we put out, or walking around the house exploring far beyond the chicken yard. But If we bring out the dried worms, the chicken treats, then Speckles will thrash thorough the brush surrounding the chicken yard until she finds a way out of the gap between the bushes and the fence. Then I simply open the gate and she leisurely strolls through it as if nothing happened.

Among her peers, Speckles is one of the lowest in the pecking order. Our oldest, Brownie is at the top. Brownie can give out pecks at will and Speckles may be the chicken on the receiving end. But I have noticed that If the pecking incident becomes more violent, then the other chickens form a sort of protective phalanx for Speckles. They surround Brownie and act like they are all going to peck her at once. I have never seen this before in our years of relating to chickens. It is usually every chicken for herself in the pecking order.

But Speckles is in some respects their lead chicken, first out of the house and down the ramp in the morning. And she is definitely their representative to the Greater World beyond the fences, Ambassador Chicken. Maybe they feel she deserves their protection and good will.

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