I take pleasure in keeping our lovely hens and enjoying their farm fresh eggs, but, hidden beneath their smooth and silky feathers, these ladies have a free winging, independent streak that can be down right maddening.
The most recent bout of “chicken madness” was brought on by one of our most productive layers. She’s a poi dog chicken (What? Never heard that before J ). Anyway, a moderate size but not very heavy, which means she can fly. She can jump gates, she can hop into trees, she’s really quite athletic. Of course I do clip their wings, but because I want them to look “pretty”, yes “pretty”, I don’t clip them as far down as I could, or apparently, should.
So, after a day of serious work in the garden, sowing seeds and transplanting starts, we went inside to get a drink and a snack. We talked about the cool stuff weʻd planted, and my son shared about the strawberries that were almost ready to pick. It’s the stuff that farm girls dream of. Grinning ear to ear we headed back out to admire our work and as we approached the garden (which is fenced by the way), we saw her, that beautiful gold and black hen having the time of her life IN THE GARDEN.
For those of you who have dealt with this before, you know what that feels like. We were shocked and desperate to get her out. After some chasing and cornering we managed to get her back into her paddock. Then we turned to assess the damage.
It went from shock to sadness to madness in a matter of moments. Lovingly transplanted kale and chard uprooted, seeds scattered and pecked, baby lettuces strewn about, and worse of all, every single red strawberry was gone. Yeah, it was bad.
So, after rescuing what plants we could, we turned to the task of clipping wings. It was just like every other time I’ve clipped wings except, yup, you guessed it, I went shorter than ever before. “That’ll teach ʻum” I thought, as I walked away plucking feather dust from my shirt.
Feeling confident that Iʻd addressed the problem, I turned to other tasks and carried on with life. Well, a few days later I was in the garden for an early morning caterpillar check when I saw it, SCRATCHING! Right where I had fertilized around my tender lettuces the evening before. Now, this scratching wasn’t as destructive as the last one, but I was still feeling raw from the previous episode and it brought back bad memories. “Not again!” I fumed. Then, I saw something move, and I heard a chicken cluck in the paddock right next door.
There she was, sitting on a couple of eggs, far from the paddock she was SUPPOSED to be in. Of course I was not happy, to put it lightly, and I grabbed her and put her back where she wouldn’t be able to torment me, and the garden. I found a small area of fence where sheʻd been crawling under (clever chicken), and patched it up. I even erected a taller fence around the garden. I was running on determined gardener adrenaline.
I was pleased that I finally had “control” over the chickens and that my garden could carry on without harassment. And much to my relief, things in the garden were uneventful for days. Until I walked out one morning a week later, again, after fertilizing the evening before, and I saw it. SCRATCHING! But this time there were no chickens in sight. NO clucking, NO eggs, NO hens. And they were all staring at me from their paddock, every single one of them.
And that’s when it hit me. I’d blamed the chickens again. It was a hen the first time, no doubt, but I had jumped to conclusions after that first blow and in fact it was the doves that had been tormenting my fertilized areas. And when I actually gave it some thought instead of reacting, I felt like an idiot. Of course, the “fertilizer” Iʻd been applying is a soil amendment that contains the chaff from bran, and wheat, and…stuff birds love.
Okay, so in my defense, I had good reason to blame the hens, but it was another valuable lesson bestowed upon me by the farm and the universe. There is always more to the circumstances than we can ever know, and we are better off giving thought to things as they are in the present before reacting on past experience.
Now, you may be wondering why the title said that Iʻd blamed the chickens, ”Again”. Well, Iʻll share that story sometime, but it involves egg yolk on beaks, broken shells, and one bummed farm girl who quickly jumped to conclusions, then realized that she had it all wrong.