Chicken Saga – the final chapter

We are down to three chickens now that Big Boy is gone. The remaining three seem shaken by his kidnaping by Animal Protection, and are much more reticent in approaching people. They have a right to be because their days here in the complex, I’m afraid, are truly numbered.

All the residents received the following letter from the management in yesterday’s mail:

Dear Owner,

We are in the process of relocating our free range chickens that have taken residence in the complex. As much as they are enjoying the arrangement, their early morning (3 A.M.) crowing is disturbing several of your neighbors. Your board has received a petition signed by several residents pleading that we relocate the chickens to a more suitable location.

The Board of Directors has contacted Russell at Apex Pest Control to relocate these friendly, but raucous visitors at his five-acre ranch in the country. They will be joining “Annabel” and “Lulu” in their “Coop of the West” to live out their days. Please be assured that our chickens will not be harmed and Rus has promised to send up pictures once they have settled into their new home. (We may even be able to arrange visitation rights.) The Board and Management understands that some residents have become very fond of our friendly fowl, but have come to the realization that the natural sounds of early morning crowing aren’t compatible with our quiet residential environment.

Please call management with any questions of concerns regarding our feathered friends.

Sincerely…

So you see the chickens truly are being “relocated.” It has been fun to have them here, to be able to watch them come ambling down the driveway in the middle of the day or to have them greet us when we get out of the car. (Probably more because they think we’re going to feed them than for any other reason.) Even to hear them crowing early in the morning. Russell’s “Coop of the West” sounds like it’s going to be a good place for them to live. They’ll have shelter, food, the company of other chickens. But will they miss running free?

Good-bye to you Hennie, Pennie, and Little Boy. We’ll miss you all!

Chicken Saga V

Of course you knew that it was inevitable that people in the complex would name the chickens. The rooster with his swagger, his loner personae, and exceedingly loud crowing is called Big Boy. The rusty-brown rooster with the bright red comb and magnificent iridescent green tail feathers is Little Boy. The hens, one black, one brown, are mostly known as “the sisters,” but some folks refer to the brown, biddable biddie as Hennie. The black headstrong one is — yeah, you guessed it — Pennie.

For a while it seemed that there was a romance developing between Pennie and Big Boy, or at least that’s what it looked like to me, though they were a star-crossed pair. While Little Boy, in his I’m-the-boss manner, did his best to herd everyone up onto the fence and into the trees for the night, Pennie would lag behind. She’d stand on the top rail of the fence waiting for Big Boy to arrive.

Some days Pennie waited a good long while. But once he’d finished pecking in the dirt or exploring the underside of the cars in the parking lot, he’d flap to the top of the fence in a single hop. When he did, Pennie would rush toward him, and he toward her, like Cathy and Heathcliff across the moor.

Whether Pennie’s romance with Big Boy would ever have ended up with Pennie hatching a brood of chicks is something we’ll never know. Two days ago, the Animal Control van pulled up below the chickens’ favorite roosting trees. A man in a jump-suit climbed out, put on leather gloves, and eye protection. Then, taking out a net, he headed down the drive. A few minutes later I saw him return carrying Big Boy upside down and by his ankles.

By the time I ran down to intervene, the man had Big Boy in a cage and had slammed the door to the van. Even with the door closed, I could hear Big Boy was crowing.

“What are you doing with that rooster?” I demanded.

He opened the driver’s door and turned and scowled at me for interfering. “We’ve had complaints about him crowing at all hours, so the county is ‘relocating’ him.”

Like someone in the witness protection program?

I thought briefly about following the van down to Animal Control and bailing Big Boy out. But if I brought him back to the apartments, his recapture was inevitable. Instead, I stood there feeling helpless. I watched the van roll down the drive and wondered if the other chickens would miss Big Boy. I suspected Pennie would.

I went inside, scooped up some feed and sprinkled it at the edge of the driveway. It seemed like the least that I could do.

Chicken Saga IV

Dear friends –

Well, apparently our townhouse complex isn’t the only place having a debate about where chickens belong. In today’s newspaper I saw a letter to the editor from a woman protesting a statute the county is considering that would ban the keeping of backyard chickens. Well, not all chickens, actually. Roosters, specifically.

As it turns out, what the county hopes to do is allow the keeping of laying hens. Laying hens are useful birds; we can eat their eggs. We can whip those eggs omelets with cheese and ham. We can add a few ingredients and bake a cake. We can make a lovely custard sprinkled with cinnamon.

Occasionally, you might hear some clucking from a hen or notice a a disgruntled cackle and a little wing flapping between two biddies who claim the same place to roost. But they’re quiet and biddable for the most part. Roosters crow — loud and long and early in the morning. Therein lies the problem. Feeding us is all well and good. Waking us up, at least according to the county supervisors hereabouts, isn’t something they can sanction.

Of course, what I wonder about the ordinance the county has proposed is whether it favors hens over roosters. Does it declare one sex of chicken to be superior to the other? Could such a statute be considered sex discrimination?

The homeowner who wrote the letter in the newspaper was outraged that such a ban is even under consideration. Since she breeds chickens for fun and profit, banning roosters would devastate her business and deprive her of her livelihood – because without roosters there would be no chicks.

So is this a variation on the age-old the question: which came first, the rooster or the egg?

Just wondering –

Chicken Saga III

The situation I wrote about in my last update on the chickens, where my nearest neighbor had begun feeding the chickens about the time the sun comes up, has resolved itself. Two mornings ago, the chickens gathered and the roosters commenced to crow. At the first cock-a-doodle, one of my older neighbors bustled out onto her balcony in her lavender flowered robe.

From two-doors-down, she shot a withering glance at the woman preparing to feed the chickens, and waved her broom in the chickens’ direction. “Shoo! Shoo, shoo!” she said crisply, but not loudly enough to wake any more of the neighbors. “Shoo! Shoo!”

The chickens looked up, considered her as a potential threat, then pecked around on the ground in defiance. Once they’d made the point that she didn’t scare them all that much, they turned tail feathers to her and sashayed away.

Chastened, the neighbor with her bucket feed subsided into her own place. We haven’t had any more early morning crowing since then. I hope it lasts.

 

Chicken Saga II

In the first part of what seems to be turning into a series of updates on the feral chickens that live in our apartment complex, I mentioned that we had not yet been awakened by the roosters crowing. Early Sunday morning, one of the two roosters saw fit to remedy that.

Having been born and raised in cities, the only time I’ve ever heard a rooster crowing was on TV. That meant I was totally unprepared for the ungodly noise that started outside our bedroom window about 5:30 A.M. That sound was as piercing as a gym teacher’s whistle, as stunning as an air horn going off right in your ear. It was high-pitched and almost operatic.

It sent both my husband and me bolting upright in bed. We looked at each other, not because it we weren’t sure what it was, but because we were wondering how on earth could all that racket could come from a creature that didn’t come up to our knee caps?

We flopped back in bed, jammed pillows over our heads, and burrowed in. But nothing muffled that rooster’s decibel level. He crowed for nearly half an hour: Cock-a-doodle-do. Cock-a-doodle-do! Then he just stopped.

We rolled over, cautiously lifted one corner of our pillows, then heaved a sigh of relief. Thank goodness that was over!

Until the next morning. That’s when I discovered our nearest neighbor’s treachery. She was up and dressed and on her porch tossing feed down to the chickens, while the rooster was strutting around proud as could be and crowing in appreciation.

Now I don’t blame my neighbor for feeding the birds; Tom and I feed them occasionally, too. (Which might explain why the chickens have such trouble flapping up into the trees to roost for the night.) But we feed them at a decent hour of the day!

So how can I ask a neighbor I barely know to stop feeding our complex’s chickens at such an early hour? I’m fully aware that some folks love getting up with the sun — and more power to them. I’m just not one of them.

So what I’m beginning to wonder is: Can roosters who crow (and crow and crow) to welcome the dawn and night owls like me learn to coexist?

Cock-a-doodle-do to all of you –

The Chicken Saga

We arrived several weeks ago to find that chickens have taken up residence in the apartment complex where we stay when we visit the coast. Domestic chickens gone wild, it seems. Feral chickens!

In May or June one lone hen arrived. She must have had a good time for herself before she came, because she immediately made a nest and hatched eight chicks. Several of our friends here were charmed by the little brood and have been feeding the chickens. Another of the neighbors drives fifteen miles to a feed and seed to get the chickens the right kind of food.

By the time we got here, the mom hen had departed and left the chicks to fend for themselves. The ones who prospered had grown into five beautiful young birds, blue-black and brown, with bright red combs. Unfortunately, the first week we were here we had a very bad storm with howling winds. The speculation was that one of the chickens ended up “gone with the wind,” so to speak. My husband Tom, unfortunately, found grizzly evidence that it had come to a far more gruesome end.

Anyway, the four remaining chickens — two hens and two roosters — have chosen to settle for the night in the trees right opposite our back windows. At dusk we repair to the kitchen to watch them come, pecking and swaying, to settle for the night. To reach the trees the chickens must climb a tall fence and hop up into the trees that grow just on the opposite side. They may be handsome birds, but they’re not good fliers. Yet somehow they manage to hop and flap up onto the cross-braces, then up onto the top rail of the fence, which is about six feet off the ground. Finally, they climb onto one of the sturdy lower branches of the trees. Once there, they inch their way higher and higher, like tightrope walkers. There is much flapping and squawking until everyone is settled. As they do, we cackle at their antics. (Pun fully intended.)

We have heard reports that they start crowing about 5:30 A.M., though you couldn’t prove it by either of us. Their presence has begun to divide the people in the complex into pro-chicken and anti-chicken factions. The anti-chicken group called the pest man to catch the birds and take them away (probably to his stew pot), but he couldn’t seem to locate them. Naturally, the pro-chicken faction refused to offer him any help.

I know attrition will eventually get all of them, but in the meantime we are enjoying the nightly chicken ballet — and trying to remember not to park for the night under that particular group of trees.