Marsha and Shelly were wild girls. As chicks, they received no loving or pampering. As time went on and they came to realize my presence meant food and treats and they would come up to see what I had to offer. They had no desire to be touched, so getting them to go places I needed them to was like- well, herding chickens. Mary would tolerate being guided along with my foot, but if I ever reached out to actually touch one of them with my hand they would fly about in a panic.
Mary was notorious for going over the chain link fence between my backyard and my neighbor’s when she was let out of the tractor to graze. Usually I had to chase her back and forth along the fence line until she was too tired to fight me, which is not my preferred method of exercise. Once she ran into some netting and became tangled up, which helped with her capture and enabled me to hoist her over the fence and into her own yard.
Next time I get chickens, they’ll be babies and I’ll love ’em up so they’ll be easier to deal with when they’re loose in the yard.
A couple years ago I began my trek into chickendom. I live in town, and wasn’t sure chicken’s were allowed as pets, but one neighbor had them and no one was squawking. So I followed my motto-“It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission.”
One evening, as my neighbor Bill and I were taking a walk, I mentioned the possibility of keeping chickens to him, enticing him with the prospect of fresh eggs every day. Bill was struck with chicken fever and before I knew it, he built a chicken tractor and was given three grown hens by a coworker. Bill was in the egg business.
Bill named the hens after three of his female friends. The Rhode Island Red was named Shelly, the Barred Rock after Marsha and the blonde hen was Cindy.
The chicken tractor was a bear to drag to a new site in the yard so Bill, being ever ingenious, took some wheels off an old baby stroller and installed them on the tractor. Rolling was moderately better than dragging.
After a time, Bill decided to give the girls some freedom and started letting them out to roam the yard a while in the late afternoon. As darkness fell, the hens would go back inside the tractor to roost for the night. Gradually, Bill increased their time out. Finally the girls had explored all of Bill’s yard and thought they should widen their territory. They weren’t aware of their neighbor’s chicken eating dog until it was too late. Cindy lost her life in the tragedy and the other two lost their freedom.
Bill eventually grew tired of being a chicken farmer and decided it was easier to buy eggs from the supermarket. He offered the chickens and the chicken tractor to me and I gladly took them.
I was outside working in the garden one day and I heard the strangest sound, was it a crow? I wasn’t sure. It definitely wasn’t a normal hen sound. A couple days later I heard it again. It was Marsha making a weak, garbled crowing sound.
Not long after that, I had some musicians who played a gig at the coffee shop stay over night with me. In the morning I took them for a tour of my farmette. Margaret decided to give us a crow and Jim educated me about hens crowing to show they are the dominate female. And here I was, thinking Marsha was a hermaphrodite because she was a terrible egg layer.