Within inches of their lives
by Rebecca Bresnick Holmes
It’s time to fess up as to how I nearly killed one of my chickens within 20 minutes of acquiring her.
After my friend Lauren brought over my first four chickens, they were just hanging out in a dog crate in my backyard awaiting a wing-clipping later that day. Two of the chickens were unsettled and pretty noisy. I thought maybe petting them would calm them. I opened the crate and had my hand inside while Oscar the dog was watching with great interest from inside the house, through the sliding glass door.
What happened next was a blur of activity. One of those two nervous white chickens burst out of the cage and started running amuck and squawking. Oscar had pried open the sliding door and ran after the chicken. He cornered her behind a rose bush and all I could see was a flurry of white feathers and black fur. I grabbed Oscar, who looked pretty satisfied with his mouth full of white tail feathers. As I marched him back into the house I saw the hen run into the corner of the yard.
I went back out to find the chicken but she was nowhere in sight. It was also too quiet. I started to get nervous and a bit panicky: I had to act fast before she got too far, but didn’t know where to start. I looked over the fences into neighboring yards to see if she had flown over. I looked in the front yard. Rechecked our yard. I couldn’t find her and I could not believe that this was happening!
I was just about to take a walk around the block to ask my backyard neighbors if they’d happened to see a chicken go by, when I realized where she might be and it wasn’t good.
Several years ago we replaced the backyard fence. Part of it was installed in front of the old fence, creating about a four inch space between the two fences. The opening to this space was in the corner of the yard, where the chicken had been heading earlier.
Nervously, I approached the space between the fences. It was like a horror movie: I had to see if the chicken was in there, but I was afraid of what I would find. I slowly peeked into the space and sure enough – a white blob.
I pried off the fence slat in front of where I thought the chicken was. I was pretty close — I could see her back end. She wasn’t moving and I was too scared to touch her and likely confirm she was dead (I figured at a minimum, she’d had a heart attack).
I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t call Lauren — she JUST left. This was truly awful and would have been funny if it just wasn’t so awful. After agonizing for a while and trying desperately to reverse time with my mental powers, I finally thought to call another friend who had chickens and experience (plus she was a vet tech). Amazingly, Karen was home and came right over after I managed to explain what had happened.
As if it was no big deal, Karen reached into the space between the fences and pulled the chicken out. The hen was alive! I was unbelievably relieved. The poor chicken was minus a few tail feathers, but was otherwise okay (except perhaps psychologically).
Interestingly, neither of those two white chickens ever settled down. I don’t know if it was because of the trauma of the first day or they were just high-strung hens. The other two hens came to eat out of my hand and be petted and held. Eventually, we gave the two white ones to someone who had a lot of property and wanted more eggs.
Also interestingly, Oscar and the remaining chickens get along fine. He doesn’t chase them and they don’t harass him, although they do try to steal his bones.
I hope the white chickens have been happy and able to make as much noise as they like — and that they have not been chased by dogs or nearly killed by backyard chicken novices!