continued from the previous post: CHANGE
So, being the spontaneous type, I hopped in the car and drove to the nearest farm. No chickens available there, but the farmer pointed me down the road to a likely locale. A white house with one fat hen in the yard.
I pulled into the deeply rutted driveway and got out of my car.
At the corner of a barn-type-garage sat an old man on an upturned bale of hay. He wore dirty glasses, a John Deere cap, and a pair of giant hearing aids. Beside him were 5 or 6 caged roosters crowing at the tops of their lungs. A cacophony of chickens squawked somewhere out of sight.
I walked slowly up to the old guy, told him my story and asked him if he might have a young laying hen that I could add to my backyard flock.
He scratched his head, looked down. Said maybe there was one hen he could part with..
He stood up and walked into the barn past a rusted old tractor and several more cages of chickens. He climbed a narrow dusty staircase in the back of the barn and disappeared. Overhead, I heard flapping, scratching, squawking.. The old man emerged from a cloud of feathers and dirt, and descended the stairs holding a chicken upside down by the ankles. Out in the sunlight, he flipped the bird right-side-up on his lap and started to smooth her disheveled feathers.
"She's moulting," he told me.
"Her comb's all mangled and bloody," I told him.
"Rooster did it." he muttered.
"Her toenails are really long," I said.
"Oh...uh, yeah," he said. He pulled a pair of toenail clippers out of his pocket,clipped her, put her down on the lawn.
She was just pathetic.
I felt sorry for her.
I gave the old guy $5 and he put the bird in a little box, tied it with twine and handed it to me.
Back at home, I took her out of the box and had a good look.
Skinny and bloody, broken feathers, toes curled backwards. She walked like a pigeon.
She was a fixer-upper.
When I gave her some food and water, she hesitated with every peck and every sip, standing up quickly as if expecting to be murdered at any moment. She'd clearly been at the very bottom of the pecking order up in that old attic. And she smelled really really BAD.
Not knowing what to do next, I emailed my friend Terry Golson of Hencam.com. She told me to give the hen a good bath and to keep her in quarantine.
Yep. And a blow-dry. Terry told me how.
Pigeon actually seemed to enjoy her spa treatment, although it completely wore her out.
I put her in the chicken tractor in the front yard for her month of quarantine.
Over the next few days, Pigeon began to reveal her unique little personality.
The big sky overhead frightened her... she preferred to hide under shrubs.
Exploring in the bushes, Pigeon bumped into the tiniest azalea branch,
Hm. Did she not know how to back up?
One fine morning, Pigeon met her first tomato.
After some hesitation, she pecked it.
..and if a chicken can smile, she did.
She nervously glanced around, fully expecting someone to come take this precious treasure....but no one did.
She had found heaven.
Fear faded away.
Scabs faded too, and new feathers emerged.
Pigeon helped me build another coop.
Not that we needed one, but I really liked this design I came up with and I just wanted to build it.
After a month, it was time to meet her new flock. I marched Pigeon around to the back yard and she followed me like a puppy.
In the distance, Lucy stared. Lil'White ignored.
Roosterman dropped one wing and did a little dance.
Pigeon puffed out her chest, lifted her tail and instantly she looked like a real chicken. She scurried on over to his cage to meet him.
The next day she would meet Lucy and Lil'White, face-to-face.
I wondered if they would accept her. Wondered if she'd just regress into the pathetic critter I'd rescued a month ago.
But life is full of surprises, isn't it?
Next blog post: PIGEON JOINS THE FLOCK