I swear this is what happens every single night:
Daisy is the first to catch sight of me and sprints over to Lucy's side. She's a clever girl, Daisy.
She knows I hand-feed Lucy on account of Lucy's being
virtually unable to walk anymore --- and Daisy wants what Lucy's gettin'.
Lucy gets her treat despite pesky little Daisy.
Then Pigeon curses and swears at me until I fill a little cup with feed and place it in front of her.Inside her own private cup, she settles down to pecking and nibbling and talking to herself.
Then Lucy totters toward me and bumps into my boot. That's her way of saying, "Pick me up."
So I do.
She is capable of climbing the ramp into the henhouse, but why should she go to the trouble when there's a red sleeve that will take her up there?
....I always get a little thrill when Lucy perches trustfully on my arm.
Sometimes I fancy myself a Falconer--- the fearsome Barred-Rock clenching my gauntlet with mighty talons of death....
...so then I deposit Lucy at the top of the ramp, and she perches in the doorway for a bit.
Lucy fills the entire doorway with her tremendous girth, and she sits there until she's good and ready to move on.
Eventually Lucy moves on in, followed by Pigeon, Lil'White and Daisy, in exactly that order.
Fern is the last one in. She dillydallies outside, oblivious.
She's busy eating dirt.
No, I have no idea why.
When Fern eventually discovers that she's alone, she turns and scurries right up the ramp -
-- but she stops abruptly near the top....
for this little chicken knows
that somewhere inside....
With empty eyes and a cold dark soul, Lil'White makes it her business to torment Fern in this way every night.
She's good at it.
Patiently she waits in the darkness.
She panics a little.
I leave Fern out there, terrified and terrorized, and trudge back to my house.
...but that's not the end of our evening ritual.
. . . . . .
A few hours later, teeth brushed and ready for bed, I go to the coop one more time in my muck-boots and pajamas.
"Ferr-rn," I call gently.
"Br-br-br?," comes a lonely whisper from the shadows.
Too frightened to go inside, Fern has chosen to launch herself into the rafters above. There she waits to be rescued from terrible dark aloneness.
Fern grips my fingers with her little blue-black toes, and ducks her head as she rides my hand through the doorway and gets deposited on a roost inside.
There's no attack from Lil'White this time because in the dark of night Lil'White can't see her victim.
I withdraw my hand and listen to a little fluttering and shuffling in there, and then... the best part...
I peek in at my little flock.