May 5, 2012
Don't Turn Your Back on a Crow
You may think that chickens are just dumb, careless animals that peck the ground and poop a lot. In which case... you'd be right. You can kind of see in their eyes that there's not much going on upstairs and I certainly got pooped on. However, there's something undeniably charming about a chicken. Something about the way they would suddenly get spooked and scatter across the yard in a funny mix of running, flying, and hopping. If one chick decided to flap his wings, they'd all erupt in a noisy frenzy of flapping and scattering and then immediately settle back into quiet pecking. Hilarious to watch.
Out of the six that we 'borrowed' from our friends at the farm, two of them seemed just a tad smarter and friendlier than their sisters (and later we realized, a brother) and they quickly became our favorites. They were Rhode Island Reds, and were just orange fluff with feet when we got them at 3 days old. I tried not to name them because we couldn't keep them, but when Annika likened them to the tiny oranges we like to eat (because they are "sweet and orange"), I couldn't help but call them by their rightful names. Clementine and Cutie.
I liked them so much that I even got a pellet gun to shoot at the hungry crows that Google said would eat my brood. They'd circle our yard "caw-cawing" to each other in that nasty way that they do, and I'd shout threats and take the best shot I could before they flew away. I even "got" one a couple of times. Turns out, though... crows are kind of smart. And mean. And they got each other's backs, like the Godfather for birds. (Don't even laugh at me. Read this.) So, unfortunately, while I had it out for the crows, they had it out for me.
I had built them an outdoor pen since they were getting so big, but they were still small enough to squeeze through the fencing and get loose in the yard. So, I usually sat out there with them to make sure they were safely guarded from crows and other varmits. (Picture me in cut-off shorts, laying by a chicken pen with my Bible, shooting randomly into the trees and being ugly to the birds. I'm sure the neighbors were just charmed to pieces.)
But one day, that fateful day, I felt certain they were too big to escape. I left them outside all day to fill their bellies with bugs while I ran errands and cleaned house. They'd only been out there a couple of hours when I saw out the window that our neighbor (who is pretty much a stranger) was running up to our house.
"Your chickens are loose! My dog is chasing your chickens!"
"Oh, that's okay. They get loose a lot."
"I think they've run away, though, I don't see them anywhere."
"They wont go far, they really like their cage. And they usually stick together..... you know what? I hear them under the porch now."
I put an open cage by the little hiding spot they'd found and went back inside.
After I did dishes, I went outside to put the cage back on the porch. It was already filled with chicks. I was kind of proud that I had "learned" them enough to know that they'd hurry into the cage themselves without being chased. "One, two, three, four, five......five." Five? Where was six? Where was my other little orange chicken?
I worried she was stuck under the porch somewhere so I climbed into that bug-infested hole and looked around. No chicken. In the bushes... no chicken. In the flowers....no chicken. In the driveway.....oh, chicken!
I actually cried aloud, "Oh, chicken!"
I won't describe the scene, but there was the little orange chicken in the grass. And she hadn't been eaten. Oh no, she was murdered. By crows. Two very malicious looking beak-sized holes in both sides of her. And she, little Clementine, so innocent of my crime. Unaware that she was pecked to death because I got lucky with my shot and pushed some angry crow too far.
You might wonder how I know which little orange chicken was killed. Truth is, I don't. The only answer to that is that Annika likes the name "Cutie" more than "Clementine", so when one was knocked off she said it must have been Clementine.
All five survivors are now happily pecking away at a free-range farm not too far from us. (Angela: if I hear one gets eaten by a chicken hawk, I'll be sad. But if you tell me that another one gets killed by a crow, I'm getting a real gun and "blowing some feathers," like you said! And then moving.)
But the happy ending of the whole thing is that I did get to use the whole event as a instructive parable for Annika. Recently she ran outside to check the mail all by herself, and I didn't know about it until she came back into the house. I told her: Clementine was safe in her pen. And she was safe when I was watching over her. But she was not safe when she snuck out of her pen. She didn't understand about the crows, but you and I did. We knew that it was not safe for little chickens to run outside of their pen all by themselves. We gave them rules to keep them safe because we loved them, and when they broke the rules, we didn't know and we couldn't protect her.
She said, "Those nasty crows. I don't stand those nasty crows. Lets shoot them."
So, I don't know if she totally gets it, but she probably does.
And as I sit here past my bedtime sipping my mom's chardonnay, I'll pour a little out for my homie. A sip over the balcony for Clementine. Which is fitting since that's where she still is, wrapped up in a plastic bag under a bush.