Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Chicken Sitter

My friend has six chickens and six chicks.  While she was away on vacation, she needed someone to collect eggs and make sure her livestock never became, as she put it "deadstock."  

I can so handle that, I texted her.  

Sucker, she texted back.  And with that we had an agreement. 

I thought I would rock this.  I mean, how hard can babysitting chickens actually be?  (Babysitting is inaccurate because chickens are quite self-sufficient as long as you make sure their food isn't clogged and they never figure out their eggs double as dinner on a half shell.)  Well, probably not terribly hard unless you're me.  Me who finds a way to complicate dropping outgoing mail in her own mailbox. (I always forget and drive it to a blue box somewhere near a Starbucks.)  Add to that, being a freak about everything I'm in charge of to the point Sadie can't choose a different spot in the house to hang out in or I check her lymph nodes, and we are standing in a chicken coop wearing flip-flops.  That had seen torrential rain for four days.  Oh yes, I did.

Once I mastered the art of bringing a pair of auxiliary "chicken sh*t" shoes with me, things got better.  I even remembered my camera one afternoon:

Aren't they kind of precious?  And strangely beautiful?  The black one and I have a thing.  She caaaaawwwks low when I show up and side-eyes me from the ledge.  With four heavy struts, she meets me at the door like a Labrador anxious to go pee.  They all kind of waggle their girlie bums -a parade of puffy greatness ready to march around their stomping ground for yard treasures until dusk.  

And then you know what happens at dusk?  You'll never believe it.  They tuck themselves in for the night.  No lie.  My friend told me they'd roost themselves and go into a trance like a pack of twenty-somethings at a Phish concert.  She did not exaggerate.  The first night I came back to the yard and couldn't see any of them pecking around the grass, my heart lurched into my flip-flops as I knew for sure coyotes\alligators\snakes\Duck Dynasty got them.  Along with the sound of my panic attack,  I could hear some soft cooing.  Purring really.  I tiptoed toward the coop not sure what kind of CSI scene I was about to stomach but to my delight each chicken had roosted themselves into cozy hovercrafts up high like cats with beaks.  It was freaking precious.

As unforgettable as roosting is, the best part isn't even witnessing the circadian rhythm of chickens.  No, the best part is washing the eggs those hens gave way to every other day.  If you're wondering why you wash them, imagine what was on the bottom of my flip-flops that first night.  Yep, that stuff gets on the eggs too.  It's nature.  You just warm wash and dishsoap nature off and scramble those bad boys up with cheese to enjoy the fluffiest breakfast burrito you've ever had in your life.  THE. Best  I'll never buy anything except fresh eggs again.  Warm and dirty, right from the chicken's.....nest.  

I'd say the chicken sitting went off without a hitch until the night we pulled up to tuck them in and Grayson whispers, "!"  

Sure as he'd said it, there it sat.  Ears high and tail out straight.  Crap.  He either just ate all our feathered friends or is in the mood for fresh children flesh tonight.  "Keeyah, Keeyah!" I yell to the fox in case it speaks fake Mandarin.  It does not and instead settles down in a comfy circle of its own bushy tail to watch us for a spell.  "Ok kids, you stay here,"  I say to a saucer-eyed Grayson and an asleep Abigail.  "I'm going to RUN to the coop before the fox and SLAM the door behind me, OK?"  

"Mommy?  There's another one."

Sh*t.  Not sure I can outrun two foxes.  I have been working out but pretty sure my cardio is still sub jackal fast.

"Oh no, it can't walk, can it?  It's dragging its back legs.  Crap.  Damn.  Hell.  Don't repeat those words, Grayson, ok?  Sh*t.  Not that one either.  What do we do."

"Mommy, call someone," my son offers since his mother clearly needs suggestions.  "We have to save it."  

Great.  We do, don't we?  We have to save the lame fox that is dragging itself around by the front legs, don't we?  The fox that probably got hit by a car while it was hunting the chickens that I've grown quite fond of.  We still have to save it, don't we?

And believe me, we tried.  I made several phonecalls, spoke to a few people and even one lady willing to rehab it after I captured it in my fox kennel and transported it four hours away to a town I wasn't even sure was in Louisiana.  

Then we lost fox visual.  Sometimes, nature's really a B.  We went back in the morning and could not see the foxes anywhere.  My hope is that the tech I spoke with actually did show up or the hurt fox and his stoic guardian experienced a miracle and now live happily ever after in Snow White's palace.  What.  It's what I told the kids.  We're from the suburbs.  

Signing off for now.  

Until dusk, 

Farmer Sue's less rugged and more liberal sister

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