In this time of lots of time on our hands, I am very much enjoying the disruption in our busy lives. I LOVE having everything cancelled. I LOVE having my kids home (most of the time), my hubby around, and no commitments to keep. It’s an introvert’s dream! Well, except that my nursing job still makes me come in to an office building filled with hundreds of people (where they send me e-mails telling me to stay away from crowds of 50) to make my phone calls from my desk. But thankfully, I work part-time…
Anyway, over the week-end it was SO bright and SO beautiful here in Baltimore, that we were just making up excuses to be outside. Nearly 8 year old Manchild invited me to join him in spending time with our chickens in the backyard. Naturally I jumped at the invitation, and settled into a hammock chair while my wild man tore around the yard chasing my hens like he was the Corona virus and they were germophobes. Eventually, after several reminders that the birds would hate him if he always scared them, he stopped chasing the seldom caught ones, and just picked up the few tame favorites that we always held. Like Squeaker.
Squeaker is a bantam (miniature) White Crested Black Polish hen who is a family favorite because of her wild hairdo and pitiable live choices. Polish Crested chickens are all a bit special because of the bouffant crest of feathers around their head that tend to limit their vision and block their brain waves. Think hawk bait. We have two of these Mensa rejects, Squeaker and Phyllis (Gold Laced Polish Crested), both of whom tend to get so busy scratching and pecking in the yard that they fail to notice when the rest of the flock has moved on. Suddenly they raise their poofy heads and they are alone! Panicked chirping and squawking from these two is not unusual as they try to get one of their brainier henfriends to holla back and Marco Polo the gang’s new location. Once again.
Every time we let the chickens out to free range, Phyllis runs up and down the same fence, looking frantically for the nearest exit, while all the other hens calmly walk through the open gate like normal girls. Phyllis can NEVER find the exit on her first try. Ever.
But even better than Phyllis, is Squeaker, who can’t go in reverse. Because she can not see behind herself, this 1lb puff of fluff assumes she can not move backwards. Which is why when I do an evening head count, finding Squeaker turns into an Easter egg hunt. I usually find her wedged (barely) between a bench and the wall. Or a pallet and the fence, or any small space she thinks she can fit through, but then can’t, and so she stands there and silently waits for help. Bless her heart. Her tiny, special, heart.
So Manchild settled in his hammock chair and cradled Squeaker in his lap. He then began to swing, and his arms fell limp. Instead of noticing her big chance for freedom to leap from the lap of a “dangerous” boy, Squeaker instead hunkers down, puffs out, and falls asleep to the rocking motion of the swing. Manchild noticed, and he began to sing a lullaby to her. Not knowing any good lullaby’s, Manchild hummed the ABC song softly to himself, and that worked just fine. Squeaker was content, Manchild and his soft touch (he really is tender for a wild boy) had won over yet another little creature.
After a time, he sets the little hen down, and instead of running off to join her peers, she starts pecking at the dirt between our feet.
“Your turn!” Manchild instructs me.
So I scoop up the tiny bird and begin to rock her in my lap. Sure enough, her head bobs low, she fluffs herself out just a little and squats into a small sleepy ball. It was very sweet. I began thinking Captain Schenanigans needs to build a chicken swing in our run. Especially since we plan to plant new zoysia grass plugs this weekend, so the chickens are going to be on lockdown like the rest of us. No free ranging for quite some time. It’d be a great boredom buster!
After we set Squeaker free to run with her fast crowd, Manchild went back to catching hens we don’t hold often, and bringing them to me for cuddles like a toddler with a dandelion bouquet. He knows what fills his momma’s heart with joy! I check each girl’s feet for Bumblefoot (a common staph infection) when I get them, since some of these girls are rarely touched and wilder than feathered honey badgers. I hold them and talk to them long enough to undue whatever stress my well meaning child had put them under, then hand back their freedom as I set them down to roam. They are generally indignant and full of attitude, but that’s not uncommon round these parts, let’s be honest.
So in this time of chaos I urge to to stay home, rock your pets, enjoy your spare time, and wash your hands. Because we all know that chickens carry Salmonella! 🙂