My Chicken Story

My Chicken Story: Why Does This Make Me Smile?

There’s so much that can, and does, go wrong with chicken keeping that it’s nice to be able to present a happy-ending story. This one is from guest contributor, Sandy Garrison.

About five months ago a woman pulled into my driveway and came to the door. Since she had a political sign on her car I thought she was asking for my vote. I told my husband to get rid of her. He came back in the house and said,”She wants to talk to you about a chicken.” She mistakenly thought that I had stopped at her house about a year ago and asked if I could have her hen. It wasn’t me, but I am pretty sure I know who was at her house: an ex-friend of mine who would definitely do something like that and she does look somewhat like me.

The lady wanted to know if I still wanted her. As I looked around my property at my nearly 200 chickens I asked her if I looked like I needed to be begging someone for one chicken? I have plenty of my own. I tried everything to convince her it wasn’t me that stopped at her house, but she insisted it was. So I told her if she was looking for a home for her chicken I would be glad to take it in. Apparently the hen just showed up at her house two years earlier and had been living in a tree in her front yard all that time. Her neighbors had been letting their dog run loose and it had been after the hen and she was afraid the dog was going kill it. That morning the dog chased her into a cardboard box she had on her porch for a stray cat so she had turned the box opening to the wall to trap the chicken and wanted me to come get her. So away I went.

Luckily she only lived about a mile from my house. She was very surprised when I asked her where she lived, still convinced I had begged for her for a chicken awhile back. I reached into the box and was able to remove the hen with no issues; she didn’t mind me holding her at all. I drove the mile home and set her up in a coop all her own.

After about a week I opened the coop and run area to let her free range. That night she was nowhere to be found. I searched everywhere. No luck. The next morning she was waiting on her morning scratch grain so I left the door open on her run and coop so she could go in. But no, she chose to live in the wild as she had for years. On rainy days I wouldn’t see her, likely because she was held up somewhere under shelter. Months went by and she was there all day, but would not be in any of the coops at night. A couple of times close to dusk I would see her going towards the woods.

Just before Christmas we were expecting an extreme cold blast. My plan was to catch her with a dip net before dark and put her in the coop with the other chickens so she wouldn’t get frostbite. I was just headed out when my husband came running, saying we had a sick donkey. I jumped in the Gator with him to see what needed to be done and ended up calling the vet out. It was way past dark when we got back from the horse barn so the hen (that I had been calling Chatty Cathy) was left out in the snowstorm with wind chills of -35F.

The next morning I went out looking for her. As soon as I walked past the chicken coop there she was under the lean-to of the barn with snow on her. I tried grabbing her, but missed several times. She would fly away and crash into the snowdrifts. I grabbed the dip net and got her with the first try. Her poor little feet were so cold. I took her into the garage and caged her with food and water, which she ate and drank eagerly. I covered the cage with a blanket for extra warmth.

After a couple of days, when the temperatures warmed up some, I moved her cage to the main coop. I put it in the window so she could see outside and was hoping for a nice rain shower while she was there. I’m not sure if a chicken is smart enough to realize it or not, but I wanted it to rain so she could see what warm and dry felt like during a storm. I left her in the cage for about five days. And it did rain. After that I opened her cage door but left it in the coop. That night she was nowhere to be found at dark. I was resigned to her being a wild chicken.

I removed the cage from the coop. The weather had warmed up nicely and a couple weeks had gone by. One night I decided to follow her at dusk to find out where she sleeping. She went into the woods and found a big cedar tree. After circling it three times she finally flew up to the lower branch, then kept flying up until she was in the thick part of the upper branches. I hollered up at her, ”Cathy, so this is where you prefer to sleep? You feel safer here, do you? Do you realize it is supposed to rain 3” tonight with thunder and lightning? If you get wet and cold you can go under the lean-to for shelter! See ya in the morning.”

That storm hit, and hit hard! It poured all night. Next morning, as always, she was waiting for her scratch grain. The next night I had decided I was going to look in the woods to see if she was in her tree. Nope, no sign of her. I thought she found a different tree. I went about my usual chores of gathering eggs and locking up five coops. In the largest main coop I had started out the door and something caught the corner of my eye. I glanced over and on top of the nest boxes was Cathy. I was so happy to see her up there dry and warm out of the weather. And not alone. I had left the big main door open because it was warm that day so I think she went in and the other girls chased her up there before I shut the door and she had a chance to escape.

The next night I made sure the main door was open again at dark. Sure enough, there she was inside the main coop again, but this time she was perched in the rafters. Fine, she’s in. The next day it was chilly and windy so the main door was closed all day, so towards dark I went out to open it so she could go in, in case she was afraid of the small chicken door. When I went out she was already inside, perched in the rafters. And again tonight the same thing. She has accepted a home. She accepted the flock. She feels safe and secure and warm and not so alone. So why does such a small thing put such a smile on my face? Chicken crazy I guess!

Sandy Garrison is a new chicken keeper living in southern Ohio. A victim of chicken math she’s managed to amass 160 birds in just two years.

Thanks to Sandy for sharing her story and photos, used with permission. Featured image credit: iStock photos

1 comment on “My Chicken Story: Why Does This Make Me Smile?

  1. I enjoyed your story.

    Liked by 1 person

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