When we started our little backyard farm we had to have chickens. What is a farm without the clucking and cawing of hens and the natural pest control, rich poop, and occasional omelet, right?
I don’t regret having hens one bit. They are the best pets ever and more productive than my useless dogs and cat. The cat used to get mice and rats but I guess she retired without giving us notice because I’ve had to call Clark Pest and Rodent control for help. The dogs have stopped eating the floor messes from the children and give me a look like I’m so rude to think they should eat off the floor…oh, and “FYI, we are tired of spilt crackers and cereal.” Then the other day really proved my dogs uselessness when I was chasing a squirrel out of my garden and turned to see my dog, Babu, watch me with a look of encouragement as if to say, “Go on girl, you’re doing a good job.”
Then there are my girls. They eat all the nasty bugs, enrich my soil for gardening, provide the man and boys breakfast and cost little to feed. We don’t have to take them for walks or to a chicken park to run around, I just sprinkle diatamacius earth when they get ichy and they don’t beg for dog biscuits every five minutes.
We have four rescue hens that are well established and, after some research, I know that adding to your flock is not always easy. Hens can act crazy and like mini gangs that aren’t cool with a new comer, sickness, weakness, and so on. These hens are good though. They all perch on the same level in the hen coop and they don’t bother with a sick one or tired hen. They are all bonded and devoted to each other. I thought it best we not bring any new girls home.
Then one day Bali took the truck to work. When he got to the station he called me and asked that I go out and count our hens. I reported back 4. We had 5 but one died a few weeks after being with us. The others have thrived. It happens. Bali said there was a white hen at his gas station and had thought maybe one of our girls wound up in back of the truck. I suggested food and water and maybe she’d move on. Chickens and roosters are very common everywhere in this town. Winco has the most flocks because the shop owners leave pans of water out in the hot summers and elders come and feed the chickens. This is normal. But a hen in Bali’s work neighborhood was sort of strange and she was alone.
She wound up living there at the gas station for a couple months. Some of the neighborhood kids would chase her and Bali would run out of his shop and yell, “That’s my chicken!” He claimed her, fed, watered, and protected her for weeks upon weeks.
The other day a neighbor lady came by the station with a cat cage and asked that he take his chicken to his house as the hen was repeatedly tearing up the ladies garden and was about to become soup. I begged him to take her to where all the other chickens resided in town. I had read about mixing new chickens with settled groups of hens and I was stressed out about it. “She’s a wild, street chicken…keep her that way!”
Ah, but Bali was attached and wanted to bring her home. He also had some guilt. We are supposed to be, at the very least, vegetarian but Bali has been eating chicken lately. He ate a whole chicken at Easter and a couple days later chose garlic chicken from the Chinese restaurant. We, his family, just watched him and kept to our veggie burgers and vegetable chow mein. He had to recover his karma. So, he set out to catch her Friday night and sneak her into the coop at night. This was a trick I learned from other chicken farmers. Try not to just add one lone chicken, first of all, and then sneak them in at night and get up early to let them out to eat and drink. They will be too busy having breakfast to take much notice of the new club members. It eases the drama. Oh, Lord. I wasn’t looking forward to a full weekend separating chicken gang members.
Just as Bali was getting her to go in the cage he had a customer and had to return to his register inside. When he came back out a man had her tucked under his arm. Bali asked him what he intended with her and when the man said he planned on eating her, Bali asked him to unhand his hen. He loves telling everyone how he saved her life. It eases the guilt of eating two of her kind.
Long story short, he snuck her in the coop late that night and the girls only gave her a few warnings the next day. She was very respectful and just stayed out of everyone’s way. She also flew into my garden a couple times so I clipped chicken wings for the first time. Other than that, she was a part of the tribe by the second day and Bali watched over her all weekend with his feathers puffed up. He was now rooster to 5 girls and a hero. Our omelets are a little bigger as is our farm family.