Sunday, May 29, 2011


New friends? or lunch?

IN BIRDLAND IT RAINS AND RAINS AGAIN. I LOSE track of how many times I’ve emptied the rain gauge today, but last time it had 2 ¼ inches. The grass waterway in the field back of the house has become a delta, spreading out in a triangle where the waterway elbows into the beans, no grass to be seen. Beans and corn are just sprouting, making green pinstripes in the black fields, but with so many patches of standing water, I’m afraid Jim and Sean will have to replant if the rains ever stop long enough so the fields won’t swallow the tractor whole like they swallowed the mud boot right off my left foot so many years ago.
Birdland Delta

A few weeks ago I met a new friend. Someone introduced me as “the chicken woman” to Abby, who had just lost every one of her small flock to coyotes. I told her I had seen day-old chicks for sale at the feed store. “I know,” she said, “but you have to buy 25, and we only have room for about 6.” I had the perfect solution, and she delightedly agreed to share an order with me. The sign at the feed store said they would have new chicks on Wednesday, so we made plans to meet there and split an order to take home. On the appointed day, we met, only to discover no chicks—only ducklings. We asked chicks would arrive and the woman told us, “Oh, it’s so late in the season, you have to order them.” We spent some time pouring over the catalogs, and settled on a mixed order: Auracanas (who lay blue eggs) for Abby, and Buff Orpingtons (a big, fluffy, gentle breed that lays large brown eggs) for me. We paid for our chicks and went our separate ways in happy anticipation of our flock. Next time I saw Abby, she mournfully told me that our chicks wouldn’t arrive for two months! I thought we could do better by simply ordering them from a hatchery (the feed store was doing that anyway) if we could get our money back. She called, and the store would refund our money if we came together within the next few days. She called the hatchery and ordered a variety of “rainbow layers” which would lay eggs of various colors from tan to a deep brown, perhaps, if we were lucky, some blue eggs, too. They wouldn’t come for a while, but still two weeks earlier than our feed store order.

The next Wednesday, Abby’s husband, Daniel, and I met at the feed store to secure our refund. After the paperwork, I told him I was going to go to the back of the store to see if they had any ducklings, thinking I might take some home. (You only have to buy 6 ducklings, not 25.) Daniel followed along to see the fuzzy ducklings we thought would be waddling around in the pens. No ducklings today—only chicks! We laughed our way out of the store thinking we could have taken home our chicks today if only we hadn’t already ordered the rainbow layers.
Taking in the sights.

Our chicks arrived last weekend, and Abby and Daniel picked them up at the post office. Ellis drove me on back country roads to their house. My oldest recently got his learner’s permit, and never misses a chance to practice his driving. We pulled into town to pick up 50 pounds of chick feed and at the first stoplight he looked in the rearview mirror to see an escaped chick riding on the back headrest, taking in all the sights. Without thinking, I scrambled into the back seat and returned our passenger to with her sisters while Ellis yelled that I’m supposed to be in the front seat while he’s driving.

Home now, the chicks are brooding in a pen in the bathroom until they feather out and the weather gets a bit warmer and drier. We bring a few out every evening to work on Chick/Dog assimilation and impulse control. Ursula is curious and excited about her new friends, sniffing, quivering, wagging her big tail. Occasionally she reaches out with her paw or nudges them with her nose, trying sometimes to lick them. Her big tongue knocks them over, and we try to read her thoughts. Is she feeling friendly or hungry? The goal is to teach her that they are not lunch, so we can once again have chickens running around the yard. So far she has graduated to being off leash in the chicks’ presence, but only with supervision. We hope she will learn to be the protector of her new friends.

Hatch Beauty; Protect Peace; Blessed Be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She is interested in seasons and cycles and her own back yard. 

No comments:

Post a Comment