The Roving Rototiller

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Hello to all!

I am a first-time blogger, which I daresay may be apparent to experienced readers.  Please forgive me any oversized images, half-finished posts, slips or inelegant hiccups.  I am learning, cheerfully and doggedly.  Which brings us to the reason for this blog at all.

Put simply, I am a writer, and I have an achicktion.

Chickens.  Over the years, our hobby flock has brought me tremendous enjoyment through their enthusiasm, adventures, and the eternal feathery soap opera that is a flock of chickens.  And, as if these and the tasty eggs weren't enough, they have also provided me with both subject material and impetus for my other love:  creative writing.  That's quite a gift, honestly.  Life can be a real creativity-squasher at times, and I'm grateful to our dear silly little featherheads for bringing the spark back.

And now, a few words regarding the image above.  That is Polly, aged eight months.  Her father is a golden-laced Polish, and her mother a Belgian bearded bantam; this was not an arranged match, but Miga fell madly in love with Major's long flowing crest feathers and that was that.  Polly has an identical twin sister, Castora . . . a regular Duo Damsel of the chicken world; I would see one scratching industriously in the barn, look away, and discover apparently the same hen now rounding the corner of the yard.  Even side-by-side, they are nearly impossible to tell apart.

In late spring in our corner of the country, temperatures climb and the rains stop completely.  The grass and weeds take this as a signal to go dormant for a while, and the chicken yard quickly becomes overgrazed.  Most of the flock grumbles, and sighs, and settles in for prolonged dust baths instead.  But the Twins are independent-minded ladies, and I suppose it was inevitable that one of them would spy the patch of greenery beside the front door of the house, fed by a leaky hose bib.  It was also inevitable that the five-and-a-half-foot fence that keeps everyone else in the yard . . . would fail to impress her.

It started out small.  I would open the front door, to hear a hennish shriek of dismay and catch a glimpse of yellow and black feathers speeding back to the chicken yard.  But as the weeks wore on, that patch of green became more and more tempting, and word got out.  Soon both Twins were in on the secret.  Then Mahogany, the tiny partridge Cochin hen, found out.  She was followed by Dash the speckled Sussex hen, and finally the Twins' brother Romeo decided that ranging hens needed guidance and protection, and commenced standing underneath our bedroom window and crowing at all hours.

We put up with the crowing, and the startled screeches, and the eggs hidden in the weeds next to the house.  It was kind of fun having a small part of the flock scratching about in our front yard, and Romeo was doing a great job of guarding his girls from the hawks.  That little patch of whatever-it-is by the hose bib got torn to bits, but the hens were great for bug control and they did a dandy job of neatening up the bearded iris bed for me.  Alas, all good things must come to an end.  One afternoon I heard crowing across the street, and hurried out to discover Romeo had led his hens into the neighbor's yard, where they were industriously tearing up the layer of shredded bark mulch around his shrubs.  Despite being chased back into the chicken yard several times over, the birds refused to take the hint.  Back into the neighbor's yard they would go the minute my back was turned, wreaking havoc amid the carefully manicured plants.

That weekend, I built a high-security chicken jail in the corner of one of the pens, then went out to the barn after dark and plucked each of the Roving Bunch off of their perches.  The Twins and Romeo screamed bloody murder the minute they were touched.  It sounded as if we had an entire gang of lunatic parrots in that barn, but our neighbors must have very good weatherproofing on their windows, or else the patience of saints.  Soon Romeo and his sisters went to live with a neighbor, with full disclosures regarding their wandering ways.  Dash and Mahogany were released back into the main flock.  So far they have stayed put.  But I'm going to keep an eye on them.  Once a hen learns a trick, you can bet she'll remember it.

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