Friday, December 16

Herding Chickens

Fern Glen Inn •

Whoever coined the phrase "herding cats" clearly never had chickens. Or at least never had chickens on the run.

I returned from a walk this afternoon to discover that the ladies -- all six of them -- had escaped their pen and were ranging freely. I'm tempted to say they hatched a plan but I don't want to inflict my poultry sense of humour on you (sorry, couldn't resist). Planned or otherwise, they all flew the coop today.

Luckily, they didn't wander too far from their hen house. They had the whole wide world at their disposal but just scratched up the dirt within a 20 foot radius of their home. In fact, I only realized they were out because Saba saw them first.

I knew something had Saba's attention because she stopped suddenly, dropped her head low, cocked her ears forward and took a few slow, measured steps. Just like when she's stalking a squirrel. Or when she's ready to pounce in front of Casey (her buddy, the basset hound) to try to tease him into playing. I don't know if Saba was thinking snack time or playtime, but when I realized her gaze was fixed on one of our own dear hens, I didn't wait to find out.

I escorted Saba safely into the house, grabbed a tub of bird seed and went back to round up the ladies. I also took a moment to wish that Jim, aka the chicken-whisperer, was home to deal with this instead of me.

As I've mentioned, herding chickens is no easy task. For one thing, they're fast. Chickens can run like nobody's business. I've also discovered (during previous jail breaks) that chickens can and will fly if pursued with vigor. If approached slowly, they scatter. There's no catching them, at least not if I'm the catcher, and I'm a little bit afraid of them as I am with all birds. So even if I could get close enough to grab one, I wouldn't. I just couldn't.

So I had to outwit them. First, I propped the door to the hen house wide open then circled way back behind the farthest-ranging chicken. Then I started throwing small handfuls of bird seed toward the open door.

Chickens are remarkably curious and decidedly food-motivated. After half a dozen pings and bounces of seeds against the coop wall and on the hard ground, the chicken closest to the action moved in to see if there was something edible going on. Slowly, one by one, the rest of the ladies came to check out the commotion. I swear chickens have a spidey sense when it comes to food because even the two who were out of sight on the far side of the coop eventually came bobbing around the corner.

As the chickens gathered, I started tossing the bird seed through the doorway into the hen house and the hens just followed the food. As soon as I counted all six little cluckers in the house, I closed the door and that was the end of their adventure for the day. And mine, too.

So perhaps it wasn't such a monumental task after all, but it does leave me wondering one thing: Would it have been easier or more difficult herding cats instead of chickens?


Monica said...

Remember my chicken tales last year? Holy cow that chicken was fast! We called her Tallulah but found out her real people called her Houdini because she kept getting out!

I'd bet herding cats is harder, tho. Less food motivation and more orneriness!

Love the story!

Jackie said...

I loved your tales of Tallulah! Since she's such a Houdini, maybe she'll make her way back to you again! :)