We have a bad chicken.
No fence can keep her in. No run can contain her. No gate is a match for her wiliness.
She disappeared a few weeks back and we thought– oh no! she must have been taken by one of the hawks that has been attacking our flock!
But no no, it turns out that she is such a feisty one that she had gathered herself a clutch of eggs, GONE INTO HIDING, and gone broody on those eggs.
One day, she simply emerged out of nowhere with seven tiny baby chicks following behind her.
The exquisite over-the-top adorableness of those babies cannot possibly be overestimated. They are little fluffballs of squeaky roly poly cuteness.
But she– she is magnificent. She clucks at them, and squawks until they gather under her, and she covers them up with her own body, turning her wings into walls, herself into a roof.
She digs and scratches and shows them how to do it.
She struts around, and they follow.
When they dilly-dally, as babies do, she goes into an irate mama hen frenzy, hopping and squawking until they are back in line.
So I admire her. I really do. Somehow she has managed to keep herself and her babies safe from all predators (even as we’ve lost other birds this spring) in spite of the fact that she refuses to sleep at night in any of the safe, warm, cozy enclosures we try to entice her into.
So I admire her.
AND, she is a pain in my ass.
She keeps finding a way out of the chicken enclosure, no matter how carefully we reinforce it. Then she scratches at the roots of every baby plant I’ve carefully planted, digging them out and leaving them to die in a sad pile of wilted deadness.
She’s dug up bulbs, shrubs, and seedlings. No flower is safe.
But when she snuck into my fresh new precious vegetable patch?!?!?
I was not having it.
These vegetables are for MY babies.
We squared off, mama to mama.
–Incidentally, you should know that my husband Nick can catch a chicken in his bare hands, sometimes even one-handed when he’s showing off.
I grab and lurch and miss every time.
So I kept trying to shoo her out of my vegetable patch, flapping my arms, wincing as she trampled my tiny kale and broccoli plants with every step.
Trouble was, her little fluffball babies scooted right through the holes in the fence; they were out of my garden in a jiffy. But she can’t fit through the wire mesh of that fence; her only way in or out is through the gate, which I had foolishly left ajar for like all of 60 seconds.
So I kept trying to herd her toward the gate– out of my garden and back with her babies– and she kept trying to go the opposite direction. She was trying, with her fierce mama hen instincts, to go toward her babies. But her little dinosaur brain could not comprehend that there was a wire fence in the way.
No matter how much I explained this nicely to her, she did not accept that in order to be reunited with her beloved chicks, she would actually have to go in the opposite direction.
I chased and swore and grabbbed, and she squawked and shrieked and flapped.
She kept throwing her body toward her babies, against the fence.
I was afraid she would hurt herself like that, so I tried to just pick her up.
Well, you’d have thought I was murdering her, from the squawking furor.
It isn’t like I didn’t explain it to her.
Stop slamming yourself against that wall! You have to go the other way! I know your babies are over there– but you have to come back THIS WAY first to get there– come ON, I am trying to HELP you!!!
But she saw me only as her enemy.
Here she was, trying to get TO HER BABIES, and I was thwarting her! I kept blocking her with my mean mean fence! Plus I kept trying to get her to go the OPPOSITE direction that she wanted to go!
Eventually, I just started cackling. I squatted down, sweaty and dirty. I laughed so long and so hard by myself.
At her– and at me– because I’m pretty sure that from the point of view of the universe, I am the chicken most of the time.
I keep slamming myself against a wall– but I want to go THIS way!– and some irritated wise gardener type keeps saying, Stop doing that, I’m trying to HELP you, goldammit it– and it makes me so mad– and this just chicken metaphor just tickled me.
Eventually, one baleful eye on me, the mama hen scooted her way to the gate, slyly, indignantly, like I’d try to stop her.
She made a mad final dash for safety.
She hooted in glee– she’d evaded me, triumphed, ha!– and done the very thing I’d been trying to get her to do all along.
I shut the gate behind her and shook my head.
Pretty sure. Yup.
It’s me. I’m the chicken.