Powerful Poultry

They say cats have nine lives. We have a chicken who’s got at least that many. “Chicken” is a Welsummer hen and is about five years old. I realize that this is not, in itself, cause for amazement. You have to hear about all of her trials and tribulations to really understand why she is a chicken who gives death the finger.

We had a devastating coyote problem about four years ago. In the course of one week, despite barbed wire, tall fencing, an enclosed coop — in other words the “Fort Knox” of chicken habitats — twenty-three of our twenty-four hens became coyote chow. How did Chicken survive? She escaped the chicken run and moved in with our five dogs, including a Great Pyrenees and a Rottweiler.

Not long after the coyote apocalypse, Chicken had another trauma. After weeks of peaceful cohabitation, our Rottweiler suddenly decided she was a chew toy. I heard a panicked squawk and hurried back to the dog run. He had grabbed her and shook her like a proverbial rag doll. There were feathers everywhere. She was limp in his mouth. I thought she was gone, and walked away, thinking that he would make a snack of her. An hour or so later, I looked outside: There she was, scratching in the dirt right next to the Rottweiler, missing a few feathers but otherwise none the worse for wear.

Then we moved and she came with us (Of course!) and she moved in with our Great Pyrenees. They were best buddies. They even snuggled together at night. Not too long after that we found ten puppies on the side of the road at the deer lease. Needless to say, they came home with us and we set up a separate dog run for them adjacent to our barn. One day, when Chicken was out searching for tasty bugs in the yard, a few of the puppies got out and started chasing her. One of them cornered her under the horse trailer, taking a bite out of her comb. When I managed to drag them out, a puppy was delightedly chewing on Chicken’s leg. She was bleeding and missing a bunch of feathers. She limped off to re-coop-erate with her Great Pyrenees friend. I really didn’t think she’d make it. She’d lost a lot of blood and was dragging her injured foot behind her. But she was undaunted and recovered within a few weeks, though her comb has a part in it now, and bows cockily to one side — pun intended.

That summer we had a big fire ant problem. My sweetheart went to put some ant poison out in the yard and quick as a whistle Chicken came running up and started eating it. Since he often goes out to give her a treat in the yard, she must have thought that he was just delivering another special snack. Surely, this would be the end for Chicken. But amazingly she showed no ill effects.

My daughter shows lambs in the FFA. “Apples”, her first lamb, lived in the same pen adjacent to the barn that the puppies had lived in before they went off to their forever homes. For some reason — maybe she’d acquired a taste for sheep feed — Chicken decided to be Apples’ roommate for a while. Unfortunately, Apples acquired a taste for feathers; she would spend a good part of each day cornering Chicken in their pen and ripping her feathers out and eating them. Despite us removing Chicken repeatedly, she continued to return to the sheep pen, until she was almost completely bald except for a few shredded stubs of wing feathers. Lo and behold, a couple of months after Apples went off to the sale, her feathers grew back and she was as good as new.

She tried moving back in with the Great Pyrenees after that, but he had other roommates, including “Honey Lee” the chihuahua mix. Honey Lee is usually very mellow, preferring to lounge about doing an imitation of a sausage link on a plate. But, something about Chicken drove her into a frenzy. She chased her, plucked her, and chewed on her with wild abandon. Chicken was unimpressed, and despite several efforts to relocate her she always returned for more abuse. Finally, we evicted her from the dog run and put her in with our new juvenile hens where she could be a mentor and not be a target for Honey Lee’s tiny little jaws of doom.

She’s had numerous other close calls, and has always survived, completely nonplussed by her trauma.

Now Chicken has a troop of chicken buddies and lives a life of luxury. She doesn’t lay eggs very often any more, but when she does it’s cause for celebration. She continues to blur the lines of inter-species relations, her latest friends include the Starbucks Kitties (Read Starbucks has kittehs now?) with whom she likes to enjoy a breakfast of scrambled eggs.

She may be a zombie — that’s a distinct possibility given how many times she should have expired — but she is beloved by everyone: human, canine, feline, and poultry alike.

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