Catching Chickens

People who count their chickens before they are hatched act very wisely, because chickens run about so absurdly that it is impossible to count them accurately.

— Oscar Wilde

Craigslist and I have a bit of a love/hate thing goin’ on. I check the farm and garden section daily for deals and opportunities, and while many times the sellers are unreliable and the merchandise crap, sometimes I find a gem. Like last week, when I was the first to answer an ad for a large flock of four-month-old laying hens. Usually free chickens are geriatric; no more prone to lay an egg than knit a sweater, so when I saw their age, I pounced. A wonderful woman named Bridget responded, and explained that the chickens had been a sort of rescue mission. Their original owners apparently hadn’t realized that when you combine a hen and a rooster, you get many, many little chickens. They were planning on leaving the chickies out in the cold to die, so Bridget, who was blessed with a whole human heart, offered to take them in and secure a new home.

On Wednesday I headed out to North Hero, one of the Champlain islands, to pick up my new friends. I brought a few small cardboard boxes and a cat carrier. I had been dubious about the size of the boxes, but Cory’s father assured me it was OK to “cram them in”. When I arrived, Bridget eyed the boxes with suspicion. It had come out during introductions that neither of us had ever chased chickens with the intent of actually catching one, and I think the appearance of my pitiful cardboard cemented her notion that this was not going to be a pleasant experience.

The chickens were housed in a horse stall. They were beautiful but skittish, careening around the stall in a colorful herd. In the center of the stall was the huge dog carrier they had arrived in. Fortunately Bridget was willing to let me borrow the carrier, and we soon abandoned the boxes in favor of this far superior option.

It was chaos. Chickens shrieking, feathers flying, round and round we chased. Our only real hope was to herd them towards a corner where we could snatch them up and fling them, one by one, into the dog crate. I turned out to be quite skilled at the snatchin’ and flingin’ and soon they were all secured. I have no real idea how many chickens there were, but it seemed like thousands. I had been told I would be getting ten, but I ended up leaving one behind (I think it was dead. It was jammed into a corner and not moving. I didn’t investigate further). When I stopped at a gas station on the way home, I counted 12. Whatever.

When I got home It dawned on me for the first time that I had a giant dog crate full of grousing chickens in the back of my car. I had to leave for work in less than three hours and I was the only one home. I had managed to keep them relatively calm on the ride with a rousing rendition of Old MacDonald (I’m not kidding), but now they were fussing. Beginning to panic, I searched through the garage for something helpful. What I found was two long pieces of plywood I could use as a ramp. I leaned one end against the bumper of my Forester, slid out the crate and dragged it over to the chicken yard. The chickens did not find any of this amusing, but they lived. So did I, albeit covered in chicken poo.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Well done – very funny!!

    Reply

  2. This is a riot. Sounds like the day I brought my chickens home, although I only had 3 to wrangle.

    Reply

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