Monday, October 15, 2018

The Caring Trap

Today began with one of our chickensthe little one prone to epileptic seizuresbeing attacked by a hawk.

I was in the kitchen drinking coffee when the squawking began out back. I didn't react at first, because sometimes chickens squawk.

But the tone and volume escalated quickly, so I raced down thinking the little chick was seizing and being fussed over by one of the other chickensor that there might be a raccoon in their midst.

It took me a few seconds to make sense of what was really happening.

What the actual flock?
One of the hens, Zinnia, is bonded with the little one (Frannie), and gets upset when Frannie has a seizure. 

I spotted Frannie under a hedge near the side fence, and what I assumed was Zinny nearby. I waded in to help, and "Zinny" flew up to the neighbors' second floor deck railing.

Yeah, it wasn't Zinny.

It was a hawk, at least as big as Zinny, not impressed at all by my invitation to get the fuck out of here.

I turned my attention back to Frannie, trying to figure out if she was seizing or stunned or otherwise injured by the hawk.

She let me pick her up (which she never does), and I put her in the coop so I could check on the other girls, who were nowhere in sight.

The hawk, likewise, disappeared.

"Chickchickchick?" I said, like it was a magic incantation. "Chickchickchick...?" 

Agnes, the leader of the pack/herd/flock responded with her usual clucking and trilling, and poked her head out of another bush. She seemed unhurt.

"Where are the other girls, Agnes? Are they in there with you?"

They were not. I moved on.

"Chickchickchick...?" I repeated, trying to coax out the other hens from wherever they were hiding. "Chickchickchick...?" 

Zinny, Meryl, and Petunia poked their heads out of a large shrub down by the back fence, and seemed to be okay... I went back to the coop for another look at Frannie. She was right where I left her, and for a moment I thought she might be dead. "How we doing, Frannie?" I said, and she stirred a bit. Still no sign of bleeding or other external injury, so I closed her in.

Did I mention our head chicken whisperer left yesterday for Boston? Yeah, very inconvenient. She's the one who really knows what to do in case of a chicken emergency. I'm just a pale facsimile, a substitute whisperer.

I hurried upstairs for my phone to text her for advice.

I was gone from the back for maybe 60 seconds when the squawking began again. "Goddammit!" I actually said out loud as I ran back down, picking up a stick on the way.

Agnes again was out of sight, so I continued down toward the back fence. More squawking, and the hawk jumped up to the back gate. I threw the stick at it and, I'm happy to say, almost hit it. It flew up to a high branch of a nearby tree and sat watching.

I wished for a slingshot. 

Which is how I discovered I'm emotionally attached to our chickens.

Because I love hawks. I adore raptors of any stripe.

But I wanted to kill this one.

Zinny reappeared almost immediately, and I escorted her up toward the coop. Back down to the fenceline, "Chickchickchick...?"

Petunia clucked, and I found her stuck among the branches of the shrub. I was able to free her by pulling back some of the tangle, and up to the coop we went.

Which left Meryl.


No sign, no sound.

I walked all the way around the shrub, then expanded my search to hedges around the perimeter and beyond. Nothing.

I updated my wife: 

I returned to the bush by the back fence and crawled around its base, under leaves and through a tangle of dead branches with a quiet, sing-song-y, "Chickchickchickchick? Merrrryl? Merrrryl?"

Meryl clucked softly and I spotted her, deep in the middle of the bush, pinned by undergrowth. There was no way to get to her, let alone free her, so I extracted myself and went back to the house for the long-handled branch loppers.

Ten minutes of cutting in from both sides of the hedge eventually created a gap big enough to get her out. Meryl hurried to the coop, seemingly unhurt and unfazed.
Update: Frannie is on her feet and moving around a bit. I'm choosing to see this as a good sign.
Things I didn't know, not too long ago:
1. I would one day become emotionally attached to chickens
2. I would be sad and concerned about little Frannie and her seizures
3. I would be very protective of the girls' safetyso much so, I would want to kill another bird to defend them

Things I did know:
1. The world is a very confusing place
2. It's impossible to predict anything, ever
3. There's a lot I don't know

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