The life and times of Lonely Chicken

Our latest batch of chickens came home from the feed store as tiny, screeching fluffballs four short years ago. For a year or two we had five chickens: one Rhode Island Red (named “Brownie” because I am a brilliant writer of fiction and clever at avoiding tropes and clichés) and four absolutely identical Barred Rocks (or, hickory shirt chickens, as we like to call them), with no names at all.

I don’t remember what killed Brownie but it may have been old age: she predated the Hickory Shirt Gang by several years. This horribly hot and dry summer two of the girls were hit by something weather-related and distasteful that I’m not going to cop to because it makes me feel like a bad chicken-owner-person. A month or two after that another hickory shirt chicken got an impacted or sour crop (not her first – she was prone to this and didn’t seem to get enough grit if I force fed it to her). I did what I had done previously to make her better, but this time she didn’t pull through.

So that left us with just one chicken. She seemed happy enough and in good health, but we called her Lonely Chicken nonetheless.

The folks across the street, who I will call los Vecinos for the purposes of the blog , got chicks this spring which rapidly grew into a vigorous flock of three Rhode Island Red hens and two roosters (a Barred Rock and what I think is a Black Sex Link). They free range during the day and happily stomp about on the two adjoining properties that los Vecinos are rehabbing. But in the fall, now fully grown, they started to expand their territory to include my front yard and another neighbor’s front yard. When the roosters peeked through my fence and saw Lonely Chicken they went apeshit. And Lonely Chicken began to pace frantically.

Curious to see what would happen, I opened both the gate and the door to Lonely Chicken’s run. What happened at first was the the neighbor chickens fled in horror and Lonely Chicken wouldn’t cross her threshold. I did it again the next day and Lonely Chicken eventually left her run, but she stayed within a three foot radius of the entrance to her run. I expected her to gradually widen her horizons – but I didn’t take roosters into consideration. Both of them stopped by early on the third morning to “romance” her, and she followed them out into our front yard. By the next day she was hanging out with the whole flock over at Casa Vecino.

She started a daily pattern of going out with one of the roosters (we call him Romeo) in  the morning and splitting the rest of her day between one-on-one time with Romeo and foraging with the girls. If I am late in letting Lonely Chicken loose, Romeo lets me know.

He also did away with his competition.

A few days later los Vecinos told Matt that the roosters had had a real fight and Romeo had been the victor.

Not long after that came the night that Lonely Chicken didn’t come home. I went out just after dark to close the door to her run, but she wasn’t in her coop.

She stayed over two nights but then got the hang of the whole “it gets dark earlier every night” thing and she has been very good about at least being on our property at nightfall. When I go out to shut her in she is always either on her perch in her coop or right beside the front porch, waiting for me to show her the way home in the dark.

I still intend to get more chicks in the spring, because I want more eggs, but in the meantime it’s nice to know that Lonely Chicken isn’t lonely any more.

— Amanda

P.S. Hickory shirts are what the local loggers wear. They are thick (almost as thick as canvas) and striped with very fine little black and white stripes, the same material I think was once used to make locomotive engineer caps.


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