14 January 2009

Her name is Frida.

Sunday night during the full moon, I decided I wanted some chickens in my yard. You know, for fresh eggs every day. I was talking to my friend Andy to see if anyone had any chicks they would sell me. He laughed and shook his head and said, “Nah, you ain’t ready. You don want dat kind of responsibility.” I told him that maybe it was part of my plan for 2009, to start waking up with the sun every day, like a bun & bread Kayak. Or be a farmer. Maybe I WANT that kind of responsibility, to feel very productive on days without school, to use the rest of my mornings to do yoga or find the beach for sunrise strolls while catching up on the news (thank you, BBC, and Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! podcasts), or doing my hand washing. He held fast and pooh-poohed my longings for animals to tend.


And boy, you should have heard him laugh, a fortnight gone, when I said I wanted the week-old lamb whose mother had died, and needed to be bottle-fed since no other mum sheep would suckle it. Three times a day, he said, starting in the wee hours, when the moon is cashing in for the day, before the sunlight starts to burn on the horizon. For two months, he said, that’s how long it takes to wean a rejected lamb. And don’t you have stray dogs in your yard who would eat her faster than you can yell, “Mash, you mudda ass, MASH!”? Okay, OKAY, I get it, I’m clearly not the girl with the yard or the schedule for this orphan lovey lamb. But what he doesn’t get is that I am! I AM the girl ready to make that kind of commitment, ready to get out of bed early every day, ready to come home from school on my lunch break (which I do anyway, silly), ready to fill a bottle with powdered milk and water and let the baby suck until she’s full and happy. Well, I guess the dog thing is an actual problem. And come to think of it, didn’t I spend eight years of my life waking up before the roosters to swim 6,000+ meters four or five times a week? Yes. You win. Find someone else.

You can keep your needy lamb, but I still want me some chickens roaming around the yard and fresh eggs for breakfast every day!


Yesterday evening, I told the boy with no faith in the foreigner with the relaxed schedule (that she’ll be lucky see again in this life), I want chickens. Again, he laughed, and told me I didn’t really want that kind of work. Getting entirely fed up with his lack of confidence in my commitment to raise free (range), fresh eggs, I dropped it and decided to get my chicks elsewhere. The only reason I even brought it up again is that Andy is definitely the dude to know for any livestock needs. He has a big ol’ piece of land on a hill behind my house, where he keeps around 60 sheep and 8 goats. He also has 40 rabbits and a few pigs, but those are in the yard by his house.


After moving along quite nicely (in my head) with my endeavors to get chickens from someone other than Andy, he called me up at 7 this morning, after tending his sheep on the hill I was already awake, mind you, and just starting to glisten from my pre-Spanish yoga session. He had something for me, and could he stop by to drop it off just now? Not a minute later, he’s at my door, holding a black plastic grocery bag that’s all tied up. “Alex, I found a young chicken on my land. Here.” Before I could even respond, he turned around, stepped off my veranda, planted a stake in the ground under a little shade tree, opened the bag, and took out a young, grey hen with a black string around her left foot, and tethered her to the stake.


I have a chicken!


And yes, she is tied up (!) five feet from my front door.


Andy stayed only long enough for me to watch as he calmed her down, and ask what food (uncooked rice) and how much (a handful) and how often (twice a day! Piece of cake!). And wait, WHY did you put a string around my new chicken’s ankle then tie her to a stake? Oh, and how long does it take for them to get accustomed to my yard? No, Andy, in DAYS, I’d like to know when I can free this poor animal. But HOW will I “just know” when she’s accustomed? And that was that. He was off, I was left bewildered and excited, with the newest addition to my yard squawking and flapping around, not yet accustomed to her new environment. I eagerly threw her a handful of rice to peck at and went off to school to give five-question Spanish tests to my students.


Around 1 pm, I came home to my chicken, and found her surrounded by three fat, bully, yard fowl that mysteriously don’t belong to anyone around here. They just showed up one day. When I walked toward them, they strutted off at their scared, fast pace, clearly up to no good. Upon further investigation, my chicken seemed frightened and hopped/limped away from me the best she could, what with her ankle tether and all. But she did the same thing when I met her this morning, and calmed down when I caught her and put her in my lap. No big deal, so I went inside to heat up some spicy lentil soup with dumplings for lunch. While I was washing the dishes from breakfast, listening to music, I looked (and listened) out the window and heard some squabbling under the tree near my chicken’s stake, followed by the scene of one of the fatties jumping up and down in a circle, possibly pouncing on my helpless hen feet-first. The cries didn’t sound distressing enough, so I chalked it up to fowl play. But after a few minutes of this initiation ritual, something told me to go outside and check on the young bird. Just as I stepped onto the veranda, the hefty vagabond ran off clucking, jutting its head back and forth with every step, escaping the wrath of my angry, but terribly-aimed, stick-throwing. I crept up to my chicken to see what was going on under that shady little tree . . . and, just as I suspected, foul play! That vagrant scalped her! It left her shaking and even more timorous than before, and her tiny, bleeding skull exposed to the world. As if being chased down, kidnapped from her acres of Caribbean paradise, transported in a black plastic bag, and confined to an 18-inch line in a foreign yard wasn’t traumatic enough!


I have big plans for this hen, and the healing qualities her eggs will bring. After all that drama, she is coasting down the road to recovery. I watched her peck happily at her dinner of uncooked rice, and, belly full, turn in for the night shortly afterwards.

I hope she survives the evening.

9 comments:

Megan said...

You have a chicken! I HAVE CHICKENS! But they're in Oakland.

COME BACK TO ME, DARLING! WE WILL HAVE CHICKENS TOGETHER IN SACRAMENTO. COME BACK!

I.K. McGlone said...

Wow I hope the little gal makes it, that sounds traumatic!

alex said...

I just don't know if America is the place for me, honey face, not for a while. But when I decide that Sac is home again, you know whose door I'll be knocking on first...


CHICKEN UPDATE: As of 4:47 pm, she's contentedly pecking away at her rice and corn, and seems oblivious to the gaping, oozing wound on her head...

Jasmine said...

lovin' the story...

I want a chick now!

alex said...

do it! you won't be sorry :)

Colin said...

Chickens are damned assholes when it comes to socializing. My Rhode Island Reds used to peck the shit out of each other intermittently for the entirety of their lives. Usually it was a big one dominating the others, but then sometimes the little ones would gang up on the bully.

When there were two breeds the one with greater numbers took about 5 months to kill of the other. Racists.

alex said...

Oh man, I hope they don't die. I just got a big ol' rooster to help Frida make the eggs, so hopefully he'll put up a good fight once he's free to roam (and not tied to a tree).

The thing that vexes me the most is that these vagrant fowl are just that: vagrant. They have no yard to call home, no owner to feed them. They come around looking for trouble 'cause they have nothing better to do than spend their dismal lives scrounging for food and harassing my egg-makers. I might ask Andy to do a cookup of fresh baked chicken after hunting in my yard...

Quill said...

"a fortnight gone?" Man, you have become a farmer.

In all seriousness, I love the atrocious "fowl" pun. Man, now I want chickens. Is she producing many delicious eggs for you yet?

alex said...

YES! I was hoping someone would smack me around a bit for the pun! It was too awful to leave out, I reckon.

I also reckon Frida is too young to make eggs, so none yet.
But there is a new development in the chicken saga: yesterday, my fascist landlady paid some dude to haphazardly remove all forms of trees and shrubbery from my once shaded, attractive (now scorching, hideous) yard, including the tree under which the young hen was tied. She escaped sometime after I left for school, after I moved her stake under the one remaining palm so she could seek shade in this hot, sunny pit that is my now disgusting, exposed, torn up yard. I'm waiting for feeding time, hopeful for her memory of my gentle hands that give her rice and corn twice a day...