Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Begging Chickens

"Whistling girls and crowing hens Always come to some bad ends." 
                        from Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Although I do whistle, I've yet to hear a crowing hen.  But this morning I was privileged to see a begging chicken.

After I had Matt's lunch made and had checked my e-mail and facebook for anything important, I headed out to my front porch to have my morning cup-o-joe and sit for a few minutes with Master and Commander, by Patrick O'Brian.  I also snuck a peanut butter granola bar; since the big kids have been sleeping in, we don't serve breakfast until late these days.  (OK, really I just snuck it because it was there.  This is why I don't buy packaged foods as a rule.  They have a way of calling and calling....)

When I opened the door to go out, I was greeted by both a barred rock hen and one of our cornish cross meat birds.  They've taken to slipping out under the electric wire and exploring the grounds.  And occasionally they even hop up our front steps.  They tend to be a bit shy, so I wasn’t surprised when they both hopped back down the steps after I first poked my head out the door.

It was a bit chilly (54F), so put down my coffee and book.  I came back in to grab a couple of throw blankets with which better enjoy the crisp air of a northern Minnesota morning.

I don't like cold feet, so I wrapped one blanket snuggly around my lower half, with a little extra hanging down in which to tuck my feet.  The other blanket I draped around my shoulders; and so I settled in for my coffee and read.  I took a few cleansing breaths as looked out on the morning I listened to its sounds.  I crossed my legs and settled more comfortably into my wicker chair.

And I began to read.

The chickens had returned to the porch and were wandering around, curiously exploring the nooks and crannies among my potted plants.

After a few paragraphs I braved my coffee to test whether it was yet cool enough to drink.  Alas! it was not.  Sigh.

Read a few more paragraphs.

Test the coffee again.


Now for my granola bar.  Mmmm.

As I nibbled at my granola bar, and sipped my coffee, I noticed the cornish cross chicken was looking at me very intently.  He came right up to my left side and just stood there looking up over the edge of my lap.  I put down my book and my cup so I could give my full attention to this curious behavior.  That chicken just kept staring at my granola bar and waggling his head from side to side, like chickens do, so each eye in its turn could get a good look at what that human was eating.

After several moments of him giving me the chicken version of puppy-dog eyes, Mr. Chicken moved to the other side of me, I suppose to get a different angle on the granola bar.  Since I had crossed my legs, my blanket-wrapped foot was hanging at just above eye level for the chcken.

Mr. Chicken took a deep breath, spread his wings a bit, and then with a mighty flutter, he flumped his way onto my foot.  (Flump, in this case, is the combination of fly and jump; because cornish cross chickens are bred to be heavy birds, they don't fly easily or gracefully.)

I giggled a little bit and just watched to see what he would do next.  Soon Mr. Chicken flumped his way up to my knee.

I quickly popped the last of my granola bar into my mouth.  I was not about to have to share such an indulgence with a chicken.  After that, I just watched and waited.

After a little bit further exploration, he pecked a few times at my thumbnail.  We've noticed that chickens like finger and toe nails; I think their slight shine must look like the iridescence on bug shells.

I was chuckling the entire time.  I remember saying something like, "You better not poop on my blanket, Mr. Chicken."

Eventually, in one final attempt at making himself at home, that silly chicken plumped up his feathers and swayed a little from side to side in what gave every impression of being the chicken version of a dog's turning three times before lying down.  He then proceeded to settle himself upon my knee.

I guffawed.  Yes, sitting out on my front porch, nobody out there but me and the birds, and I giggled and laughed right out loud.  I might have seemed a little touched had anyone happened by.

But really, that chicken reminded me for all the world of a pet dog or cat.

Or more frightening yet, is it that my lap looks so very like the soft and comfiness of a nesting box?

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