Over time I did win the battle of the rats but admittedly at this point I was beginning to see why pressing that “BUY NOW” button to purchase my chickens might have been a bit of mistake or, at the very least, premature.
Honestly though, most days were entertaining and enjoyable with my little flock. We became friends (in my mind) with the perfect give and take that a friendship requires. I fed, watered and tended their needs while they controlled the insect population, provided lively entertainment and supplied wonderful, colorful and flavorful eggs. It was all fun and my affection for these birds was growing each and every day. The care involved didn’t feel like a burden. Scooping poop, refreshing the shavings, cleaning and tending… it was my thing and I loved it.
Truth be known, at heart I have always yearned to be a farmer and once many years ago I owned my own horse. It had been a dream-come-true. So as you can see this “farming” thing is in my blood but without cleared acreage, without the requisite barns and without the means to do so, farming, in any real sense, was off the table; and so getting a few chickens seemed to be as close as I would ever get to being a bona fide farmer so I was going for it.
As a faux farmer I was determined to embrace the experience and started by naming each and every one of my chickens. Unfortunately, I began affixing names to each bird far too early. So early, in fact, that as the inevitable chicken metamorphosis was under way each hen would be transformed and a beak that prompted me to name one little hen “Candy Corn” would later turn to into a little pinkish beak like all the rest; and one whose comb was small and unassuming might be transformed later into a wild and unruly looking comb that ultimately netted a name like “Cindy Lauper.” Of course, my mystery free bird (who turned out to be a rooster) would be named Lynyrd Skynyrd while other hens were named after a gospel singer (Dottie Rambo), my grandmothers (Lillian Dorr, Evelyn Maple and Ethel Swanson) and still others would be named after injuries they had sustained during apparent violent interaction with their fellow flock mates.
One such hen I discovered after a day of scratching and meandering in the woods with her comb area bloodied and what was left (a small strip of flesh) was hanging off the tip of her beak. Now typically I am squeamish about such things but I had stepped up my game by then and I remember boldly snipping the flesh and then applying an antiseptic to the wound, surprising even myself.
That little hen became known as “Fancy Pants,” my reason being that you’d look at her fluffy and cute chicken butt instead of noticing she had no comb on the top of her head. Of course, it never worked out that way because every time I introduced her I would tell the whole gory story over again pointing out the fact that she didn’t have a comb.
Anyhow… after that – and probably before that – Fancy Pants was on the bottom of the pecking order and was only elevated when, a few months later, another hen became mysteriously ill, would never fully recover and that would put Fancy Pants one up from the bottom on the pecking order list.
I suppose sometimes in life that’s what you get… a rookie chicken keeper and a “one up from the bottom” pecking order position. I did notice that Fancy Pants found a way to exist, eating and sleeping away from the rest of the flock, but being and doing chicken things nonetheless.