Late in the summer, Dave and I went to Bowling Green to pick up a sewing machine from an antique store. Maggie had found it for us the week before and sent us a picture of it and two of the cutest little chickens that live in the shop. Apparently I am not the only one with a house hen.
We picked up the machine and played with the little bantams (small game hens) and I started to think that, just maybe, I would want to have a hen in the house again. We had discussed it at length and I was sure of one thing. Not ONE of those sociopathic harlots from the back yard was coming in the house. I will feed them and shelter them while they live out their lives, but that is it. They didn’t want Buffy in their coop, so they can’t come into hers.
I got some information from Denise (the proprietor) about her hens and took the name of the breeder, loaded up the machine and headed to the Chinese restaurant for supper.
The prospect of picking out a healthy chicken from an actual breeder was a new concept for me. I have never really picked out a pet- - - they just happen to me. We were discussing this as we pulled up to the Chinarosa (it used to be a Ponderosa Steak House). The minute I got out of the truck I heard “Braawk”. I stopped cold in my tracks.
“I heard a chicken” said I.
“I heard one, too” said Maggie.
“Good God! The General Tsao chicken really IS fresh here.” said Dave.
The clucking continued, coming from a long, low yew bush at the corner of the building. I looked down over the top of the bush and couldn’t see anything, wondering the whole time what a chicken was doing in the middle of town, on a busy street, in the parking lot of a Chinese restaurant. When I ruffled the top of the bush, about five sparrows flew out and there, at the base of the yew was this really strange looking bird looking up at me. I reached down to get her and she skittered sideways to the back of the bush. It took me getting on my belly on the ground to get her out and the only way I could remove her was to grab her feet in one hand and lay her body on my other hand.
Once I cleared the bush I got a good look at her and she was a mess. She was completely bald over 2/3 of her body, she had sores on her wings and thighs, she was panting and her eyes were glazed. The temperature was 101 that day and the parking lot was hotter than Billie Damn. I needed to cool her off in a hurry (her skin was just scorched on her tummy), so Maggie and I took her to Maggie’s apartment while Dave got our order to go.
At Maggie’s we found a box and put it on the bathroom floor so she could cool gradually and quietly. I didn’t want to touch her too much because her skin was so thin that I was afraid that I would bruise her. She showed definite signs of dehydration and needed water, but I didn’t want to force her to drink for fear that she would aspirate. She was leaning on her side and my heart just sank when I saw her try to stand. It reminded me of Buffy when the paralysis set in. We took some cool wash rags and wadded them under her and around her to prop her up and bleed off some of the heat and put a cup of water in front of her beak. She settled down some and her breathing started to ease until she was able to close her beak. We backed out of her sight and left her to her own devises for a few minutes while we tried to figure out just exactly what she was.
She sure didn’t look like a chicken, but she sounded like one. She looked like what we thought a baby buzzard would look like but, never having seen a baby buzzard, we weren’t sure about that, either. She was about the size of a six-week-old chick, but the fledging was all wrong and her toe nails were too thick. Her comb was either underdeveloped or had been mostly pecked away, so that wasn’t much of an indicator of age. By the time Dave got to Maggie’s with the food, we weren’t any closer to solving that mystery than we were to figuring out how she came to be living on the parking lot of a Chinese restaurant.
After we got done with supper, I peeked back in on her, half expecting to find her failing fast. She was sipping water and looking around the box. She hadn’t moved off of the wash rags, but she was pecking at the terry cloth loops. She was hungry.
Maggie went down to the antique store to borrow a cup of chick feed while I took the bedding out to see if she was sufficiently revived to stand on her own. While she couldn’t stand all the way up on her legs, she could get her chest off of the box without falling over on her side. By the time Maggie got back from Denise’s, she was craning her neck and looking for food. We put her back (after taking some pictures) and she ate everything that was in her line of sight. As long as we put a little pile of food directly in front of her, she was willing to eat it.
We put a small box, the feed, the bedding and the hen in the front seat of the truck and headed for home. It wasn’t long before we found out that she HATED the box. She squawked every time we turned a corner because her lack of balance made her fall over. I was afraid that I would hurt her if I held her but, her flailing around the box wasn’t doing her any good either, so I wrapped her up in a hand towel, cupped my hand over her head so she wouldn’t get car sick and we both settled in for the trip home. She nestled her diminished comb into the palm of my hand, dug her toes into the towel until she found my fingers of my other hand, wrapped her talons around my finger and started to “purr”.
She had found a home and we had found a hen. Somewhere Buffy was smiling. Maybe someday I will chose a pet, but for now, I am happy with being “chosen’. She still has a long way to go but, at least she is eating, and that is half the battle. I will post more pictures and information as it happens.